NATO, the EU and Russia

by Henry on August 21, 2008

“Clive Crook”:http://clivecrook.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/08/friedman_and_ignatius_on_georg.php has a post riffing on two columns by Thomas Friedman and David Ignatius which seems to me to get things wrong (or at the least, my interpretation of the relevant history is rather different).

Friedman concentrates on the error of Nato expansion, and the consequent humiliation of Russia, which has now come back to bite us. … The risks of humiliating Russia after the Wall came down were perhaps given too little weight. The dilemma was certainly understood by advocates of Nato enlargement, and there were attempts at outreach through various forms of partnership between Russia and and the alliance, though perhaps this seemed like adding insult to injury. But bear two other points in mind. One, Nato was not enlarged all the way, out of concern for Russia’s reaction: Ukraine and Georgia have been sort of promised membership, but with no timetable. Two, the question was, what were we to say to Poland, Hungary, and then-Czechoslovakia, desperate for release from Russo-Soviet imperium and for the protection of the West? Remember also that the success of their post-socialist transition to market economics was very much in doubt. This was a finely balanced argument.

The real mistake, to my mind, was in taking too long to admit the Eastern Europeans to the European Union–and that in turn owed everything to the fact (a grave mistake in its own right) that the EU had deepened its political integration too fast and too far. A shallower economic union, rather than a United States of Europe in progress, would have been able to embrace Poland and the others more eagerly. As it was, the only fast-acting institutional support for the East European reformers was Nato, a military alliance explicitly created to confront the Soviet Union, and implicitly still aimed at Russia. Friedman accuses the Clinton and Bush foreign-policy teams of “rank short-sightedness” in all this. He makes a good point, but the error was not as clear-cut as he says.

First – Friedman’s claim (which Crook clearly agrees with) that NATO’s expansion necessarily humiliated Russia is at the least contestable. My colleague, Jim Goldgeier, who literally “wrote the book”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FNot-Whether-but-When-Decision%2Fdp%2F0815731728%3Fie%3DUTF8%26s%3Dbooks%26qid%3D1219331625%26sr%3D8-1&tag=henryfarrell-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325 on NATO expansion responds to Friedman “here”:http://www.themonkeycage.org/2008/08/russia_georgia_and_nato.html.

In explaining the roots of Russia’s assault on Georgia, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman yesterday returned to one of his favorite themes from the mid-90s: that the Clinton administration decided to “cram NATO expansion down the Russians’ throats,” thus taking advantage of a weak Russia, and sowing the seeds of the present conflict. And his friend Michael Mandelbaum added that it was clear that NATO expansion was directed against Russia because “the Russians were told they could not join.”

Having written a book on NATO enlargement explaining in great detail why both of them were (and still are) wrong, I’m not going to give a long, boring recitation of the facts once again. Clinton didn’t cram anything down the Russians’ throats, and in fact, tried to convince Boris Yeltsin that if Russia developed in a democratic direction, perhaps Russia could one day become a member. (It was a skeptical Yeltsin who once responded to Al Gore, “But Russia is very, very big, and NATO is very, very small.)

Second, and closer to my own area of expertise, the claim that the EU had ‘the EU had deepened its political integration too fast and too far’ and that a ‘shallower economic union’ would have done a better job in bringing in Eastern European countries more speedily seems to me to be mistaken on two grounds. First – many of the important elements of political integration have followed precisely from market integration, whether or not you consider integrated markets to be a good or bad thing. The British aspiration to a shallow market based EU has always seemed to me to be quite incoherent – you can’t _have_ a genuine European market without a well developed and quite politically intrusive set of institutions to underpin it. Markets don’t exist, and can’t exist in an institutional vacuum; they are constituted by politics (I’m pretty sure Crook agrees with this underlying claim, given this “previous post”:http://clivecrook.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/08/adam_smith_on_csr.php of his).

More directly germane is the point that it was exactly the non-market elements of the European Union that were most important in supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. The problem that these countries faced wasn’t simply to build free markets, but to create democracies and to solve pressing ethnic issues that could easily have exploded as in Yugoslavia. The eventual promise of membership of the European Union helped solve these problems, because it was linked to the so-called Copenhagen Criteria – only countries which complied with a set of requirements regarding democracy, treatment of minorities and so on would be considered eligible to join the club. This helped underpin the democracy in these countries. The point is that if the European Union had been a glorified free trade area, it would likely have had neither the institutional machinery nor the desire to help build democracy in these countries. Hence, the political factors that may indeed have led to delays in inviting these countries to become EU members (although geostrategic factors counted too in explaining e.g. France’s reluctance to extend the EU eastwards) were precisely those that helped to embed democracy in these countries when the enlargement process finally began to make headway.

{ 168 comments }

1

Hidari 08.21.08 at 4:26 pm

You see, this is one of these posts that makes me think I’m not a liberal after all. I mean, what are we to make of this?

‘What we’ve seen in the last week is a NATO that has very little leverage in responding to the Russian military assault against its small neighbor. And that is precisely the point: NATO is not a threat to Russia, as Western officials have been saying for nearly two decades. But as we are now reminded, Russia does remain a threat to its neighbors.’.

1: As I thought should be well known by now,reprehensible as Russia’s behaviour has been, Russia didn’t start this war. Georgia did.

2: Nato is not a threat to Russia. Says who? ‘Western officials’. i.e. Nato. And yet the Russians aren’t convinced by ‘our’ insistence on ‘our’ own good intentions! Those crazy Russians, eh?

3: ‘Russia remains a threat to its neighbours’. Except South Ossetia, of course, which, mysteriously seems to consider the’West’ to be a threat. However I am sure that ‘western officials’ can persuade the South Ossetians that the evidence of their own eyes and ears is merely a mirage appearing against a sky of mystic illusion, as compared to the word of ‘Western officials’.

4: The Rhino in the room of course is the missile ‘defence’ (i.e. attack) ‘shield’ that the Americans have forced the Eastern Europeans governments to accept against the wishes of their own people. This ‘shield’ is worthless in terms of defence, as it does not work and will never work but it is quite useful in terms of….what’s the phrase….? Oh yes, posing a ‘threat’ to Russia.

2

Z 08.21.08 at 4:38 pm

although geostrategic factors counted too in explaining e.g. France’s reluctance to extend the EU eastwards

Henry, could you give a few words of explanation about this? I had never heard about it and cannot reconstruct by myself what it refers to.

3

stostosto 08.21.08 at 6:22 pm

Doing some consulting work on east-west business relations at the time, I met several Eastern European officials – Balts and Poles – who were clearly viscerally anxious to join Nato. I also met Russian officials who were virtually compulsively obsessed with these countries not joining Nato, especially the Baltic countries, which the Russians invariably referred to as ‘the Baltic states’.

Both sides were oddly indifferent to their joining the EU although that, to my mind, was clearly the more decisive move, for all parties.

I too wonder if it might have been better to have accommodated the Russians, since they cared so deeply about it, and keeping them from going in “national humiliation mode” would very much be in the interest of the West, and, indeed everybody else. Nato could have been ceremoniously phased out and perhaps replaced by some wider, looser security arrangement.

Yet, I also thought there was something disconcerting about the Russians’ singleminded military and geostrategic concerns.

Btw, Clive Crook’s argument is a rehearsal of the line The Economist did and does peddle. He was an editor their, wasn’t he?

4

stostosto 08.21.08 at 6:55 pm

Anybody read Gorbachev’s comments in the Washington Post , and The New York Times,btw? Very clear and concise summings up of the Russian argument, the one about the roots of the Georgian conflict, the other about Nato’s and the US’s role. Even quite persuasive.

5

Mrs Tilton 08.21.08 at 8:10 pm

Hidari @1,

This ‘shield’ is worthless in terms of defence, as it does not work and will never work but it is quite useful in terms of….what’s the phrase….? Oh yes, posing a ‘threat’ to Russia.

Until not very many days ago I would have agreed with you entirely. Strategic missile defence was stupid, useless for anything other than further enriching Cheney’s cronies at the expense of taxpaying American workers.

But very recently it has acquired a second utility. It’s as pants as ever at doing what it purports to do. But it’s pretty damned good as a fuck-you to Putin.

6

smaug 08.21.08 at 8:42 pm

Russia clearly opposed it, but the US and NATO members, as Goldgeier notes, patiently and extensively explained what it was doing, offered Russia a new status in the alliance, and avoided any hyper-militarization in the new entrants. For example, Poland’s holdings of tanks, artillery, aircraft, and personnel remain below pre-NATO levels and CFE ceilings.

Georgia’s progress into NATO was delayed at Bucharest because it had outstanding territorial disputes with Russia, and NATO required that those be resolved before the alliance would protect it. Bush might have wanted Georgia in, to reward it for its support in Iraq and guarantee the regimes security, but other NATO members wisely want Georgia and Ukraine to meet the same conditions of other post-war entrants — demonstrate that their democracy is consolidated and resolve existing national-territorial disputes peacefully.

Certainly, the symbolic value of NATO membership angers Russia, but Russia cannot expect to treat former allies as involuntary protectorates. Similarly, ABM systems anger Russia not for their military use — Russia’s arsenal can clearly overwhelm them* — but because Russia is unable to effectively compete in this area. US progress highlights Russia’s post-Soviet weakness.

* If you believe that ABM systems are worthless, the Russia’s fierce opposition is unreasonable — why oppose something that doesn’t work.

7

smaug 08.21.08 at 8:49 pm

My #6 was a response to Hidari’s:
2: Nato is not a threat to Russia. Says who? ‘Western officials’. i.e. Nato. And yet the Russians aren’t convinced by ‘our’ insistence on ‘our’ own good intentions! Those crazy Russians, eh?

What ever happened to the preview pane on this site? (I don’t see it in Firefox 2).

8

virgil xenophon 08.21.08 at 9:14 pm

“as it does not work and will never work”

Oh really? Facts please. Most innovative weapons systems in history
have had serious teething problems and entire books written about why they would “never” work–only to see these systems later not only “work,” but become mainstays of national defense systems. Let’s see…we could start with aviation and those who thought the airplane would only be good for use as an observation mechanism. Or the critics of the submarine who said the same of it. Or how about the use of aircraft to sink battleships, which the battleship admirals said would never work, and even conspired to cut off the guidance fins of the bombs Billy Mitchell’s aircraft were using in the tests to prove the capability. Then we could skip to the tank, which everyone thought should only be used mixed in with infrantry, and that massed formations such as advocated by a certain Col. DeGaulle were crazy–until a German by the name of Heinz Guederian picked up on the idea and well…..we all know how WRONG those people who advocated armored warfare were, don’t we? Moving right along we come to those who viewed the Lockheed C-5A Galaxy transport as a failed project–only to see it become the mainstay of the USAF’s heavy airlift capability. Or the Army’s Bradley fighting vehicle, which during it’s development suffered many an “exposee” depicting it as an over-priced failure that couldn’t perform, yet it turned out to be a roaring success in the Gulf War and ever since.

Or how about those who said that the Abrams M-1 Tank would not work under desert conditions because it’s air filters would get clogged.
Or the TFX multi-purpose fighter, which, though a failure at the mission for which it was originally intended, turned out to be an almost irreplaceable, highly successful all-weather long-range strike fighter (the F-111)–even if difficult to maintain. And these are just the examples off the top of my head, given enough time I could name a couple dozen more examples. I would suggest that Hidari’s proclamations are premature.

Hidari also makes the mistake of confusing “deterrence” with “defense” (which is what happens when deterrence fails). Even an imperfect weapons system may raise the calculus for what is needed for a successful attack to overwhelm the defenses to the point where a potential aggressor may be unable to cobble together the necessary force to insure against mission failure with all it’s negative consequences–and thus is deterred from initiating aggression–which it might not otherwise have done absent said weapons system in the hands of the potential victim.

Forgetting for a moment the ultimate irrationality and perhaps irreversible environmental damage to the globe that even a “limited” nuclear exchange might bring, one must slip into the rarefied atmosphere of the world of deterrence theory in order to both understand the calculus of the introduction of ABMs and their impact on deterrence theory–a subject admittedly too detailed to be gone into at this time. But which ever side one comes down on regarding their utility in deterrence strategy, the one phrase that should never be uttered in such discussions about the physical mechanisms themselves is: “will never work.” History is too full of instances where those who uttered such sentiments were eventually proved to be profoundly wrong–and if their view had carried the day in the early stages of the development of many of these “unworkable” systems we would have been at the mercy of our enemies many times over.

9

P O'Neill 08.21.08 at 9:37 pm

If the eastern european countries were really eager for a “shallower” association with the EU, couldn’t they have joined the EFTA/EEA?

10

roger 08.21.08 at 9:43 pm

“Having written a book on NATO enlargement explaining in great detail why both of them were (and still are) wrong, I’m not going to give a long, boring recitation of the facts once again. Clinton didn’t cram anything down the Russians’ throats, and in fact, tried to convince Boris Yeltsin that if Russia developed in a democratic direction, perhaps Russia could one day become a member.”

Well, this shows that even a drunk like Yeltsin was smarter than the Clintonites, or your smug friend, Jim Goldgeier, who really should try to acquaint himself with the notion of unexpected results. As long as you could trust the fact that NATO wouldn’t be led by hyper-aggressive Americans, it wouldn’t be used against Russia. That lasted, what, five years?

I don’t think Poland was anxious to join NATO because they thought how exciting it would be to man the battle stations in Kosovo. If Goldgier thinks so, then perhaps he ought to find another field in which he can be smugly wrong. Perhaps he can go into the burgeoning field of showing that NAFTA has been a great boon to the American worker.

There are several reasons for the anti-ballistic missiles in Europe. Reason number one, of course, is to keep money flowing to the elaborate welfare system D.C. has set up for engineers and the defense industry. The other is to “defend” against Iran’s nonexistent missiles, against which it will do a bang up job. And the third is to insert a note of uncertainty – certainly, in the past thirty years, and at a price tag now of a trillion dollars, we’ve demonstrated pretty well that the ABM is a completely stupid system. But we’ve also demonstrated that we have even stupider managers, who might think that the system works because, uh, once they said man wouldn’t fly! And boy they were wrong! So it may tend to make those stupid managers even more aggressive than their ulcers and their stock in Halliburton would naturally make them. It might make such people encourage a small country on Russia’s verge to spend 70 percent of its government budget on the military and attack two breakaway regions over which it was and is never going to have any control.

11

dj 08.21.08 at 10:32 pm

Re: Hidari

I suppose it is all a matter of perspective who started this war. Certainly Georgia started this phase of the hostilities (very foolishly as it is now apparent to all), but perhaps it is also useful to ask why South Ossetia existed as an independent entity in the first place and why Georgia felt the need to re-establish its authority by force. South Ossetia ‘won’ its autonomy in the immediate post-Soviet chaos with the help of Red Army units that were stationed nearby. Those same Soviet troops, consequently reflagged as Russian troops, became peacekeepers and occupied South Ossetia ever since. This all occurred well before NATO expansion and well before any expansion of the EU was even considered. While the errors of the Clinton and Bush administrations no doubt annoyed the Russians, the Russians would have had a military presence in South Ossetia and territorial ambitions in Georgia regardless of anything the West said or did.

12

Order of Magnitude 08.21.08 at 10:36 pm

Can you pls provide sources for your allegation of 70% military budget (it is obvious you refer to Georgia)? Thank you

13

Mrs Tilton 08.21.08 at 10:36 pm

Shorter Roger @10:

Close your eyes and think of Moscow.

14

Daniel Nexon 08.21.08 at 11:01 pm

We’ve written extensively on these issues at my blog–and long before the August war. As I posted over at TMC: JG is talking about a different period, before the US essentially abandoned (in all but name) the PfP. I think both JG *and* the people he’s criticizing conflate aspects of the first-round process of NATO expansion with how NATO expansion now resonates with many, many Russians, i.e., they’re very angry about it.

In general terms, one could say that the significance of NATO expansion started to change for them after 1996, and then when the Bush administration turned its back on any real substantive follow through on PfP. Estonian treatment of ethnic Russians from behind the “NATO shield” doesn’t help matters. Nor does the general discrediting of the pro-western liberalizers who were influential in the Yeltsin era. Now even being associated with “the west” is a pretty quick way to lose credibility in the country.

15

Daniel Nexon 08.21.08 at 11:06 pm

Let me try that again…

JG conflates the process of NATO expansion in the 1990s with the subsequent *impact* of NATO expansion on Russian attitudes towards the US and the west, particularly in the context of a variety of policy decisions from the latter part of the 1990s onwards. It really doesn’t matter so much that the US consulted extensively with Yeltsin, as mainstream Russian nationalists view the Yeltsin period as one of humiliation at the hands of the west. This wasn’t an equal relationship, to be frank, and NATO expansion needs to be seen in that context.

I’m personally glad that NATO did expand, but we really made some terrible mistakes during the Clinton and Bush administrations in how we handled Russia; mistakes that are contributing factors to the current climate.

16

RCMoya 08.21.08 at 11:27 pm

‘…you can’t have a genuine European market without a well developed and quite politically intrusive set of institutions to underpin it. Markets don’t exist, and can’t exist in an institutional vacuum; they are constituted by politics.’

I entirely agree on this one. Perhaps the journalists in question could take a lesson or two from the academy.

As a professor of mine at Dartmouth used to say, ‘no institutions, no democracy; no institutions, no economic development.’ The former and the latter don’t necessarily mean the same thing–democracy and economic development don’t have to come hand in hand, as we all know. But the rôle of institutional development in promoting democracy AND/OR economic development–alas, the end-goal for pro-Western policy-makers in the 1990s–is precisely what the Copenhagen Criteria are all about. Those ‘shallow integrationists’ are missing that part of the argument.

Thomas Friedman is–unsurprisingly–speaking nonsense.

@ Hidari – I think you hit the nail on the head with point (2). Clinton may have offered Russia eventual membership in NATO–but let’s also not forget that the incoming Bush administration effectively ruled out that very same promise. Continuing to expand NATO eastward whilst not even pretending to offer them membership understandably put the Russians in a predicament.

@ Smaug – Quite right, NATO needs new entrants to prove that their democracies are consolidated and that they’ve resolved external disputes before joining. I made that argument in a blog of mine not too long ago…seems foolish to have NATO extending membership to unstable states whom we’d have a responsibility to protect.

@ virgil – I may actually agree with you for the first time, on your dismissing the notion that weapons system will ‘never work’.

We’re ALL forgetting that the United States has been working on a missile defence programme for a very long time–SDI ring a bell? My mother worked developing EKVs for Lockheed Martin well over a decade ago during the Clinton administration. Clearly, someone has wanted this for a very long time–it’s cut across party lines.

17

PHB 08.21.08 at 11:33 pm

virgil xenophon: There have been many attempts to build ABM systems, that is why there is a treaty against them. The US system has been tested on many occasions and has never once passed any test that was remotely realistic without cheating.

In the 1980s the UK built a missile system, Chevaline that was designed as a countermeasure to a possible Soviet ABM system. The Chevaline warheads are deployed in conjunction with a large number of decoys. The pentagon barely bothers to argue that their system would work against a Chevaline type defense, and that was built with 1970s tech with considerably less resources than the Russians have today. Anyone who can build a warhead or a missile can take similar measures.

In cryptography we have a saying that anyone can design a cipher that they can’t break themselves, the problem comes in creating a cipher that someone else cannot break. Development of an ABM system is a vastly harder problem than developing a missile to lob a warhead. The idea that the US scientists can solve that problem but the Russians cannot solve the much easier task of defeating the system is exactly the type of idiocy that led to the Iraq fiasco.

But don’t worry, letting a bunch of bobble head warmongers like McCain and co think that they have an invulnerable shield will not encourage them to attack yet more countries in the belief that there can be no retaliation, no siree.

18

virgil xenophon 08.22.08 at 1:09 am

Following on Moya’s comment about “someone” wanting the ABM system for a very long time I would agree with those “standard” criticisms which point to institutional inertia; the fact of career advancement for uniformed project managers; Congressional desire to see manufacturing jobs in their district–all, all often giving impudus to projects irrespective of their intrinsic merits. However such things are not always the whole picture. Historically, arguments have always centered around the projects (a) technical viability and (b) desirability from a standpoint of what a functioning ABM system would do to the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction. Though somewhat separate questions, they are nontheless intertwined in both theory and practice.

Critics have long argued that even “working” systems could be “spoofed” by multiple decoy warheads, so dollars spent on ABM were wasted ones that could go towards beefing up the offensive capabilities that make MAD a realistic operating concept, the logic of which “everyone” seemed to accept. The ABM was, in effect, a defensive system that not only did not perfectly “defend” it did nothing to deter, so went the party line. Commenting on it’s less than 100% guaranteed optimal effectiveness one British scientist said that: “I’ts like a hole in your mosquito netting; it doesn’t matter if one or twenty get in–one makes you just as miserable as twenty.” Others have been critical of the damage it does to the logic of MAD by saying that even a partially effective working ABM system could be seen by an opponent as a key “first-strike” component in that it might lower the damage a retaliatory force weakened by a first strike could do to such a level t︸hat it would encourage just such an action, and therefore ABM systems were provacative–which has always been the Soviet/Russian view. Now there is much merit to both critiques
just outlined, but they have pretty much been ignored by American
Presidents and many in the Armed forces for a number of reasons.

One reason is that many really do believe that such systems can be made to work. And if so, is it not immoral to not attempt protect American civilians from the threat of potential incineration? Rather than rely on mutual fear? Of course that possession of such systems
might provoke our adversaries to simply built more more inventive systems to overwhelm and/or work around such defenses was a logic that lost traction when the consideration of “rogue”/”irrational” states like N. Korea or Iran were figured into the mix. Thus ABM ‘lite”
was born. And such a “thin” system was not unrealistic, given the limited capabilities it has to defend against. The placement of such systems is not to (primarily, at least) defend against the Russians, but against Europe being blackmailed by a future nuclear-armed and ICBM-equipped Iran . That such systems might give the Russians pause is only icing on the cake.

Roger, cynicalްy unbounded though he is, and Daniel Nexon both make good points about the paucity of diplomatic efforts in this area
not only in our handling of our relations with the Russians and their concerns about the whole NATO/ABM/EU evolving situation, but the hamfisted way we have dealt with the Georgians, etc., in inferring support we were not willing or capable of giving. My question: Where was our Russian “specialist” Condi Rice in all of this? Of all people shouldn’t she, considering her academic background, have been the
one to do the “nuanced” hand-holding thing?

19

virgil xenophon 08.22.08 at 1:13 am

I meant to say “placement of such systems in Poland.”

20

virgil xenophon 08.22.08 at 1:27 am

PHB:
Iwas busy writing my comments as you posted. I believe I anticipated most of your points, but believe you are profoundly wrong about the extent to which McCain, et al really believe current ABM technology
is capable of defending against Russia as opposed to Iran/N.Korea.
Don’t let your Bush Derangement Syndrome and hatred of all things Republican/conservative get out of hand. No foaming at the mouth, please. McCain was a fighter pilot–he’s capable of understanding hi-tech.

21

Walt 08.22.08 at 1:53 am

You’re a weirdo, virgil.

22

derrida derider 08.22.08 at 2:08 am

Of course from the POV of upsetting an opponent’s calculus an ABM doesn’t have to actually work – merely look like it might work. I dunno if Star Wars even reaches that threshold though.

It really is hard to see what the longterm gain to either US or Polish security is from this agreement. It’s just enough to seriously annoy the Russians without actually doing anything to them. And no-one believes this has anything to do with Iran, so if OTOH Polish-Russian relations thaw (for example, through them both having trouble with an irredentist Ukraine) it will breed Polish anti-Americanism. Foreign military bases are not usually popular with any populace unless they’re seriously scared of other foreigners.

23

PHB 08.22.08 at 2:14 am

Iwas busy writing my comments as you posted. I believe I anticipated most of your points, but believe you are profoundly wrong about the extent to which McCain, et al really believe current ABM technology

You claimed that the system would work, I pointed out that it has failed every test that was not fixed.

Neither the US nor the UK can manage to run a 4x100m relay without screwing it up.

As for whether McCain’s lot is serious. Have you spoken to any of them? I have. I assure you that they are true believers. They want me to help fight a cyber-war against Russia and China, they want a war with Iran and with Saudi Arabia.

McCain has consistently argued for more and bigger wars. He was arguing for the Iraq war before Bush. He is arguing that the US should immediately admit Georgia to NATO – an action that would require the US to declare war on Russia.

And as for McCain’s record as a fighter pilot that you drag out to try to bolster your point: he graduated third from last in his class at the Naval academy and lost two planes before being shot down in combat. The trick of pulling this sorry record of military incompetence out of the hat on every occasion is getting boring. McCain’s military career demonstrates an impetuous character, a rash decision maker. those are not qualities you want in the oval office, the stakes are too high.

24

christian h. 08.22.08 at 3:24 am

virgil makes a good point about the reasoning behind ABM: it is not supposed to eliminate a small number of missiles with certainty. It’s supposed to eliminate some of a large number of missiles. That’s why it is an offensive weapon, and why the ABM treaty exists. That’s also why the claim that it is aimed at Iran is absurd, something the Russians surely know – no wonder they suspect it’s aimed at them (personally, I believe it’s aimed at (a) corporate welfare and (b) domestic politics).

25

virgil xenophon 08.22.08 at 3:28 am

PHB:

Baron von Richthofen crashed six times in non-combat flying, yet became the greatest fighter ace of his time, so I wouldn’t necessairly think THAT aspect of McCain’s record is indicative of anything. He has a published IQ of 153, so I’m thinking party animal that he was, it was only due to his intelligence that he managed to graduate at all without cracking a book. Man does not live by Phi Beta Kappa chains alone.

Question: If Russia and/or China attacked the US in a Cyber attack would would you help defend? You sound reluctant. And are such concerns valid in your opinion? Especially after what happened to Georgia? And McCain want’s a war with Saudia Arabia? I thought he and other Republicans were constantly being pilloried by those on the left (of which I assume you are one, if not please disabuse me of my erroronious notions) for cozying up to them overly much. Have you checked with your fellow compatriots on that score? Or has your super-secret CRYPTO clearance allowed you access to heretofor unknown conservative policy positions? During my career in the service I only achieved Top Secret Cosmic Atomal, but never a crypto one–I’m jealous.

Derrida derrida: You are right about the calculus bit, but dead wrong
about Iran. The Russian’s have ALWAYS had the ability to overwhelm any European based system due to both numbers and insufficient warning time due to 10 minute flight times launch to impact. It’s an Iranian potential atomic blackmail threat in retaliation for any NATO
involved military action to say, keep the Straits of Hormuz open in the face of Iranian attempts to punish the West for pressure it (Iran)
receives from the West over any given course of action Iran decides upon.

26

virgil xenophon 08.22.08 at 3:38 am

Christian h:

You are right about the “some of a large number” bit, but wrong about the small number. It’s the very fact of the small numbers involved that makes it technically and theoretically possible to intercept 100%. Hence these portable (not mobile), semi-fixed systems are slated to deterr/defend against irrational actors with limited capability such as Iran or N. Korea.

27

Order of Magnitude 08.22.08 at 3:55 am

1. If an ABM system cannot be done as the opponents claim (and also claimed during the Reagan admin), why are the Russians furious? Let’s remember that during SDI, the Soviets pulled out all the tricks in the book — the planted agents of opinion in the Western media, NGOs, the peacenik organizations, the propaganda of East European countries, their own machine — to argue against it. Even if not perfect one can assume they had something to fear from it.

2. The system in Poland and Cz Rep will only be operational in 2015 and will be limited in numbers — can be, as presented today, easily overwhelmed by the colossal Russian arsenal. It is unconvincing that it effectively counters the Russian deterrent.

3. Without NATO, the CEE countries clearly would have been in a security vacuum, invited a foreign power to fill it; they had artificial borders, largely created at Versailles with ethnic overlaps; their civil service and defense establishment was filled with KGB/GRU plants. The Russians do specialize in frozen conflicts like the Trans Dniester, Abkhazia, Ossetia; that is not to say that they did not try to exploit the ethnic conflicts between Slovakia and Hungary for example during these countries’ accession to NATO. In fact the ethnic situation in Romania (incl the sporadic conflicts of 1990) could have easily evolved into another Bosnia. It is a testament to the attraction of NATO that Hungary and Romania reconciled (more or less, but so far in a stable manner), with substantial, albeit subtle American help.

My point is that the integration into NATO) of the non-soviet CEE countries served their national interest and the national interest of the Eu countries in terms of stabilizing the region, and allowing for economic integration that followed.

4. The countries of CEE had a voice in the process of the integration in the 1990s. It was their CHOICE to integrate with the West. There was no American occupation, blackmail, coups d’etat or any of the usual stuff that keep Socialists up at night. It’s interesting how lefties get all riled up about the “choice” that the Chileans “made” with Allende, but willfully ignore the choice that 70-80 million Europeans expressed very clearly. When peoples opt to be with the West, the self haters in the West suffer a meltdown.

5. The US national interest was probably also served by integrating countries with recent memories of despotism (and a healthy dose of fear from Russia) into NATO.

6. The integration of non-Soviet CEE countries cannot be reasonably said to have been provocative to Russia, because these countries disarmed after accession to NATO, and no meaningful Western (read American) military presence exists there. Besides, Russia was always viewed there as an illegitimate occupier. For those ready to pounce: Bondsteel is not in NATO and Kogalniceanu is new. As gleaned from the press, NATO did NOT develop plans to defend those countries from a Soviet onslaught similar to cold-war era plans re: Fulda etc. Incidentally, said countries would now better lobby NATO to develop those plans, lest Russia suddenly starts distributing passports in the region. They seem to be printing them in overtime.

28

Order of Magnitude 08.22.08 at 3:56 am

Sorry for the double post, Henry, but the first version is full of typos. Pls ignore it. Thanks.

29

Hidari 08.22.08 at 9:02 am

‘Similarly, ABM systems anger Russia not for their military use—Russia’s arsenal can clearly overwhelm them*—but because Russia is unable to effectively compete in this area. US progress highlights Russia’s post-Soviet weakness.’

This is probably true, and answers the point: ‘if the ABM doesn’t work, why does Russia oppose it?’. But even so, given that the ABM shield doesn’t work and will never work, and given that it humilates the Russians (regardless of whether or not their opposition is ‘reasonable’ or not) why do it?

Just to be absolutely clear, again, you would be hard pushed to get a rizla paper between the foreign policies of Clinton and Bush, but that tiny gap might still be a gap worth having. It might be a covert humiliation to ‘ask’ Russia (or rather, ask America’s little drunken Russian puppet de jour, Yeltsin) to join NATO, an organisation that has always been dominated by the US and always will be. But that’s clearly better than the overt humiliation of simply unilaterally decreeing that Russia can never join (which is the Bush’s position, in my understanding).

(Daniel Nexon’s posts above basically capture the points I am trying to make here).

30

Rofe 08.22.08 at 9:11 am

Shorter Russia: West / not West, West / not West, West / wonderful, marvelous Russia. Repeat.

This schizoid behavior is a standard feature of Russian history. Expansion of NATO, Russian membership in NATO, Russian inclusion in the G8 – all well and good. Or not. But Russia will always want to prove Russian exceptionalism (Third Rome ad infinitum) and that can’t be done without antagonizing the West.

31

James Wimberley 08.22.08 at 10:35 am

Smaug in 7: “Whatever happened to the preview pane ?”
Preview is Crooked Timber’s version of missile defence. It will work someday, promise.

32

RCMoya 08.22.08 at 12:59 pm

Ah, Russian exceptionalism…what, like American/Japanese/British/French/Chinese exceptionalism…?

33

Hidari 08.22.08 at 1:06 pm

‘Third Rome ad infinitum’

Ahem. Have you had a look at the White House recently?

34

mossy 08.22.08 at 1:24 pm

If you folks will let me butt into your conversation — I wanted to comment as an American who has lived in Moscow for a very, very long time.
1. Most discussions about “what went wrong” with Russia and US-Russian relations are US-centric. The US did X, and then the Russians did Y. If the US had done Z, then the Russians would have done A. That is, the premise is that the US actions were the root cause of the Russian actions and that the Russians were helpless to do anything else. I think this is false. Russians (surprise, surprise) like all human beings are capable of independent thought and action. In every case when the US did X, or Y, or Z, Russians had a whole alphabet of actions they could take in response.
2. Minor point, but I get tired of the knee-jerk description of Yeltsin as a ridiculous drunk.
3. I personally don’t believe the Russian leaders are the least afraid of NATO, or whatever will go up in Poland and the Czech republic. They have, as many have already pointed out, lots of leverage (energy, bases, anti-terrorism measures, nukes, arms sales, etc.) that provide deterrence; and they aren’t afraid that troops are going to start marching across their borders.

I believe that they say they are “encircled” and “threatened” to keep the population focussed on hating an outside threat. The outside threat to hate changes from time to time. It was the Estonians who were debasing a sacred Soviet “Great Patriotic War” monument. It was Chechen bands supported by international terrorism. Then it was the Kosovars who were killing and raping Serbs and destroying sacred monasteries. Then it was illegal aliens who were destroying Russia’s cities. Then it was Georgians who were poisoning us with bad wine and mineral water, not to mention organizing crime groups. Then it was Moldovans who were also poisoning us with wine and repressing the Transdnistr Slavs. Then it was the Ukrainians who were ready to export revolution and trampeling on Russian-speakers’ rights. Then it was the British who had a plan to divide up the country into three sections and hand them out to the West (all of which was going to be arranged through NGOs, the British Council offices and a radio-rock). Now it is the Georgians who commited genocide. Throughout this, it is always the US and NATO who are behind it all, who want to colonize Russia and steal all its resources (and who are envious of Russians because they have a rich spiritual culture and all the Americans have is fat people and McDonalds). I’m not exaggerating; in fact, I’m sparing you the marginal accusations.

What is happening in Georgia should be seen, I think, in the context of everything else that is happening in Russia, and much less in the context of what is happening in Europe and the US. NATO, the US and “encirclement of Russia” is just what they cite as justification for a great deal of their actions.

BTW, in this regard Vladimir Lukin, who is the human rights ombudsman, was quoted yesterday on the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. He said that the West made a lot of noise for awhile, but then it died down and a few short years later the US was sitting at the negotiating table in Helsinki. In other words, the West will stamp their feet a bit over Georgia, but then forget it. That’s what they are counting on.

35

Barry 08.22.08 at 1:44 pm

Virgil Xeonophon:

“It’s an Iranian potential atomic blackmail threat in retaliation for any NATO
involved military action to say, keep the Straits of Hormuz open in the face of Iranian attempts to punish the West for pressure it (Iran)
receives from the West over any given course of action Iran decides upon.”

RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHT

1) The government of Iran is gonna shut down the Straits of Hormuz in any situation short of an attack on Iran.

2) In such a case, a nuclear wepons doesn’t have to be delivered by missile; in fact any country would probably have nuclear weapons long before having nuclear-capable missiles.

36

Hektor Bim 08.22.08 at 3:14 pm

I’d like to take apart Hidari’s post, because I think it is confused on almost every particular.


1: As I thought should be well known by now,reprehensible as Russia’s behaviour has been, Russia didn’t start this war. Georgia did.

We don’t actually know who started this war. The Georgians claimed that they were reacting to shelling of ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia. There were a number of provocations and violations of both sides in the weeks beforehand, including the use of Russian air power against Georgia. There is no way you could know for sure.

What we do know is the order of escalation. The Georgians attacked Tskhinvali on three sides with artillery (ie indiscriminately) and armor from Georgian territory and took it quickly. The Russians responded by sending troops through the Roki tunnel and bombing sites (military and civilian) with air power in Georgia. They drove the Georgians largely out of South Ossetia. Abkhaz/Russian forces than attacked Georgian positions in Georgia proper and in the Kodori gorge. Deaths in South Ossetia that are verified are on the order of 150 or so, while there are large refugee flows from South Ossetia into Russia and Georgia. Many Georgian villages in South Ossetia have been destroyed, and large-scale ethnic cleansing of South Ossetia Georgians has occurred. Large numbers of refugees in Georgia proper have been created by ethnic cleansing units of Ossetians/Russians. That’s what we know. We don’t know who started the war, and we may never know.


2: Nato is not a threat to Russia. Says who? ‘Western officials’. i.e. Nato. And yet the Russians aren’t convinced by ‘our’ insistence on ‘our’ own good intentions! Those crazy Russians, eh?

NATO has done nothing to Russia that is comparable to the actions of Russia against NATO members (like Estonia) or NATO aspirants (like Georgia or Ukraine). Russia objects to NATO because it prevents Russia from having dominion over those of its neighbors that join it, and because it suspects it could be used against it. The first is real, precisely because Russia’s neighbors in Eastern Europe (with the exception of Belarus half the time) want to escape the Russian orbit. The second option is only likely if Russia itself initiates military action.


3: ‘Russia remains a threat to its neighbours’. Except South Ossetia, of course, which, mysteriously seems to consider the’West’ to be a threat. However I am sure that ‘western officials’ can persuade the South Ossetians that the evidence of their own eyes and ears is merely a mirage appearing against a sky of mystic illusion, as compared to the word of ‘Western officials’.

South Ossetia does consider Russia a threat, it just considers Georgia a much bigger threat and has limited options, so it seeks Russia’s embrace. South Ossetia of course is not the only neighbor of Russia. There is no way to understand the foreign policies of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan without understanding that they view Russia as a threat.


4: The Rhino in the room of course is the missile ‘defence’ (i.e. attack) ‘shield’ that the Americans have forced the Eastern Europeans governments to accept against the wishes of their own people. This ‘shield’ is worthless in terms of defence, as it does not work and will never work but it is quite useful in terms of….what’s the phrase….? Oh yes, posing a ‘threat’ to Russia.

I think missile defense is a big issue, but I don’t consider it a rhino. I think the Black Sea Fleet is a much bigger issue. The majority of Ukrainians and the national government want the Russian Navy out of Ukraine by 2017, if not sooner. But the Crimea has an autonomous government has a strongly Russophile orientation that is opposed to Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar education and is coy about Russian control over Crimea. This has the possibility of becoming a huge problem.

Just as a coda to all this – perhaps we should consider why the Poles signed the missile defense agreement. The Poles got something very important out of this deal, and it wasn’t the missile defense system. That’s what the US wanted. The Poles got anti-missile batteries to protect Poland and the promise of much closer US-Polish ties that tie the US much more closely into the defense of Poland. Why would the Poles be feeling insecure?

1) The Soviet Union signed a deal with the Nazis to carve up Poland and made sure the Poles couldn’t defend themselves from Germany by invading from the east and then later massacred their officer corps in Katyn.

2) The Soviet Union ruled them as a puppet state, and the current leader of Russia openly mourns the fall of the Soviet Union as a catastrophe.

3) The Russians still refuse to own up to Soviet responsibility for the Katyn massacre.

4) Russia recently instituted a national day that marks a victory of Russia over Poland.

5) There have been several attacks on Polish embassy staff in Russia recently that have not been solved.

6) Russia just invaded and partially occupied a small country on its perimeter, and is only grudgingly fulfilling its sworn commitments in the cease-fire.

I can certainly see why Poland would try to tie itself more tightly into a big security umbrella, especially since the Germans have cozied up more and more to the Russians recently.

37

Hidari 08.22.08 at 4:00 pm

And in case anyone is persuaded by all this, of course, we have to ‘reverse the polarities’ and see how things might look like through the ‘opposite side of the telescope’.

There is no doubt that Russia considers ‘Eastern Europe’ to be within its ‘sphere of influence’. There is, equally, no doubt that countries that have felt Russian boots on their soil in living memory (Hungary, the Czech Republic) don’t trust or like Russia much. It is unlikely, despite the claims above, that they (or at least their populace) likes the Americans much more than the Russians. But it’s likely that Poland, et al, ‘do consider the United States a threat, (but) just consider Russia a much bigger threat …(these countries have) limited options, so (they) seeks America’s embrace.’

Ipso facto, of course, the United States also has a ‘sphere of influence’ which consists of ‘Central America/the Caribbean’ and ‘South America’. And of course, just like Russia, the US has used destabilisation techniques (coups etc.) to keep South America ‘on message’ and sheer military might to keep Central America/The Caribbean docile.

It would be superflous to describe American foreign attacks on Hawaii and Puerto Rico (both now American colonies) , American machinations in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Argentina, Guyana, Paraguy…well I could go on. And on. And on.

Now. To see what is being proposed here, you would have to put yourself in the position of El Salvador (or Guatemala, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or……) reeling under the American onslaught, seeking help from the Russians. You would then have to imagine these countries being invited to join the Warsaw Pact (or its successor) until the United States was ‘surrounded’ by countries with Russian bases. In its backyard. Sorry, sphere of influence.

Now, ‘I can certainly see why El Salvador, or Haiti, or Nicaragua or….(etc.) would try to tie itself more tightly into a big security umbrella’ under Russian protection. Whether this would be a wise move, and how the Americans would feel about this situation is a whole other ball game.

And yet this is essentially what that great military mind of our time David Milliband is suggesting. Actually that’s not fair. He’s actually arguing that ‘we’ haven’t gone far enough in ‘persuading’ ‘our’ ‘allies’ to join NATO. Now, indeed, the shady kleptocracy of Georgia is being invited to join.

However I’m sure if he does, the South Ossetians (and the Russians) have nothing to worry about. After all, they have the personal assurances of ‘western officials’ on this matter.

38

mossy 08.22.08 at 4:22 pm

@ Hidari.
So in other words, despite the aspirations of the majority of Georgians: Tough luck. You’re stuck with being in Russia’s sphere of influence. And that means that, since Russia’s corporate interests are married to its state interests, you can forget about that pipeline that brought in some income. And you will have to give up part of your coastline, because a bunch of Muscovites want hotels and villas there (and the military wants a port there, just in case the Ukrainians kick them out). All because at one time America did some terrible things to protect its sphere of influence, so now you have to accept that you’re in Russia’s sphere of influence.

And since when is Hawaii an American colony? And since when is Puerto Rico prevented from changing its status?

39

bored observer 08.22.08 at 5:49 pm

40

Hidari 08.22.08 at 5:58 pm

‘All because at one time America did some terrible things to protect its sphere of influence.’

You should look up the news from Haiti sometime. The US stilldoes terrible things in its ‘sphere of influence’.

And spare me the crocodile tears for the Georgians. In my country I just have to accept the presence of American missiles, bombers, troops and bases, the ritual genuflection of both major political parties to Washington, the troops of my country being sent to die so that the US can steal oil from the Arabs, and an increasingly hollowed out ‘democracy’ in which American run corporations and American controlled institutions (e.g. the World Bank) make all the real decisions. At yet, mysteriously, I’m going to go completely out on a limb here and guess that I’m not going to get much sympathy from you in this regard.

In any case the Georgians’ most immediate problem at the moment is their corrupt incompetent fuckwit of a ‘leader’. The problem of the Russians can wait.

41

Hektor Bim 08.22.08 at 6:12 pm

Hidari,

Aren’t you also the citizen of a country where the Russian government feels free to assassinate citizens of such country whose politics it doesn’t like?

Also, if you are so worried about spheres of influence and the such, I hope you’re out in front on independence for Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, not to mention Scotland and Wales.

42

bored observer 08.22.08 at 6:56 pm

Privatization, Finlandization, spheres of influence, and Israel

Israel warned tonight that an attempt by peace activists to sail two boats to the Gaza Strip was a “provocation” and said it would consider “all options” to prevent them reaching their destination.
A group of 46 activists set sail this morning from Cyprus and were hoping to reach Gaza tomorrow to challenge the economic blockade Israel has imposed on the territory, as well as delivering a cargo of 200 hearing aids for a deaf school and 5,000 balloons.
Among those on board is Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law. “I’ve been nervous, but today I’m excited,” said Booth, 41, shortly before the boats sailed. “It’s not about our fear, it’s about the people waiting in Gaza. You can’t think about anything else.”
Israel has already warned the two boats not to undertake the journey and tonight Aviv Shiron, the spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said the journey was a “provocation” and that “all options” were under consideration to prevent the boats reaching Gaza.

No need to go into discussion of Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

“[Clinton] tried to convince Boris Yeltsin that if Russia developed in a democratic direction…” read: non threatening to the west, militarily or economically
The weakening of international law and its supplanting by private actors.. In the context of the world community the US is a private actor and US sponsored security operations are those of a private police force. “Trust us” But NATO is not the rule of law any more than George Soros is the UN. And Henry can’t help but see himself in the best light, and with the best intentions.
I’d like to be able to call this post naive, but given the public record of US behavior, self serving and sleazy is the better description.

43

mossy 08.22.08 at 7:37 pm

Crap. I wrote a beautifully eloquent response to Hidari and then my Russian modem died.

Let me try again.

No, Hidari, you are wrong. You have all my sympathy. I strongly object to the argument that “because the US does it, the Russians can do it.” It’s wrong. Period. Full stop. Spheres of influence are wrong when Americans impose them and wrong when Russians impose them.

Before anyone redesigns US policy to Russia, it seems to me that it would be a good idea to figure out the goal of Russia in Georgia. I honestly don’t know what it is. Russia has been tormenting Georgia for a long time. They have been sending millions to the “peacekeepers”; they have been passing out passports: they banned mineral water and wine; they have been sending planes into Georgian territory; they have been dropping bombs on Georgian territory; they have been sending the GRU boys into Georgia; when Georgia got fed up and publicly sent the GRU boys back, Russia halted flights (because, they said, they just noticed that Georgian airlines hadn’t paid its bills); they stopped postal deliveries; they deported thousands of Georgians illegally in the country (whom they hadn’t noticed before); they cracked down on the Georgian mafia in Russia (whom they hadn’t noticed before); they repaired the rail connection between Sukhumi and Moscow; and in the last week, they effectively took over the port of Poti, damaged the pipeline; damaged the main rail line; and have entrenched themselves around all the Georgian military bases.

I would remind everyone tempted to say that this is retaliation for Georgia cozying up to Bush and NATO that this began long before then.

Georgia has been a bee in the bonnet of Russia for a long time. There is no “ideological” reason for this. So what’s the problem?

Here are the explanations from Russians: 1) Russians have always regarded Georgians as “bazar crooks”; 2) it’s all about money — the Ossetian former KGB guys have joined up with the Russian KGB guys to make money out of the conflict — millions have flowed into South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Russia, and millions have flowed into Swiss bank accounts, and it’s in the interest of these bank account holders to keep the tension ante up; 3) Russia can’t get in its head that Georgia is a separate country, and if Saakashvili had just sucked up a bit, there wouldn’t have been any problems; 4) it’s all about money and the marriage of Russian corporate and state interests: they went into Georgia to destroy the pipeline and force the Azerbaijanis and everyone else to use the Russian pipelines (at this point they usually say that Khodorkovsky is in prision NOT because he funded political parties, but because YUKOS planned to build its own pipelines); 5) it’s all about money — Russian oligarchs want the Abkhazian coastline for their hotels and villas; 6) it’s all about pride — Putin can never forgive Saakashvili for calling him a Liliputin.

There is a great deal about this conflict that is not clear, but for me the biggest question remains: what is the Russian goal?

Hidari and the lot of you might also argue with me, but I think that the illegal and immoral US attack on Iraq was more or less accepted by the word because, in part, the attack was transparent. Senate debates were broadcast on CSPAN; the UN discussed it; every world leader made a statement; every journalist wrote about it; every newspaper in the world wrote op ed pieces. And today, most people have an opinion on why the US went in. The hysteria with this conflict is that people didn’t expect it, don’t know why Russia did what it did, and have no idea what their strategic goals are.

I would also mention one comment by Yulia Latynina. She wrote that Saakashvili had two mandates upon which he was elected: bring Georgia into the fold of the Western world and unite Georgia. The first electoral promise was more or less a 21st century aspirtation; the second was a feudal aspiration. It is not a question of “is he really a democrat?”, but rather a question of the impossibility of melding modern and feudal goals.

Before anyone makes any sweeping policy changes, I would suggest that first they 1) establish all the facts and timeline and 2) determine Russian goals.

The last thing is this: I’m not a historian or a political scientist. I am, to my shame, woefully ignorant of US policy in Latin, Central and South America. My qualifications for writing this are that I’ve lived in Russia for longer than perhaps any American alive. I’m adament about my questions, but not about the answers.

44

Hidari 08.22.08 at 8:54 pm

Point to me the bit where I wrote ‘The Americans do it, therefore the Russians can do it.’

45

lemuel pitkin 08.22.08 at 9:28 pm

Point to me the bit where I wrote ‘The Americans do it, therefore the Russians can do it.’

Hidari, I’m entirely on your side here, but I wonder if you’re not conceding too much here.

The undeniable fact that the United States (and the UK, and France, and India, and Turkey, and Israel, and…) have all, in recent decades, acted exactly as Russia did in Georgia doesn’t make Russia’s actions right, exactly. But it does suggest they’re not especially wrong, or at least not out of keeping with current norms.

The fact that Russia’s behavior here was entirely normal for a modern great power also suggests that, contra Mossy, no special inquiry into Russia’s motivations is needed. Most large countries have areas outside their borders that they regard, based on political, historical, ethnic or other ties, as being under their protection, and they’ll respond with force (disproportionate force: that’s just common sense) if some other country tries to unilaterally alter the status of those areas. There’s nothing at all particular to Russia about this.

46

RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 1:38 am

Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, not to mention Scotland and Wales.

* Northern Ireland – Pluralities support staying within the Union. You wouldn’t know that from US popular sentiment (many private donors in the States bankrolled the IRA for decades) but you can check it out for yourself. There’s info to suggest the demographic erosion of the nationalist movement as it is, which stands at less than a quarter of the population. I’d call it nationalism in reverse anyway, as British governments after the Second World War were rather keen to be rid of the ‘Troubles’ by letting N.I. unite with Éire.
* Gibraltar – Majority of the population want to stay with the UK.
* Falkland Islands – Likewise.
* Scotland & Wales – Huh? There’s a sizeable movement in Scotland, to be sure, but it’s not entirely clear even a slight majority support breaking away. The Welsh nationalist movement pretty much doesn’t exist, esp. not in comparison to Scotland’s more developed movement.

Any other bright comparisons you’d like to draw?

47

mossy 08.23.08 at 8:09 am

“The fact that Russia’s behavior here was entirely normal for a modern great power also suggests that, contra Mossy, no special inquiry into Russia’s motivations is needed. Most large countries have areas outside their borders that they regard, based on political, historical, ethnic or other ties, as being under their protection, and they’ll respond with force (disproportionate force: that’s just common sense) if some other country tries to unilaterally alter the status of those areas.”

Well, gee. Tough luck, Georgia indeed. The problem is that it wasn’t “some other country trying unilaterally to alter the status of those areas,” but rather the Georgians. So we just throw out the window territorial integrity and national self-determination? Because, you know, that’s just the way the world works?

I can understand why the Russians fought in Chechnya, although their brutality was and is off the charts. Chechens had suffered incredible persecution under Stalin and there were centuries of conflict with Russia. The Chechens declared independence, kicked out or killed most of the non-Chechens, expropriated their property, and set up a lawless regime where kidnapping for money and stealing oil from the pipelines were among the main forms of economic activity. After awhile money and arms starting flowing in from the Middle East. In addition to the criminal activity Chechens were doing in Russia, they began to commit horrendous terrorist acts and started armed incursions into adjacent territories. (Some of this is contested, but some is not.) Chechnya was Russian territory and was a real and direct threat to the country.

Georgia is a sovereign country with a small population (less than 5 million). It does not espouse an ideology that is different from or a threat to Russia. Even if its army is trained and armed by the US (and Israel), it is no threat to Russia’s army (as we saw). They do not have extraterritoral ambitions. They do not have a large Russian minority (we’ll ignore the passports given out in Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

Maybe you don’t think it’s important to understand why the Russians went into Georgia the way they did, but I’ll bet every country on Russia’s borders is trying to answer that question.

Hidari — then what are you saying?

48

RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 12:29 pm

I’m getting quite fed up with all this sanctimonious tripe.

Have we forgotten US policy, such as the Monroe Doctrine (and the Roosevelt Corollary)? Are wise to the fact that this policy has been used to justify (and here’s the rub: it is STILL invoked) interventions throughout the Western hemisphere to protect OUR interests–to the bitterness and resentment of our neighbours? This was the open stance taken by recent presidents, such as Kennedy and Reagan. (Our current Sec. of Defence was quite keen to uphold the Montroe Doctrine during the Iran-Contra fiasco.)

My point is not to justify Russia’s actions–they were wrong–nor to undermine Western efforts to gain Russian acquiescence to the peace process. I AM, however, pointing out the hypocrisy of moral rectitude when the United States has acted–and continues to act–just as unjustifiably in its own ‘near abroad’. But wouldn’t you know, America’s ‘near abroad’ happens to extend much farther (and under Bush, much further) than Russia’s…

49

Hidari 08.23.08 at 12:50 pm

The key point is that South Ossetia had a perfect right to defend itself from Georgian aggression. This is such a complete and fundamental point (the entire international legal order is based on the idea of reasonable self-defence) that I simply cannot believe that some people are finding it difficult to grasp. The key question to all those who are going on about Rusian imperialism etc should answer is: what should the South Ossetians have done, precisely, when the Georgians started to bomb them?

This doesn’t, of course, mean that I agree with Russian actions, which like any other state’s are aimed at maximising its own self interest.

50

mossy 08.23.08 at 1:03 pm

Just to clarify, then: it’s really wrong when we do it, but because we do it no one who is a citizen of the US can ever criticize Russia for doing it? Or is there a dispensation if you are on record as having criticized the US?

This is ridiculous. Why does a call to analyze Russian motivations and actions immediately get dismissed because “we do worse”?

51

mossy 08.23.08 at 1:18 pm

Hidari, that is one key point, you are absolutely right. Another key point is that third parties are not supposed to arm and fund separatists in other countries. Another key point is that self-defense is not supposed to involve damaging pipelines and ports 160 kilometers from the territory being defended. Yet another is that when you sign a withdrawal treaty, you’re supposed to carry out what you signed. Yet another one is that if your constitution says you are not allowed to move troops into another country without the consent of the parliament, you actually have to get the consent of the parliament. Another key point is that if your troops are in another country, you’re supposed to keep them from looting.

52

Hidari 08.23.08 at 3:00 pm

Mossy
I don’t know whose posts you think you are replying to but they certainly ain’t mine.

53

PHB 08.23.08 at 3:39 pm

virgil xenophon: Russia and China are already attacking the US, the question being why. In the case of Putin’s mob its because he is a KGB gangster who murders opponents with polonium poisoned teapots. In the case of China the reason for the deliberately conspicuous attack on the machines in Congress appears to be retaliation for similar attacks perpetrated by the US Air Force cyber-command, now shut down.

The Chinese have a multi-trillion dollar investment in the US economy and they appear to be concerned that the IT infrastructure security protecting their investment is somewhat weak.

You appear to think that if the neo-cons start an unnecessary war that it is the duty of the rest of us to win it for them. Not true. That was the tyoe of idea Hitler had.

As for McCain’s IQ, you are incorrect. He may have had an IQ of 153 but these days he cannot remember how many houses he has or the car he drives without help from his aides. That may not stop him doing his job effectively, but he has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not know the difference between Sunni and Shi’ia factions in Iraq either.

McCain is not Hitler, he is King Lear. It is well known that a common side effect of torture is premature onset of senility later in life. Thats why his aides no longer let him do the one on one with journalists, the primary campaign has taken a serious toll on his health. He no longer has the mental acuity to do the extended one on ones.

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Righteous Bubba 08.23.08 at 4:42 pm

Russia and China are already attacking the US, the question being why. In the case of Putin’s mob its because he is a KGB gangster who murders opponents with polonium poisoned teapots.

Ah. Because they’re the bad guys.

55

Hektor Bim 08.23.08 at 4:47 pm

RCMoya612,

Majorities in Hawaii and Puerto Rico support the current situation vis a vis the US as well. But that didn’t stop Hidari from pointing them out as symptoms of US perfidy. How is the situation in Hawaii or Puerto Rico substantially different from the situation in Ireland?

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Hektor Bim 08.23.08 at 4:49 pm

“The key point is that South Ossetia had a perfect right to defend itself from Georgian aggression.”

That depends on whether Georgia started the war, or whether the South Ossetians did by shelling Georgian villages in South Ossetia. After all, Russia recognizes the right of invasion to save the lives of its citizens, so it should Georgian action if that was actually the start of the war.

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Hidari 08.23.08 at 6:10 pm

Just to be clear, I didn’t quote Hawaii and Puerto Rico as examples of American perfidy and I am perfectly aware that majorities in those places do NOT want independence. Nevertheless they are colonies. (The Falklands Islands are British colonies, and the fact that 100% of the inhabitants want to stay British is irrelevant).

The major reason I pointed this out is that I have noticed that American nationalists simply get hysterical when it is pointed out that the amount of land on North America that was liberated by George Washington et al was actually rather small. The rest of the land that now makes up the ‘country’ (really a land Empire) of the US was seized by the young country by force, finance or fraud.

As I thought would have been rather well known, incidentally, Queen Queen Lili’uokalani was overthrown in an American backed coup which led to Hawaii becoming an American colony. Puerto Rico was, more simply, invaded, conquered and annexed.

I point this out to refute the myth, much believed even by some on the Left, that America was ‘innocent’ until 1945, after which its ‘innocence’ was ‘corrupted’ by the Russians. In actuality, the United States has been an imperial power right from the second it was created (The Treaty of Paris is an imperial document in that the British and the US connived to ‘give’ huge areas of native American land to the rapacious US without consulting the native Americans themselves).

Stalin had nothing to do with it. The Americans would have staged coups, invaded countries, and used economic leverage for their own ends regardless of what happened in Russia or China (or Europe). All the Cold War provided was opportunity, and a cover story.

Sudden concern by Western elites about Russian Imperialism should be interpreted in this light.

58

RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 6:36 pm

Hektor Bim, I was just pointing out that your facts with respect to public support in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Falklands, Gibraltar, etc., were wrong. Besides, you’re committing the very foolish mistake of confusing the United Kingdom as it is composed/exists today with some sort of latter-day English Empire.

Let me put it more clearly: the film ‘Braveheart’ notwithstanding, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are constituent parts of the UK COEQUAL with England. So let’s stop lumping these together with the Falklands or Gibraltar, pretending they have the same legal status, shall we?

The situation in Hawaii and Puerto Rico ARE substantially different from Ireland…as Ireland is a unified, stable democracy with no substantial breakaway sentiment anywhere that I know of. Northern Ireland is NOT Ireland, and it is not a PART of the Republic of Ireland.

Hidari, you call them colonies, I’d call some dependencies (Gibraltar, Falklands, Puerto Rico) and others constituent states/nations (Northern Ireland, Hawaii). They are legally different even if the historical underpinnings of their status are colonial.

Oh, and there was an attempt not too long ago by some Hawaiian nationalists to sue the US at the World Court over America’s illegal takeover of the islands. History not really being on its side here, the US declined to give the Court jurisdiction…

59

Hektor Bim 08.23.08 at 8:02 pm

Hidari,

Hawaii is by no means a colony, and since Puerto Rico is self-governing, it’s just as much a colony as the Falklands, Gibraltar, or the Channel Islands are. I point this out merely to let you Brits know who spend so much time castigating Americans about their imperial past and history of aggressive annexation that Britain has its own imperial hangover just like the US.

As for RCMoya612, Northern Ireland is definitely part of the island of Ireland no matter what they may teach you in British geography classes. I said nothing about popular will in my comments. I merely brought them up to Hidari since he seems so concerned about spheres of influence that he might want to be a little more aware about British spheres of influence, which definitely has historically included all of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland does have many parallels to Hawaii, which is why I suggest both you and Hidari read up on your own history before castigating other people on theirs. Especially so, since this is the whole point of Hidari’s posts so far and seems to be yours as well.

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Order of Magnitude 08.23.08 at 8:06 pm

Russia has legitimate security interests vis-a-vis Europe. The wholesale devastation they suffered at the hand of their former ally, Nazi Germany (and the latter’s opportunistic allies) after the Molotov Ribbentrop pact unraveled (or served its purpose) clearly illustrates the historic background with which Russia views Europe. That said, integrating the non-Soviet CEE countries and demilitarizing them (which is what happened with the NATO expansion) does not encroach upon reasonable Russian security interests.

It is important to distinguish between legitimate interests and the temper tantrums of a vanquished empire whose identity (“greatness”) to a large extent resulted from crushing and dominating (and at times, outright annexing) smaller neighbors.

We should engage them about he former and rebuff the latter.

People with a rudimentary leninist view like Hidari will always say the same thing: “spheres of influence” are the complete explanation of geostrategy, security is a zero sum game, and 100% of the fault always lies the West, while the enemies of freedom are always the agggrieved party.

BTW, Tom Friedman is the undisputed king of the metaphor and he rules the pop- foreign affairs niche (which he largely created), but his insights are otherwise third rate.

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Hektor Bim 08.23.08 at 8:07 pm

One more thing, by the way. The constituent nations of the United Kingdom are not “COEQUAL” despite you putting it in all caps. Scotland, Northern Island, and Wales (to a lesser extent) all have substantial autonomy powers that England does not share. This is a case where they have more powers through devolution. The constituent nations also have less power relative to England, since English votes can completely overwhelm them in the Parliament, and the House of Lords doesn’t represent the nations’ interests. (There is no equivalent of the American Senate, for example.) I trust you remember Margaret Thatcher and things like the poll tax and the drowning of Capel Celyn.

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engels 08.23.08 at 8:30 pm

I point this out merely to let you Brits know… that Britain has its own imperial hangover

Noooooo! It can not be! I simply refuse to believe it…

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bored observer 08.23.08 at 8:38 pm

I’ll say again it’s not a question of having a personal response, even an angry one, to Russia’s actions, but of whether it’s appropriate to defend the reactions of other state actors as moral rather than self-interested.
If one of my neighbors starts a fight with another and I get involved on either side, I cannot claim to represent the law. The confusion here is in false claims of idealism.
Contrary to Henry Farrell’s arguments in his previous post, there are indeed “spheres of influence” and yes, that is to the detriment of law. But only the law can respond as law and that means the UN. If realists want to make their arguments they should do so as realists and not pretend to be anything else.
And the realists who were honest with themselves were always opposed to NATO expansion.

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RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 10:33 pm

Hektor Bim,

Wow, you’re being condescending. Never would have imagined! But let me confess I never took British geography lessons. I’m an American. Who happens to live in the UK. Pity me, right?

So you can stop lecturing me on imperial history on either side of the Atlantic. :)

Now, as for your non-points: Northern Ireland is not a part of the Republic of Ireland. You know, Éire. That’s not a geographical entity, that’s a national one. It’s pretty clear I don’t need geography lessons from you, Mr. Bim, when your grasp of politics is a little lacking.

As for your UK/Ireland analogy, that fails by any reasonable time test. To be sure, Ireland was def. a UK sphere of influence for many centuries. But that is certainly not the case today. Not when (a) Ireland is a free state, (b) the UK wasn’t even able to get Ireland to declare war against Germany in 1939, and (c) they’ve had relatively stable relations since then. The US, however, still meddles in the internal politics of Latin America. The dynamic is totally different today.

Any questions?

As for my history, I was fortunate enough to assist a friend of mine study for her Anthropology dissertation on Hawaiian identity. But of course I wouldn’t know a damn thing about that rather depressing chapter of American history…nor of the resentment it continues to cause in an admittedly small part of HA society.

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engels 08.23.08 at 10:34 pm

As for RCMoya612, Northern Ireland is definitely part of the island of Ireland no matter what they may teach you in British geography classes.

I could be wrong but my impression–from RCMoya’s link–is that he is an American who is studying in London. However, it is possible that the British propaganda machine has already succeeded in indoctrinating him with the delusion–almost universal among the flag-waging jingoes who call themselves the British left–that Northern Ireland is geographically part of mainland Great Britain…

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RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 10:39 pm

Oh, and Hektor…thanks, but no thanks. I interned at the Scottish Parliament and understand UK politics rather well, thank you very much.

Insofar as all regional assemblies are still within the UK and under Parliament’s sovereignty, all UK nations are, de jure, coequal. Or, COEQUAL. ;-)

Devolution has not fundamentally changed the status of Parliament within the UK–only Parliament and the courts, north and south of the border, can do that. The same devolves upon the legal systems AND legal identities of the constituent countries.

Any more intellectual wind you’d like to break, Hektor?

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RCMoya612 08.23.08 at 10:44 pm

‘…the British left—that Northern Ireland is geographically part of mainland Great Britain…’

Did you mean the ‘lefty’ unionists in Northern Ireland, who make up a larger proportion of Northern Ireland’s population? And whose demographic rise will inevitably mean the status quo shall remain in place?

Or perhaps you’ve ignored the slight point implicit in the full name of the UK–that it is a union of Great Britain (as in, the island) and North Ireland (as in, the northern counties)?

Pardon me, engels, but I’m not too keen on jingoism quite generally. Not especially when that ‘patriotism’ leads people to draw specious historical lessons out of ideological fervour.

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Hektor Bim 08.24.08 at 1:04 am

RCMoya612,

You’ve been condescending to me from the beginning, and now you are complaining?

Wow, it’s amazing that you just pointed out to me something that I never said, that Northern Ireland is part of the Republic of Ireland. I never mentioned the ROI – you just assumed that is what I meant. Northern Ireland certainly was a colonial system. Finally, if Ireland was so independent of Britain, why did it just happen to join the EU exactly when the UK did or not break the 1 to 1 link with pound sterling until 1979? I would argue it is only through joining the EU that Ireland has gained real independence from the British sphere of influence, and there are still arguments about that anyway.

Secondly, there’s no way that the British nations have an equitable relationship de facto, and that is precisely what has driven devolution efforts for the past thirty years or so. Did you talk to anyone who had read Tom Nairn or read him yourself during all that time you interned at the Scottish parliament?

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Roy Belmont 08.24.08 at 1:17 am

It’s not unique to Ireland, that islandish divisionismistical thing.
Why look at Cuba. Guantanamo Bay, right there at its southern tip.
American as the day is long.

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engels 08.24.08 at 2:02 am

RCM – I was joking.

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engels 08.24.08 at 2:15 am

(I agree with most of what you have written here.)

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engels 08.24.08 at 2:35 am

I would argue it is only through joining the EU that Ireland has gained real independence from the British sphere of influence

So we have gone from claiming that Ireland is in Britain’s sphere of influence (and thus, by some logic I do not quite follow, that British lefties like Hidari who complain about American influence over the British government are somehow being hypocritical) to claiming that it was once in such a position prior to its accession to the EU. Nice goalpost shifting.

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Hektor Bim 08.24.08 at 2:44 am

No, we haven’t. You haven’t been paying attention. Northern Ireland is in Britain’s sphere of influence, and has been for a long time. Only recently has the rest of Ireland managed to escape Britain’s sphere of influence (Finlandization) due to the power of the EU. ROI and Northern Ireland aren’t the same thing.

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Hektor Bim 08.24.08 at 2:45 am

And, by the way, since Hidari’s whole argument is about hypocrisy, maybe he should pay attention to his own?

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engels 08.24.08 at 2:52 am

ROI and Northern Ireland aren’t the same thing.

Wow, thanks for enlightening me, Hektor. You really are quite the expert on this farflung part of the world, aren’t you?

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engels 08.24.08 at 2:59 am

Northern Ireland is in Britain’s sphere of influence, and has been for a long time.

If by ‘Britain’ you mean the UK, Northern Ireland is not part of the UK’s ‘sphere of influence’, it is part of the UK, so this claim is nonsense. If by ‘Britain’ you mean Great Britain (the largest of the British Isles) it is equally nonsensical since this is a geographical not a political entity and does not have a ‘sphere of influence’.

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engels 08.24.08 at 3:22 am

since Hidari’s whole argument is about hypocrisy, maybe he should pay attention to his own?

But this is just bizarre. How is Hidari being hypocritical here?

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J Thomas 08.24.08 at 5:13 am

I read the whole discussion above and I’m kind of baffled what it’s about.

It sounds like people are arguing about what the moral thing is that US citizens should persuade the US government to do?

Surely we agree that the US government typically looks after somebody’s interests more than behaving as an agent of morality, but if enough US citizens take some sort of moral stand maybe the government will cater to them this time?

Morality aside, there are practical concerns. Sure, russia is a big country that tries to intimidate its smaller neighbors. The USA does that too but more subtly — we haven’t invaded any of our neighbors since the last time we invaded panama, unless you count haiti. Russia invaded georgia last week. So, what should we do about that? Perhaps we could work to persuade enough russian citizens that their government should be nicer to their smaller neighbors, that they get their government to cater to them about that? Perhaps we should have our empirical government do adventures over there?

What could we as moral individuals do to promote ethnic tolerance in the rest of the world? Here’s russia attacking georgia, because georgia attacked south ossetia, because ossetians attacked ethnic georgians. Maybe if we looked harder we’d find some ethnic georgians attacked a handicapped ossetian child. Maybe if we looked far enough we’d find Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a georgian lantern. It’s the sort of thing where looking for the spark that started it is a waste of time. You want a situation that won’t blow up from any little spark.

Mossy’s view is interesting. Russian leaders want to present stories to their public, and he sees it as a propaganda exercise for their own people. That has to be true on some levels. But how important is the russian public? Is this primarily a propaganda exercise, or is it something else that gets used as a propaganda exercise, as anything else would be? And how much of our own information was designed as a propaganda exercise?

The longer we wait to attack iran, the harder it gets. If it’s worth doing now, how can we justify not doing it last year? What a godsend to have the russians looking more like a credible enemy! Our propagandists couldn’t have asked for a better display. If it hadn’t happened all on its own they’d have needed to make it happen.

So what’s practical? Practical for who? Is it practical for moral US citizens to try to get their government to listen to them and follow their moral code? What else can they do?

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Hidari 08.24.08 at 9:42 am

Incidentally I think I should post at this point and point out the completely bloody obvious: I am NOT a fan of the foreign (or domestic) policies of Vladimir Putin, nor of the Chinese Communist Party (no one actually accused me of this, but it’s the sort of accusation that gets thrown about in these internet discussions).

All I’m trying to do is provide a little context. White, male, Western elites haven’t really noticed this but generally speaking, ordinary people in the rest of the world (I’m tempted to say the real world) do not view RUSSIAN (or Chinese) imperialism as the major problem facing the world today (which isn’t to deny that both of those issues exist).

Finally, just because I was pointing out the objective fact that countries have spheres of influence, I didn’t go on to argue that this is a good thing.

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no-nameo 08.24.08 at 11:35 am

“ordinary people in the rest of the world (I’m tempted to say the real world) do not view RUSSIAN (or Chinese) imperialism as the major problem facing the world today” (Hidari, 79)
“Ordinary people in the parts of the world that are a safe distance away from Russia and China” would be more accurate. Likewise, Georgian imperialism is not a major threat where I live, but the Ossetes are less lucky.

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J Thomas 08.24.08 at 1:50 pm

Hidari, yes, but when you express the problem in terms of spheres of influence it makes us look bad.

Because then the argument turns into: Should we allow russia to have any sphere of influence at all, or should our sphere of influence extend all the way to the russian border?

It kind of lowers the moral tone of the argument. Much more satisfying to say that we’re the good guys and the russian government is the bad guys, and while the georgian government is also the bad guys they aren’t nearly as big or as bad as russia.

So then the question is what should we do, given that we have a moral imperative to keep bad things from happening anywhere in the world but our strength is not infinite.

Incidentally, have we invited the russians to make periodic inspections of our nuclear sites in poland? If not, why would the russians believe that they are only missile defense sites?

Suppose that there were rumors that argentina is developing nukes, and the russians announced they were building missile defense bases in cuba that would pretect somebody-or-other from argentine attack. But we didn’t have proof that it wasn’t missile sites. Would we stay calm about that because we knew russian missile defense doesn’t work?

For that matter, how would we react if the russians got an agreement with mexico to put any kind of russian military bases there?

And Virgil does have a point. Someday, in 50 years, or 20 years, or perhaps 10 years, or possibly somehow even in 5 years, we might get a missile defense that works. At that point we’d upgrade our bases in poland with something that works, and it would only be an upgrade, not anything to have a big fuss over. If the russians are going to object, now is the time.

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RCMoya612 08.24.08 at 2:32 pm

Hektor, again, you’re kind of forgetting just how keen the British establishment were to dump the whole of Ireland when the Free State was created. The British kept the six northern counties due to the strong insistence of the Protestant plurality in the region. And since the Free State became the Republic the British have found staying in Northern Ireland more trouble than its worth.

And what do you mean there’s ‘no way’ the British nations are de facto equitable? If you accept that the UK Parliament is sovereign, as it is, and you accept that individual MPs vote along party lines and NOT geographical ones, then where does it become obvious that one region is LEGALLY less equal than the rest? Devolution was a compromise between those who wanted full independence and those who wanted greater powers closer to home but not independence. So what’s your point of mentioning Nairn?

Maybe you can pay attention to what engels is saying: ‘Northern Ireland is not part of the UK’s “sphere of influence”, it is part of the UK’. And then there’s the geographical note… ;-)

J Thomas, I think we would all count Haiti. We could also count the rather muddled picture of potential US involvement in Venezuela during the coup attempt against Chávez. You can also look up the administration’s funding of separatist groups in Bolivia…that separatist region happens to be the gas-producing region of the country, which is currently leaning far to the left thanks to the new president Evo Morales. Oh, and how did you arrive at that Iran point? I’m rather confused…do you seriously believe we should attack Iran?

Also, what’s problem with talking about spheres of influence? Because the US would look bad? I hope this is a note of sarcasm, as I’ve already failed to catch engel’s bit. LOL.

Mate, we shouldn’t care if the US looks bad. This isn’t about looking good or looking bad. It’s about facts, or what appear to be facts…isn’t it more ‘moral’ to see things as they are and put those into proper perspective?

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Order of Magnitude 08.24.08 at 2:53 pm

There is a qualitative difference between spheres of influence. The Soviet one was a rigid straight jacket that profoundly shped (indeed micromanaged) every aspect aspect of the satellite’s economic, political social life. Escaping from it was impossible (or nearly so).

The US sphere allowed for a wider range of options.

Moral equivalence between the US and the Soviet Union or now Russia has been and is wrong.

84

engels 08.24.08 at 4:11 pm

The US sphere allowed for a wider range of options.

Yes, there’s the Chilean option, the Cuban option, the <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_PBSUCCESS…

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J Thomas 08.24.08 at 4:11 pm

RCMoya, when we decide what to do, we must decide our goals. Morality is about what should be, and it’s central to deciding what to do. What’s real is important because the difference between what is and what ought to be tells us what our goals are.

I don’t know how to do sarcasm these days. It isn’t just the Bush administration that parodies itself better than anyone who tries to do parody as comedy. It’s the whole USA. We have turned surreal.

About iran, the Bush administration has been talking about attacking iran since 2003, since right after we won the quick war with iraq. But they’ve never actually gotten up the gumption to do it. Reality or something keeps getting in the way. It must be embarrassing for them, they want to say iran is the enemy that’s about to become a vital threat, that might soon nuke DC or do an EMP attack that destroys the entire US economy, and yet they do nothing. How wonderful for them to have russia actually look like a reviving threat, to take public attention off their failure to do anything useful about iran.

So much of what we see is what the government does to persuade us about things. I’d kind of like to believe there’s another layer of government that does things for the national interest, and that layer just does whatever it does and then the layer that persuades us tries to use the news to persuade us about things. What I’d like would be for that hidden layer to be both competent and kind. But if there is a hidden layer I don’t know much about it, and there might not be any such thing. Maybe everything the US government does is driven by US public opinion. Isn’t that a scary thought?

And if that’s true then the most important thing any of us can do is to persuade the US public to want good things. But if it isn’t true then when we succeed in persuading the public it only affects the government layer that tries to persuade us. They’ll explain things in a different light if we show them we want them to look different.

I can remember the day that it all got too surreal for me to deal with. We were invading iraq, and there was some concern that the iraqi military might use chemical weapons on us — nerve gas or mustard gas. (As it turned out they didn’t have enough of that stuff to do any good, but our military didn’t know that. Iraq had had stocks of chemical weapons that we bombed during the Gulf war, and after we bombed them they couldn’t prove to us that they’d decommissioned it all.) So we threatened to nuke iraq if they used mustard gas on our invading troops.

After that, somehow no matter how cynical I get it isn’t cynical enough.

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engels 08.24.08 at 4:16 pm

The US sphere allowed for a wider range of options.

Yes, there’s the Chilean option, the Cuban option, the Guatemalan option

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J Thomas 08.24.08 at 4:28 pm

“The US sphere allowed for a wider range of options.”

Yes, there’s the Chilean option, the Cuban option, the

There was the Batista option, the Duvalier option, the Marcos option, the Torrijos option, the Somoza option, the Pinochet option, etc etc.

http://www.soaw.org/article.php?id=840

On the other hand, Costa Rica abolished their army 59 years ago and they haven’t had a war or a coup since. And we let them!

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Order of Magnitude 08.24.08 at 4:51 pm

First, cherry picking evidence will always confirm your pre-existing views.

Second, it is not the US’s fault that Habsburg Spain colonized South/Central American and left its dysfunctional clerical state behind (Spain itself only emerged from 500 years of coma in and around the 1970’s), with no institutions compatible with liberal democracy. As said elsewhere, without institutions you have nothing. The root cause of poverty in Latin American is largely the institutional inheritance from Spain.

Third, the clearest contest between spheres of influence was in Europe, and the American sphere showed that you had wider options, even to oppose the hegemon. After all the US has not re-occupied France when De Gaulle pulled out of NATO (let’s remember Prague 40 yrs ago almost to the day).

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mossy 08.24.08 at 4:52 pm

1. Mossy is a girl.
2. Lots of ordinary, non-male, non-western elite, non-white people in the real world are concerned about Russian imperialism (i.e., those of us who live and work and travel in the lands stretching from Central Europe to Magadan, and Arkhangelsk to Turkey, and including Central Asia and Africa, not to mention the Far East).
3. I still insist that Russian actions should be looked at. Period. Full stop. Do an analysis. You can then mitigate the conclusions all you want in terms of what other countries do.
4. Almost no one actually responded to my questions and facts. Almost everyone (except the poor soul who assumed I was male) made reference to them. The barrage of criticism was about my right to ask the questions and make the comments. It’s sanctimonious tripe. It’s the elite waking up. It’s hypocrisy. What are you all assuming about me, other than that I am male?
5. I didn’t follow anything about England, Great Britain, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, for which I apologize.
6. Hidari, I’m glad to hear that you aren’t a fan of Vladimir Putin (although I couldn’t have guessed that until you stated it).

90

Hidari 08.24.08 at 5:35 pm

‘Hidari, I’m glad to hear that you aren’t a fan of Vladimir Putin (although I couldn’t have guessed that until you stated it).’

Oh spare me. You are actually seriously arguing that you were under the impresion that I am a great fan of Putin, think Russian actions in Chechnya (and elsewhere) are just peachy, approve of Putin’s war on democracy in his own country, and think that the Putinian kleptocracy is a good role model for other developing countries?

Of course you didn’t think any of that. You just thought that you would use the standard debating point used by those who wish to point to evidence of double standards. ‘Oh, so you think that the American are behaving badly in Vietnam. So what about Czechoslovakia? Eh? Eh? Eh?’ Or ‘So you’re criticising Irael. What about what the Chinese are doing in Tibet???!??? Eh? Eh? Eh?’ It’ s just a fancy way of saying ‘If you hate American so much why don’t you go and live in Russia?’ Or even: ‘America: love it or leave it’.

The salient points here are:

1: Those who point out (rightly) that there is evidence of Russian imperialism in Georgia, seem to be mysteriously blind to evidence of American imperialism in Georgia.

2: People who are suddenly (after they have located Georgia on the map) terribly excised about the possibility of Georgia becoming a Russian client state, are mysteriously unperturbed by the possibility of Georgia becoming an American client state.

3: People who are suddenly concerned with civilian casualties in Georgia (i.e. of Georgian civilians killed by Russians) are much less concerned, on the whole, with civilian casualties caused by the Georgians (carried out, on the whole, by ‘Western’ backed troops,with ‘Western’ bought arms).

4: I never denied that people living near to Russia are worried by Russian imperialism. If I lived in these countries so would I be. But the people of these countries (as opposed to political elites) are also , generally speaking, worried by American imperialism in the form of farcical missile ‘defence’ schemes…as opinion polls clearly indicate.

5: Wittering on about the ‘elite’ is drivel. To quote the FT recently:

‘Most of the world is bemused by western moralising on Georgia. America would not tolerate Russia intruding into its geopolitical sphere in Latin America. Hence Latin Americans see American double standards clearly. So do all the Muslim commentaries that note that the US invaded Iraq illegally, too. Neither India nor China is moved to protest against Russia. It shows how isolated is the western view on Georgia: that the world should support the underdog, Georgia, against Russia. In reality, most support Russia against the bullying west. The gap between the western narrative and the rest of the world could not be greater.’

Apologies for getting your gender wrong, but it’s a fact that it’s mainly white,male, middle/upper class, ‘Western’, English speaking intellectuals who are getting their highly orthodox knickers into a twist over Russian imperialism.

The rest of the world just thinks they are mad, and, increasingly, are coming to the conclusion (rightly) that these people are an irrelevancy.

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David 08.24.08 at 5:39 pm

It seems to me that the fundamental issue here is how to take a stand against nations or groups within nations from dominating or disenfranchising other nations or groups within nations. It’s totally valid to point out that the U.S. now, just as in the past, routinely exercises this kind of power over other countries or peoples (a list of the highlights would have to include Chile, Guatemala, Iran, Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, multiple Pacific Islands, Vietnam, Palestine, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and most of the native peoples of North America–and just because Spain or France or Britain fucked these countries over first is not an excuse). But it’s not like that list would be that much shorter if you were compiling all the nations and peoples that had experienced domination by Russia. The important point here is not that we’re unjust, so it’s all right if others are unjust too, but that when the U.S., or any other nation, sanctimoniously takes up the position of opposing Russian tyranny while conducting a hyper-aggressive foreign policy that includes the occupation of two foreign countries, there’s not exactly a lot of reason for Russia or anyone else to take their moral claims seriously, whatever they may be compelled to do by the threat of sanctions. Instead of ramping up our rhetoric and dusting off the Cold War paradigms, shouldn’t we be debating how best to solve crises like this without championing one empire over another? One way might be to pressure our political leaders to invest in creating and strengthening more even-handed international institutions that can’t be simply employed as tools to expand one sphere of influence and contract another (like NATO). But again, an evenhanded means of approaching and defusing conflicts should be the main subject under discussion, instead of a silly back and forth over the precise legal status of former colonies and whether ABMs are ever going to work.

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someone 08.24.08 at 6:09 pm

Do an analysis

But he (Hidari) does ‘do an analysis’, mossy-girl – it’s just that you don’t like his analysis. You want some other analysis; the one, it appears, that’s completely divorced from any geopolitical context. You might want to take this as a clue for why no one here cares much about your questions and comments; even overt russophobes like OOM understand the relevance of the geopolitical angle.

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J Thomas 08.24.08 at 6:14 pm

One way might be to pressure our political leaders to invest in creating and strengthening more even-handed international institutions

That sounds like a good thing. But how could we pressure our leaders to do it? To make an institution actually be even-handed requires a whole lot of detail work, and public pressure is an exceptionally blunt instrument. Could we have done much to make the IMF or the World Bank even-handed?

Maybe it would be better to somehow work toward creating NGOs that will be even-handed, and then get government recognition for them.

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someone 08.24.08 at 6:43 pm

The problem with the ABM is that even if it’s weak and infective it creates an illusion that the side deploying it has a better chance to prevent the retaliatory response, thus weakening MAD’s equilibrium.

The Russians don’t know how advanced American ABM system is, therefore they have to assume that it’s efficient enough to block their retaliatory response in the case of American nuclear attack, therefore they have to operate in the hair-trigger mode, ready to launch all they have in response to anything that looks like a nuclear attack – and that could turn out to be a computer glitch or a Norwegian weather balloon. And so, because of the ABM in Poland, this time around they may not have 3 minutes to double-check what it is. That was the logic behind the ABM treaty, until the Bushies dumped it in 2002. And now they’re installing ABM in Poland. And that’s, quite possibly, how we all will get wiped out – the pro-Putin among us, the anti-Putin, and all the rest of us, including the mossy-girl who doesn’t want to know anything about the UK and the US.

95

notsneaky 08.24.08 at 6:52 pm

“But the people of these countries (as opposed to political elites) are also , generally speaking, worried by American imperialism in the form of farcical missile ‘defence’ schemes…as opinion polls clearly indicate.”

and going back to #1
“The Rhino in the room of course is the missile ‘defence’ (i.e. attack) ‘shield’ that the Americans have forced the Eastern Europeans governments to accept against the wishes of their own people.”

Look, you start of way off right here and then continue. The Americans didn’t have to force the missile defence (sic) on the Poles. They love it. The politicians there love it. And the reason the politicians love it is because the people love it (70% of Poles approve of the “tarcza”, 10% oppose it and rest dont give a fig, according to latest polls). Much in the same way that Taiwanese love having some American troops around which are sure to get knocked around in case the Chinese try something funny. And that’s the basic idea behind the shield, from Polish pov. It could be made of paper mache but as long as it’s American, and it has to get attacked in any attack on Poland then… well, then the Georgian situation’s not likely to repeat itself (i.e. strong words, no action). Just in case if, when, or if and when Russia decides to get all fucked up again. They’re not there yet even with Putin and all that (unlike yourself, I prefer to avoid hyperboles) but this is Russia we’re talking about.

People in the region are NOT worried about American Imperialism (sic). They name their streets after Ronald Reagan. They want more American influence in the world and in the region. They know America is far away and will never invade them and the most it will do is make them lower some tariffs or something, which they have been happy to do on their own. Because they like the American consumer goods. The interests are, well, not quite symmetric, US being bigger and on the other side of the world and all, but definietly aligned.

Of course the Russians provoked this crisis (and they had to defend the rights of Germans living in Sudetenland… er, wait … you know what I mean) but Saak’ let himself be provoked. Which means he’s either gone stupid from hanging around Dick Chaney too much, or he’s a Russian plant.

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someone 08.24.08 at 7:35 pm

http://www.wmdinsights.org/I14/I14_EU1_SRI_EasternEurope.htm
According to a survey conducted in Poland in early February, 55 percent of the Polish people oppose the deployment while only 28 percent support it. [31] A subsequent poll by the CBOS agency, a leading Polish public opinion research organization, confirmed this opposition, with 56 percent responding negatively to a question on their views regarding hosting U.S. BMD interceptors. [32] The most recent poll, published on March 19, 2007, found that 51 percent of the respondents definitely oppose the base and 28 percent would prefer not to host it. Only 30 percent support the proposed deployment of the BMD interceptors, with a mere 8 percent “definitely” backing it.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6720153.stm
Meanwhile, there is significant public resistance to the plan, with 100,000 people signing a petition calling for a referendum on the issue. Opinion polls indicate that about two-thirds of Czechs do not want the project to go ahead.

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someone 08.24.08 at 7:56 pm

Oh, and: Much in the same way that Taiwanese love having some American troops around which are sure to get knocked around in case the Chinese try something funny.

Incidentally, Taiwan is one of those rare places in the world where you won’t find any American troops to love.

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notsneaky 08.24.08 at 8:13 pm

“According to a survey conducted in Poland in early February, 55 percent of the Polish people oppose the deployment while only 28 percent support it”

Key word there being “February”. I.e. before the most recent events.

“The most recent poll, published on March 19, 2007”

Key word there being “March”. I.e. before the most recent events. And this is outdated – the most recent poll is the one I saw in a Polish newspaper two days ago and heard referred to on Polish radio while traveling from Krakow to Wroclaw.

I don’t know about Czechs though I suspect that’s a bit outdated too.

“Incidentally, Taiwan is one of those rare places in the world where you won’t find any American troops to love.”

Maybe not for American troops. But certainly for their presence.

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someone 08.24.08 at 8:46 pm

Sounds like it’s true:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aUWlipbHHPfw&refer=home
As many as 63 percent of Poles now back the anti-missile installation, a survey for today’s Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper showed. That figure contrasts with 55 percent opposition in a June 2007 poll by the Center for Public Research.

but then it seems to make it more likely that Saak is still an American plant.

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engels 08.24.08 at 10:01 pm

The Americans didn’t have to force the missile defence (sic) on the Poles. They love it. The politicians there love it. And the reason the politicians love it is because the people love it (70% of Poles approve of the “tarcza”

A recent opinion polls suggests that a majority 63% of Poles currently approve of the missile shield. Until a few months ago the majority (of 55%) opposed it.

I prefer to avoid hyperboles

Hmmm

101

notsneaky 08.24.08 at 10:41 pm

Ok, so I chuckled evilly when I wrote that.

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RCMoya612 08.25.08 at 12:24 am

Yeah, I agree, I think the States has finally caught on to surreal comedy. Here’s to hoping the US take up the Mighty Boosh!

J Thomas, I would like to agree with you on the morality thing…but as a political science at heart I can’t agree that our actions are dictated by our morals. It would be nice–but it’s not the case.

Yep, good thing for the neocons that Russia suddenly sounds big, bad and evil again…Iran wasn’t gaining traction!

As for public opinion driving government actions: hardly. If that were the case many domestic issues would have swung social democrat long ago (as most opinion polls show). And how would public opinion drive international policy when the average American doesn’t know where most of the nations we invade are, much less their politics? Remember, the presidency’s single-most important power is its ability to set the agenda–especially on foreign affairs. we should be wary of administration that pretends to be caught unawares of any international action…including, for example, the whole situation in Georgia.

The Iraq WMD thing never washed with me. There were theoretical stockpiles, but no actual evidence. (And lest we forget the UN was sure it could have finished its job looking for WMDs had it been given more time.) The WMDs were incidental to the invasion.

Order of Magnitude, mate, how could institutions ever take root with so much external meddling? It’s not cherry-picking, it really isn’t. It’s cold hard facts. In the Us calculus democracy means democracy when the democrats sympathise with their interests. This has especially been the case in Latin America, as this is America’s backyard.

As for your De Gaulle example…sorry, it doesn’t quite hold. De Gaulle left NATO’s military structures, not the whole alliance, and De Gaulle was hardly a communist, now was he. The same couldn’t be said for Italy, where the US was ACTIVELY involved in undermining the leftist parties during the period of Tension.

Mossy, I’m very sorry, I didn’t know where your part of the debate was…all I caught was something about third parties arming a belligerent (which happens all the time, everywhere and on all sides. Sometimes both sides, as in the US and UK during the Iran-Iraq War.)

David, @ 91, my point exactly. It’s fair to say the US fucked over plenty of states…just as the Russians have and do…and just as the Europeans have done in the past, like every other imperial power in history. I also agree with this statement, ‘just because Spain or France or Britain fucked these countries over first is not an excuse.’ The following point is one I made far above in the debate: ‘when the U.S., or any other nation, sanctimoniously takes up the position of opposing Russian tyranny while conducting a hyper-aggressive foreign policy…there’s not exactly a lot of reason for Russia…to take their moral claims seriously…Instead of ramping up our rhetoric and dusting off the Cold War paradigms, shouldn’t we be debating how best to solve crises like this without championing one empire over another?’ We should be bulking up institutions that try to prevent these conflicts–the OSCE and the UN, for example…perhaps someone should pass that suggestion on to John McCain, seeing as how he’s so keen to start up a one-sided ‘League of Democracies’ (read: US allies) at the expenses of even-handed institutions like the UN.

notsneaky, not so in the Czech Republic, where a consistent 60+% of the population has opposed the missile defence system. Poland was more ambivalent to it before the Russian invasion of Georgia. I believe the Czech foreign minister was grilled on this very point by the BBC recently, this point on popular opposition to the system.

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Hidari 08.25.08 at 6:58 am

‘They name their streets after Ronald Reagan.’

Yes because I distinctly remember when my street was being named that we all got together and had a democratic vote on whether or not it would be acceptable. Obviously we all have another vote as to whether we keep that name when a new person moves in.

‘They know America is far away and will never invade them’.

I’m sure if you had spoken to ordinary Yugoslavians in the 1980s they would also have patiently explained to you that America was far away and would never invade them.

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Iraq War 08.25.08 at 7:26 am

To know someone with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts unexpressed … that can make this life a garden.JohannWolfgangvonGoetheJohann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1832

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mossy 08.25.08 at 9:01 am

Moral outrage about who has the “right” to criticize Russia. I think this is a load of crap. I’m not GWB, I don’t work for any govt agency, and if you all can write books about the perfidy of US policy, I can write a friggin’ blog post about the perfidy of Russian policy.

Geo-political situation. Well, “someone,” it’s not that people don’t like my analysis or that I refuse to look at the geo-political situation. It’s this: every time I write something about the geo-political situation in this part of the world, instead of responding to what I write, the comments move to the geo-political situation in the US-dominated part of the world. Scroll through the postings. The topic is the war in the Caucasus, and yet about a half of the posts are about the UK and Scotland and Ireland and Puerto Rico and Hawaii. When you shift the focus like that, it allows you to demolish the Bush narrative about Russian-South Ossetia-Georgia, because when you put the focus on US policies, you do, in fact, get to scream “hypocrisy” when Bush talks about the tiny little democracy fighting off big bad imperialism.

But by keeping the focus on the US and the US-dominated geo-political situation, and ignoring the Russian actions and Russian-dominated geo-political situation, it also allows you to accept the Russian narrative of all this, which a lot of you seem to be parroting. The Russian narrative goes like this: Georgia attacked, we went in to defend the South Ossetians and our peacekeepers, we took legitimate measures to safeguard us and the South Ossetians. And besides, it’s our sphere of influence, you do the same thing, so butt out.

And all of this leads to the question of equivalencies. The Russian narrative is all about the equivalency between their actions in South Ossetia and NATO actions in Kosovo. You have problems with us bombing military bases, communications lines, ports, railroads and airports? That’s what you did to the Serbs. You have problems with us demonizing Saakashvili as a lunatic? That’s what you did with Milosevic. This is why, I think, there was so much screaming about genocide and “the city razed to the ground like Stalingrad.” You said the Serbs were committing genocide against the Kosovars? That’s what the Georgians were doing to the Ossetians.

As long as you keep the focus on US actions and policies, those equivalencies hold up. But when you start factoring in the Russian actions that preceded this conflict, they start to fall apart. And when you look at a comparison between Serbia under Milosevic and Georgia under Saakashvili, they fall apart even further. Or the issue of “genocide.” Or the issue of corporate and financial interests. Or the issue of public discussion and constitutional procedure. For all Hidari’s sneering about how the “Western elites couldn’t find Georgia on a map until last week,” I don’t get the sense that many people commenting here had been exactly following events in the Caucasus very closely over the last 15 years.

The equivalency narrative hinges on the timeline, which is why both the Russians and the Georgians are making such a big deal about it. First, it’s not clear when people began to be evacuated from Tskhinval – it certainly was before the Georgian attack, and may be as early as Aug 1. (Another interesting issue is when Russian journalists arrived in Tskhinval. According to a Chechen photographer – yes, yes, I know; his testimony is suspect – there were 48 Russian journalists in Tskhinval on the night before the Georgians attacked.)

The most important question is where everyone’s troops were. If Georgian troops were massing towards the border with South Ossetia, that could “explain” the evacuation and the presence of the journalists. But where was the 58th army before Georgia attacked? If they were already in South Ossetia, as the Georgians and some Russian analysts claim, then those equivalencies fall apart entirely and the Russian narrative collapses. That, I hasten to say, doesn’t mean that the Bush narrative holds up. But it does mean that you need another narrative.

Or maybe you don’t think you need another narrative. Maybe after all the facts are known and everything is taken into consideration, you will come to the conclusion that yes, details may vary but it comes down to spheres of influence and imperialism and both sides are basically the same.

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Hidari 08.25.08 at 10:10 am

‘the comments move to the geo-political situation in the US-dominated part of the world. ‘

Er…as opposed to where exactly? The difference between US and Russian (and Chinese) imperialism is that whereas the Chinese only attempt to dominate countries that are spacially proximate, the US (uniquely, although the British Empire was like this) attempts to dominate everyone, everywhere, as much as possible.

So in a sense the distinction I drew earlier is misleading. It’s true, of course, that the Russians consider Georgia to be within their ‘sphere of influence’.

But so does the United States.

This is demonstrated by the frequent use on your post of one word (Russia) and the comparative absence of another phrase: South Ossetia. It is simply presumed that the South Ossetians are ‘proxies’ or ‘clients’ of the Russians.

But another, equal assumption is thereby being made: that the Georgians are acting completely autonomously.

But this is absurd.

To quote the Guardian: .

‘In 1992, the west backed Eduard Shevardnadze’s attempts to reassert Georgia’s control over these regions. The then Georgian president’s war was a disaster for his nation. It left 300,000 or more refugees “cleansed” by the rebel regions, but for Ossetians and Abkhazians the brutal plundering of the Georgian troops is the most indelible memory.

Georgians have nursed their humiliation ever since. Although Mikheil Saakashvili has done little for the refugees since he came to power early in 2004 – apart from move them out of their hostels in central Tbilisi to make way for property development – he has spent 70% of the Georgian budget on his military. At the start of the week he decided to flex his muscles.

Devoted to achieving Nato entry for Georgia, Saakashvili has sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan – and so clearly felt he had American backing. ‘ (emphasis added).

To contnue:

‘Like Galtieri in 1982, Saakashvili faces a domestic economic crisis and public disillusionment. In the years since the so-called Rose revolution, the cronyism and poverty that characterised the Shevardnadze era have not gone away. Allegations of corruption and favouritism towards his mother’s clan, together with claims of election fraud, led to mass demonstrations against Saakashvili last November. His ruthless security forces – trained, equipped and subsidised by the west – thrashed the protesters. Lashing out at the Georgians’ common enemy in South Ossetia would certainly rally them around the president, at least in the short term.’

Georgia is in no sense a democracy. Instead it is a sleazy American backed kleptocracy, with a Western (i.e. American) backed leader brought to power in a de facto coup (the so called Rose revolution): mainly funded by ‘Western’ NGOs.

Denial of this is simply part of the rhetoric of American imperialism: ‘other’ countries are imperialistic not ‘us’.

The fact is that Georgia is important to the American Empire for reasons mainly to do with natural resources. The United States will not tolerate a genuinely independent (i.e. democratic) state, and without acknowledging that fact, pointing out that the Russians will also not tolerate a genuinely independent state is the height of hypocrisy.

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mossy 08.25.08 at 1:35 pm

Aw, good grief, Hidari. You’re quoting a Guardian article at me to prove that the South Ossetians have a gripe against the Georgians? Yeah, they do. So you want to maintain that this is all about the aspirations of the South Ossetians? Look up who the South Ossetian leadership is. Look up how much money they have been getting from Russia over the years. Find where all that money has been going. And then tell me with a straight face that there isn’t a possibility that the South Ossetian leadership and the people living in South Ossetia may have different interests.

And please do a little more research before you haul out the sleazy democracy, Western NGOs, and corruption stuff about Georgia. I don’t buy the Bush line that it’s a shining light of democracy and free enterprise, and I don’t your line that it’s a corrupt tin-pot dictatorship run by the Americans – which is, BTW, the Russian narrative.

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RCMoya612 08.25.08 at 1:36 pm

mossy, Hidari has a point. The whole point of the discussion above was to set the stage, so to speak, on the involvement of BOTH Russia and the US in the affairs of Georgia and its breakaway regions. But he already did that, so let me move on to…

…a timetable of sorts with lexisnexis. AFP and Reuters had been reporting since July about the increasing piss-up between the Ossetians and the Georgians. But of course this had been building for months. AFP had a report on a car bombing in May in Tskhinvali.

Coming to August, all the wire services reported tit-for-tat responses on all sides–and western diplomats were aware of it. (That’s what Saakashvili admitted to a few days ago; he says he contacted Sarkozy, Bush and Merkel, all of whom tried to reassure him whilst telling him not to get embroiled in anything.)

If you want a better timeline, then this is straight from the wire…AFP’s timeline of the GENERALISED conflict, i.e. when forces were being mobilised on both sides of the border. You must remember, however, that both sides have scaled up the violence for months:

– July 4: South Ossetia orders a “general mobilisation” of its forces and threatens to use heavy weapons against Georgia after two people are killed in intense shelling. Russia accuses Georgia of an “act of aggression”.

– July 9-10: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits Georgia and calls for an end to violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia admits its planes have flown over South Ossetia to avoid “bloodshed.”

– August 1: Six people are killed in South Ossetia by fire from Georgian positions, according to the government of the rebel region. Tbilisi says that the Ossetians were the first to fire.

– August 3: Russia warns South Ossetia is close to a “large-scale” military conflict, and that Georgian manoeuvres are undermining hopes of peace.

– August 4: South Ossetia evacuates hundreds of children to Russia following clashes. Georgia accuses the rebels of creating “an illusion of war.”

– August 5: A top Russian diplomat says that Moscow will not just stand by and will defend Russian citizens in South Ossetia in the event of a conflict.

– August 6: Georgia and South Ossetia accuse each other of having opened fire on villages in the region.

– August 7: Georgia says Georgian and South Ossetian officials agree to hold direct talks for the first time in a decade after clashes leave around 10 dead.

– August 8: Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says that most of South Ossetia had been “liberated” in an overnight offensive. Russia sends reinforcements to its troop contingent in South Ossetia.

***

I’d hasten to add that the United States had an opportunity to end the violence had it been so keen. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported on 8 July (article: ‘Russia seeks UN intervention to ease tension in Georgia’) that the Russians submitted a resolution in the Security Council demanding that both sides come to the negotiating table, and RENOUNCE a military response. That resolution was rejected by the US.

During that same month numerous wires were released, warning that conflict was imminent–Deutsche Press-Agentur, AP, Reuters and ITAR-TASS.

When the generalised conflict began, the Russians again submitted a draft resolution on 7 August. At 7:52 AM GMT on 8 August, the AP reported that the UN had failed to agree to a Russian resolution. The wire read: ‘The council concluded it was at a stalemate after the U.S., Britain and some other members backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides “to renounce the use of force,” council diplomats said.’

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Hektor Bim 08.25.08 at 1:50 pm

Hidari,

You’re still drawing false equivalencies. The Georgian army is independent of the American one, and makes its own decisions on who to invade and not invade. That is not true of the South Ossetian “army” which is largely composed of Russians and led by Russians, not South Ossetians. It is true that South Ossetia would like more freedom of maneuver from Russia, but they haven’t had it in the past, and won’t have it in the future now that a Russian army is sitting there. You haven’t produced any real evidence that the Americans actually wanted Saakashvili to invade, and I don’t think you have it.

RCMoya612,

Everyone is always saying that the British establishment wanted to dump the whole of Ireland, but that hasn’t been the position of the British parties or the British public. And the British establishment took extreme efforts to hold on to as much of Ireland as they could, including such areas as South Down and Stroke City, which were and remain overwhelmingly nationalist. If they were just worried about Protestant rebellion, they would have let those areas go as well.

I still don’t see how you can view the nations as legally the same. Different laws apply to different regions, and before devolution, there were things like the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office and the Welsh Office, but no English Office.

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Hektor Bim 08.25.08 at 1:54 pm

RCMoya612,

As far as I can tell, both of those resolutions required that South Ossetia and Georgia renounce the use of force, but not Russia. That’s rather a glaring loophole.

Also, renouncing the use of force on your own territory is essentially agreeing that you don’t control it. If Georgian police travelled to a Georgian-controlled village in South Ossetia, the Russians could claim that the Georgians were using force and claim a violation.

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J Thomas 08.25.08 at 2:09 pm

Mossy, you are asserting that the russian government is bad. OK, unless somebody speaks up and says otherwise I will claim we all agree that the russian government is bad.

From there I have four questions.

1. What should the US government do about it?
2. What should the US public do about it?
3. What should other governments do about it?
4. What should the world population do about it?

Here’s my answer to the first question:

The problem with deciding what the US government should do is first that the US government tends not to do what I want, and second that the US government is also bad. The US government isn’t bad in exactly the same way as the russian government, and if we wanted to we could argue about whether it’s better or worse on some one-dimensional scale, but that is an absurd side issue. If I think up something good the US government could do, but the US government is not good and will not follow my advice, what good have I done?

Regardless, I will do so. The US government has several obvious options.

A. It can threaten russia with nuclear destruction unless russia fully respects georgian sovereignty and stays out of georgian internal affairs like south ossetia. I say this is a stupid idea. Every time we threaten to nuke anybody we weaken MAD, we weaken nonproliferation, and we risk nuclear war. We should do that only when we’ll mostly all get immediately killed otherwise. We should (but won’t) make a constitutional amendment that it is a capital offense for the US president to make a nuclear first strike or threaten a nuclear first strike. It’s something that a US president should do only when he’s ready to sacrifice his life for the good of the nation.

B. It can put US troops into georgia, and into south ossetia to keep the russians out. This is also stupid.

C. It can give military aid to georgia to make later russian invasions more costly. This is probably useless but there might be some reason to do it, particularly if it’s covert and the US public doesn’t find out. It would annoy the russian government, and we are probably better off when the russian government and the US government are too annoyed at each other to cooperate in ways that hurt the US public and the rest of the world. Provided they don’t get so annoyed they hurt the US public and the rest of the world to annoy each other further.

Joke: How do we know that the CIA wasn’t behind the Chernobyl disaster?

It blew up, didn’t it?

D. The US government can spread propaganda that makes russia look bad to the world community. Under the circumstances this is so easy we hardly need to bother, but we can do it. How will that improve things? Well, every time the russians look bad it strengthens the US empire, and vice versa. We still look awful about iraq and our threats against iran etc, we might as well benefit when the russians look bad too. But in terms of humanitarian results it doesn’t help much at all.

E. The US government can spread propaganda among our own citizens to help increase military spending. This looks like a bad thing to me.

Here’s something that isn’t obvious: The US government could look for ways to encourage squabbling ethnic groups to get along. Arguing about who started each particular ethnic crisis is like arguing about what started the Chicago fire. Who really cares whether it was Mrs. O’Leary’s cow? The only purpose to that is to decide who’s the bad guy. But there are plenty of bad guys, like the racist south ossetians, and the georgian government, and the russian government, and the US government. Wherever there are ethnic issues, the US government can covertly do things to stoke them and cause problems for whichever governments occupy that area. But so can other governments. If we had methods to soothe those issues we would be better off.

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J Thomas 08.25.08 at 2:24 pm

The Georgian army is independent of the American one, and makes its own decisions on who to invade and not invade.

It might be true that the georgian army decides who to invade completely independent of what the US government wants, but how could we tell?

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Hektor Bim 08.25.08 at 2:39 pm

We can certainly tell relative to the South Ossetian forces, who are led by Russians and often made up of Russians. There is no equivalency there.

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Hidari 08.25.08 at 2:41 pm

Mossy:

‘Look up who the South Ossetian leadership is. Look up how much money they have been getting from Russia over the years’.

Er, no, you look up the bit I posted where I denied that South Osseta got money (or military aid) from Russia.

‘your line that (Georgia) is a corrupt tin-pot dictatorship run by the Americans – which is, BTW, the Russian narrative.’

Again, quote back to me the post where I stated that I thought Georgia was a dictatorship.

Hektor Bim

‘The Georgian army is independent of the American one, and makes its own decisions on who to invade and not invade. ‘

True…to a certain extent. It is certainly not true that the United States directly runs the Georgian army. However, your (much stronger) point that Georgia is completely independent of the United States is simply false. It’s difficult to know at this early stage but it does seem to the case that ‘despite State Department efforts to restrain the Georgian president, “Saakashvili’s buddies in the White House and the Office of the Vice President kept egging him on.” ‘ (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH26Ag02.html)

‘You haven’t produced any real evidence that the Americans actually wanted Saakashvili to invade, and I don’t think you have it.’

That may or may not be the case, but is irrelevant, because that’s not what I claimed. What seems to be the case (no one really knows) is that Saakashvili believed that the Americans wanted him to invade (or at least that they would support him if he did): this may very well have been a large error on his part, but indicates, at least, that your position that Georgian foreign policy is completely independent of that of the United States is false. I mean Jesus, even the corporate press makes it obvious. Google ‘Georgia’ and ‘US (or ‘Western’) backed’ or ‘pro-Western.’ You do know what these phrases are code for don’t you?

I’m sorry but this is all ‘whataboutery’ with a vengeance. You both continue to put words in my mouth, hinting (or more than hinting) that I am secretly a xenophobic Putinesque nationalist. Again, Georgian nationalism is, apparently, perfectly alright, but South Ossetian nationalism isn’t (for example, Georgia has an army while South Osseta has an ‘army’: South Osseta is ‘obviously’ a puppet of Russia, whereas Georgia is completely and totally independent of the United States, goodness me yes, and so on).

However I’m glad to see Hektor has admitted that Georgia invaded South Osseta.

(Incidentally, do any of our pro-Western friends want to comment on this?
‘The United States and Europe fear the Russian presence will cement Georgia’s ethnic partition, undermine the pro-Western government of President Mikheil Saakashvili and threaten vital energy pipelines criss-crossing the country’s territory.’ (emphasis added). )

Anyone?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080823/ts_nm/georgia_ossetia_dc

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Hidari 08.25.08 at 2:47 pm

I meant to italicise ‘and threaten vital energy pipelines criss-crossing the country’s territory’ in that last post, incidentally.

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J Thomas 08.25.08 at 2:58 pm

We can certainly tell relative to the South Ossetian forces, who are led by Russians and often made up of Russians. There is no equivalency there.

For gods sake, stop with the equivalency.

The question isn’t whether the scales are exactly balanced, so that there’s nothing to say which is better.

The question is whether either side is good enough to spend our money and lives on.

Would we spend american lives on this? Well, it depends on what we’re thinking about doing, doesn’t it? And I haven’t seen much discussion yet about what the US government should do, beyond continue its missile bases in poland and talk. If we do anything more than talk it might easily escalate to the point that we’re losing people, say to terrorists in georgia or ossetia.

What do you think the nonequivalent US government should do about russia and the georgians who are not equivalent to the ossetians? At some point should we do airstrikes on the ossetian army which you say is really the russian army?

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RCMoya612 08.25.08 at 3:18 pm

Hektor, you really do revel in nitpicking, eh?

‘I still don’t see how you can view the nations as legally the same. Different laws apply to different regions, and before devolution, there were things like the Scotland Office and the Northern Ireland Office and the Welsh Office, but no English Office.’

> You do it in precisely the same way you do it in the United States–different regions constitute different legal jurisdictions. Is that really that hard to understand?

As for the resolutions–the first one was proposed a full month before Russian forces were engaged in Georgia. The same goes for the one the day before Russians got involved. The Russians weren’t yet a belligerent party. This actually fits in quite nicely with what I’ve argued before: the Russians wanted this, and the Georgians were stupid enough to give it to them. You can’t blame the Russians for the stupidity of the Georgian leadership here.

And I hate to break it to you, but Georgia renouncing the use of force and effectively conceding they didn’t control would have been simply to reinforce the status quo. Therein lies the crux of the problem: the Georgians tried to resolve the 16-year old situation, and damn the consequences—consequences the Russians made perfectly clear they’d inflict 3 days prior to their invasion.

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notsneaky 08.25.08 at 4:08 pm

“Yes because I distinctly remember when my street was being named that we all got together and had a democratic vote on whether or not it would be acceptable. Obviously we all have another vote as to whether we keep that name when a new person moves in.

I’m sure if you had spoken to ordinary Yugoslavians in the 1980s they would also have patiently explained to you that America was far away and would never invade them.”

Ok, now you’re just being crazy. Of course street names are not decided by referendum, but they are decided upon by publicly elected officials. And believe me, when people don’t like them, they clamor for them to be changed.
Or if that leaves you unconvinced then consider all the polls which ask stuff like “what’s your favorite foreign country”, “which foreign country is our best ally”, etc. In all of these US ranks way way above the rest. Sorry, but in Poland, the US is plenty popular.

And as far as the second part – there’s so many differences there that that particular red herring is not even worth considering. It should be obvious.

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Hidari 08.25.08 at 4:32 pm

‘Sorry, but in Poland the US is plenty popular.’

Eh??? And..er…when did the discussion turn to Poland? I didn’t even mention Poland! I was talking about (as you well know) the WHOLE of Eastern Europe. You want to restrict the discussion only to Poland (which, to repeat, was NOT what this thread was about) because, to quote a pollster: ‘Poles are exceptionally positive about the United States.’ (‘unusually’ would be a better way of putting it).

Even then they’re not that positive. ‘More than three-quarters (76%) of Poles feel the United States does not consider Poland’s interests in its foreign policy decisions (57% not very much, 19% not at all), and just 11 percent feel that it does….A slight majority (51%) of Poles say they trust the United States to act responsibly in the world (44% somewhat, 7% a great deal), while 32 percent say they either do not trust the United States very much (22%) or at all (10%)….’

http://usforeignpolicy.about.com/od/backgroundhistory/a/worldop2007.htm

Those other questions are loaded. My favourite country is Germany: doesn’t mean I want the Germans to run MY country.

Just to be clear. I love America. I love Americans. I just want the American armed forces to stay in America and stop fucking about the rest of the planet.

This is not a difficult point to grasp.

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Hektor Bim 08.25.08 at 4:48 pm

J Thomas,

What precisely is the problem with the US government response so far? The US hasn’t introduced combat troops into Georgia, hasn’t threatened Russia with armed force, and hasn’t presented a substantially different approach to Russia than the rest of NATO or the EU countries. Now, there are crazy people in the US government and media, but they aren’t calling the shots so far.

By the way, where do you get this call for airstrikes on Russia from? Certainly not from me.

Hidari,

Where do you get my statement that the Georgian army is completely independent of the US? I said that it is independent and it is. Americans don’t run the Georgian army and don’t tell it what to do, and we still don’t know what Saakashvili was thinking and exactly what game he was playing with the attack on Tskhinvali. No country is “completely independent” of another country and I never used the word “completely”. You’re attacking a strawman here, precisely what you accuse others of doing to you. You’re also continuing to draw a complete equivalency between the relationship between Georgia and the US and South Ossetia and Russia, and that’s ridiculous.

RCMoya612,

Russia most assuredly is a party to the conflict in South Ossetia, and the fact that Georgia and South Ossetia could renounce force but Russia didn’t have to is a very significant point. It’s not the status quo – Georgia did have control over parts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It most assuredly had both de facto and de jure control over those areas and didn’t want to give that up.

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mossy 08.25.08 at 4:51 pm

Well, I’m truly astounded, but maybe I didn’t read this right. Hidari, are you really asserting that South Ossetia didn’t get money or arms from Russia? If you are, it really is pointless to even try to discuss it with you because you really don’t know a thing about what’s been going on there.

The reason I am so annoying insistent on breaking down the narratives is that I think we need a true sense of what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. I really don’t know why the Russians did what they did. Now that some time has gone by and more information has come out, every Russian commentator has his or her version. My guess is that it is a combination of several of the versions. In addition to everything else, the Russian leadership is, to say the least, not a monolith, and there is constant fighting among the various interest groups. So that may also be playing a role, and perhaps the greatest role.

If you don’t have a good analysis of that, how can you decide what to do?

The only thing I can say is that in general Russia is acting like a hormone-hopped up teenager picking for a fight, and there are three things you don’t do with a kid like that:
1. Call his bluff.
2. Dress him down publicly.
3. Back down publicly.

If you want to foment change from within, it’s through the chinovniki/biznesmeny who are “running” the place. They want to make/steal their money here, invest/park it in the west, buy real estate in Miami, Greenwich and London, have their wives and kids live and study there, have positions on the Boards of Directors of what they think of as “prestigeous” western charities, travel all over the world, dine in the most exclusive restaurants and stay at the most expensive hotels, and have their wealth and companies protected by the laws in the west. If that is threatened, they will force change at home.

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mossy 08.25.08 at 4:51 pm

Well, I’m truly astounded, but maybe I didn’t read this right. Hidari, are you really asserting that South Ossetia didn’t get money or arms from Russia? If you are, it really is pointless to even try to discuss it with you because you really don’t know a thing about what’s been going on there.

The reason I am so annoying insistent on breaking down the narratives is that I think we need a true sense of what happened, when it happened, and why it happened. I really don’t know why the Russians did what they did. Now that some time has gone by and more information has come out, every Russian commentator has his or her version. My guess is that it is a combination of several of the versions. In addition to everything else, the Russian leadership is, to say the least, not a monolith, and there is constant fighting among the various interest groups. So that may also be playing a role, and perhaps the greatest role.

If you don’t have a good analysis of that, how can you decide what to do?

The only thing I can say is that in general Russia is acting like a hormone-hopped up teenager picking for a fight, and there are three things you don’t do with a kid like that:
1. Call his bluff.
2. Dress him down publicly.
3. Back down publicly.

If you want to foment change from within, it’s through the chinovniki/biznesmeny who are “running” the place. They want to make/steal their money here, invest/park it in the west, buy real estate in Miami, Greenwich and London, have their wives and kids live and study there, have positions on the Boards of Directors of what they think of as “prestigeous” western charities, travel all over the world, dine in the most exclusive restaurants and stay at the most expensive hotels, and have their wealth and companies protected by the laws in the west. If that is threatened, they will force change at home.

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mossy 08.25.08 at 4:53 pm

oh, sorry for the double posting. my modem can’t handle these lengthy threads.

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RCMoya612 08.25.08 at 5:09 pm

Russia most assuredly is a party to the conflict in South Ossetia, and the fact that Georgia and South Ossetia could renounce force but Russia didn’t have to is a very significant point. It’s not the status quo – Georgia did have control over parts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It most assuredly had both de facto and de jure control over those areas and didn’t want to give that up.

* Russia is definitely a part of the conflict now…and it just happened to take an all-out invasion of South Ossetia to give the Russians the pretext they needed. That Russia wasn’t asked to renounce force in South Ossetia is neither here nor there–the primary belligerents were the Ossetians the Georgians. FOr that matter, do you think the resolution should have called on the US (as the great power-backer of Georgia, as Russia was/is of South Ossetia) to stop selling the Georgians weapons?

* Mate, you’re so laughably wrong on the ‘de facto’ control Georgia had in South Ossetia, and even more so in Abkhazia. Georgia’s presence in the latter province was reduced to a foothold in the Kodori Valley, whilst in the former it had outposts. In both instances its presence was matched by the presence of Russian forces, and that of Ossetian and Abkhazian forces respectively. Both provinces have been de facto independent of Georgia for almost 2 decades now. You’re smoking some very good stuff if you think otherwise.

* As to their legal status, much can change if both provinces are recognised by other states. (They’re not as of yet.) Coincidentally, it’s not too hard imagining Russian recognition very soon. Legally, this would be just as legally unsound as Kosovo’s situation is in international law, as all three provinces have had their status codified in security council resolutions. Legal quid pro quo, if you ask me.

* Mossy, those three red lines lines you’ve outlines are undoubtedly sound…thought you could have told Saakashvili that, as he’s done all three to varying degrees in the last 2 months. Again, very stupid move if you ask me.

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bored observer 08.25.08 at 5:33 pm

just for fun

U.S. general warns against Russian bombers in Cuba
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. Air Force officer warned on Tuesday that Russia would be crossing “a red line” if it were to use Cuba as a refueling base for nuclear-capable bombers.
Gen. Norton Schwartz, whose nomination to become the Air Force’s top military officer is being considered by the Senate, was asked at his confirmation hearing how he would advise U.S. policymakers if Russia were to proceed with such a plan.
Russia’s Izvestia newspaper this week quoted a “highly placed source” as saying Russia could land Tu-160 supersonic bombers nicknamed “White Swans” in Cuba as a response to a planned U.S. missile defense shield in Europe, which Moscow opposes.
“I certainly would offer best military advice that we should engage the Russians not to pursue that approach,” Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“And if they did, I think we should stand strong and indicate that that is something that crosses a threshold, crosses a red line for the United States of America.”

Let’s imagine even any democratically elected and POPULAR government in South America opting for partnership with any [honestly] democratically elected Russian government. Under these hypothetical best circumstances how would the US react?
It’s not about what the Poles or Ukrainians want any more than it’s about what the Brazilians or the Venezuelans or the Guatemalan want.
The lies here are really getting annoying.

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notsneaky 08.25.08 at 5:34 pm

“I was talking about (as you well know) the WHOLE of Eastern Europe.”

“The Rhino in the room of course is the missile ‘defence’ (i.e. attack) ‘shield’ that the Americans have forced the Eastern Europeans governments to accept against the wishes of their own people.”

So far, the only place where “Americans have forced the EE governments to accept” the missile defense “against the wishes of their own people” is Poland.

“the WHOLE of Eastern Europe.”

The Poles may be the most obvious example but they’re by no means the only one. Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Romanians and Balts are also fairly well disposed to Americans (though the Czechs may be sick of all them damn hippies that’ve invaded their beautiful city in the past 15 years). Don’t know about Bulgarians.

“‘More than three-quarters (76%) of Poles feel the United States does not consider Poland’s interests in its foreign policy decisions”

Well, duh. Pretty obviously the United States considers the United States’ interests in its foreign policy decisions as it mostly should. It just happens that Polish interests are pretty closely aligned.

“Those other questions are loaded. My favourite country is Germany: doesn’t mean I want the Germans to run MY country.”

Yes, but Americans DON’T run Poland, Czech R, Slovakia, or any other country in Eastern Europe. Hell, they don’t run Georgia either.

“I just want the American armed forces to stay in America and stop fucking about the rest of the planet. This is not a difficult point to grasp.”

Yes, but this wasn’t your point. To reiterate (I’m to lazy to find the other places where you say about the same thing):

“…Americans have forced the Eastern European…”

Now, you may think that this America love fest that goes on in EE is stupid, that doing what Americans like is bad policy from EE countries’ point of view, etc. etc., but that doesn’t change the fact that there is no ‘forcing’ going on here.

127

bored observer 08.25.08 at 5:35 pm

128

Hidari 08.25.08 at 5:49 pm

More whataboutery. I was talking about the missile ‘defence’ shield, which again, as you well know, was opposed by large majorities in Eastern Europe (including Poland) until the Georgians invaded South Osseta. I wasn’t aware of the very latest opinion polls, but one wonders how long the Poles et al will stay well disposed to foreign troops on their soil, especially as the ‘threat’ of Russian imperialism (i.e. to Poland etc.) recedes.

‘Well, I’m truly astounded, but maybe I didn’t read this right. Hidari, are you really asserting that South Ossetia didn’t get money or arms from Russia?’

You didn’t read it right.

This conversation is getting tiresome. The simple fact is that, generally speaking, people don’t like foreign troops on their soil, be they Russian, Chinese or American. It really is as simple as that, and the fact that American nationalists find this a hard point to grasp says more about the power of ideology than anything else.

129

notsneaky 08.25.08 at 6:23 pm

Welp, I’m not an American nationalist, neither did I use the phrase “what about” anywhere, and the fact that Poles USED to oppose the shield is irrelevant since when they USED to oppose it, the shield WASN’T agreed upon … so wait, it’s actually totally relevant since it shows that there’s been no ‘forcing’ going here. When they didn’t want the shield, they simply didn’t agree to it, when they wanted it, they agreed to it.

But one thing you’re right about. This is tiresome.

130

Hektor Bim 08.25.08 at 8:12 pm

RCMoya612,

Mate, considering Georgia did have both de facto and de jure control of portions of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia until this month, I don’t know what you are talking about. Portions of both provinces have been independent of Georgian control for about a decade, and other portions haven’t. That’s the whole point. Neither Georgia nor the secessionist governments controlled the entire disputed territory until after the Russian intervention.

Russia has been part of the conflict since the beginning and has had military forces there since the beginning. Leaving it out of any agreement is ludicrous, precisely because it is and has been a participant in fighting, either directly or through units raised from the Russian side of the Caucausus.

The US has never had troops in South Ossetia or Abkhazia and doesn’t have more than a token force of military trainers in Georgia proper. It is not a direct participant in the fighting. Once again, comparing the South Ossetia-Russia ties to the Georgia-US ties is ludicrous. I’m starting to think you don’t actually know much of the history.

131

J Thomas 08.25.08 at 8:52 pm

What precisely is the problem with the US government response so far?

The public US response so far has been only talk, right? That doesn’t even include any threats? I have no problem with that.

So, is that what you say the US government ought to do? Fine with me. The area is well within the soviet sphere of influence, like it or not, and we can’t spare the force to give them a solid challenge about that just now.

So, suppose that parts of the US government tricked the georgians into it with promises of support that they will not or cannot actually provide. That’s sad, it will make it harder for us to influence those georgian politicians or the colleagues in georgia or other countries that they privately tell about what happened. Fool me once…. Even after the current fools are out of office in the USA it will be harder for their successors. OK, we just have to live with that.

So, do you think anything should happen that’s not already happening? Is all right with the world, apart from the bad choices made by ossetians and georgians and russians that we shouldn’t influence more than we are already doing?

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J Thomas 08.25.08 at 8:56 pm

… the fact that Poles USED to oppose the shield is irrelevant since when they USED to oppose it, the shield WASN’T agreed upon…

Notsneaky, I don’t like the way you’re using the language.

What we’re installing in poland is not a shield. Everywhere you use “the shield” please substitute “american missile bases”.

Thank you.

133

notsneaky 08.25.08 at 9:44 pm

How about ‘missile shield gizmo’?

134

bored observer 08.25.08 at 10:19 pm

How about just “missiles.”
Description without hyperbole (or bullshit.)

135

Hidari 08.26.08 at 8:57 am

Incidentally, to change the subject slightly you’ll all be pleased to hear that ‘humanitarian aid’ has been delivered to Georgia by guided-missile armed destroyers. It’s really good that the aid (which included bottled water and baby food) was delivered by five state of the art American destroyers, as the much feared Al-Qaeda baby food squad might otherwise have staged one of their terrifying pureed carrot raids. And don’t get me started about the massed hordes of San Francisco lifestyle coaches who descend on horseback (on the sea) like the Khanate of the Golden Horde whenever they find out about large shipments of bottled water.

So I think it’s entirely reasonable that the Americans thought, hey, better safe than sorry.

But the Georgians certainly know how to stage a welcome. As you will all know when the Americans invaded Iraq the grateful natives presented the troops with sweets and flowers, just as predicted by Kanan Makiya. But in Georgia the grateful natives present the conquering White Man with wine and flowers according to the white, male, English speaking Western journalists at Reuters. .

This is definitely a better class of welcome, and I think that the Americans should all pack up and leave Iraq and go to Georgia. I’m sure they could exchange red caps and glass beads and so forth for all the booze.

(Unintentional humour award of the week goes to Navy Captain John Moore, who ‘downplayed the significance of a destroyer bringing aid. “We really are here on a humanitarian mission,” he said.’….

His ship, the McFaul, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, is outfitted with an array of weaponry, including Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, and a sophisticated radar system.’

The radar system is used to locate wine and flower stores kept by the grateful natives, and the cruise missiles are used to more accurately deliver baby food and bottled water).

136

Mikhail 08.26.08 at 9:51 am

I love it when people here start claiming to be better informed than others based, from what I see, almost purely on Western media reports… :) This is really something. Let’s face it – unless you can read both Russian and Georgian news + accounts of people on the ground, you really have very little clue. And this definitely does not give you right to make any definitive conclusions. At best you can say “in my opinion”…

As for the specifics:
– South Ossetia & Abkhazia have been de facto independent from Georgia since the bloody civil war in 1991-1992 in which both sides commited acts that can be called ethnic cleansing as is the norm in the Caucasus due to vendetta being a part of culture. Georgia did not have any say in the life of these breakaway republics for the last 15-16 years.
– Georgia DID start it. I can hardly imagine a reason that would prompt artillery shelling of an entire large city of civilians (and peace keepers!) … And OF COURSE Russia had to respond because 80-90% of Ossetians are Russian citizens (quite legally, btw!). The US have started wars over much less worrying premises… :) Not to mention the Israeli response to the capture of just a few soldiers.
– I also like it that no one even mentiones the fact that in addition to SOUTH Ossetia, there is a NORTH one which is a part of Russia, so tell me which country has more links and closer ties to the South Ossetia?
– Any military support that Russia has provided to the breakaway republics is negligible (until the intervention) because the Ossetians didn’t really have anything to oppose the Georgians apart from small arms – no tanks, no serious artillery, etc. Georgia, on the other hand, was seriously supplied by the US. Why the US? Because most of Georgia’s military budget is formed by US loans. True, that the actual armaments came from somewhere else, but we know where the money came from – nobody is making any secrets out of it. Plus, of course, the couple of hundred of “instructors”. Who, btw, did their job quite well – the initial assault was very well executed.
– Russia had an extremely limited presence in South Ossetia – around 500 peace keeper troops. That IT! Both the Ossetians and the Georgians had the same numbers as well. That was the agreement! Mind you that when things started up on Aug 8th, Georgian peace keepers turned their weapons on their other colleagues. Some effective peacekeeping that is. :(
– finally about NATO. We can only speculate whether this would have happened if Georgia was given the membership action plan. But now, with almost all military infrastructure demolished, almost no army left, I wonder how much sense would there be in still doing that from NATO’s point of view? It’s not a charity – the other members should be getting something back in return. The question is what can Georgia offer now apart from its territory? And if that’s the case, what might this be used for…?

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Mikhail 08.26.08 at 9:54 am

reposting with proper breaks. sorry.
(where is the preview option?)
————————————-

I love it when people here start claiming to be better informed than others based, from what I see, almost purely on Western media reports… :) This is really something. Let’s face it – unless you can read both Russian and Georgian news + accounts of people on the ground, you really have very little clue. And this definitely does not give you right to make any definitive conclusions. At best you can say “in my opinion”…

As for the specifics:

– South Ossetia & Abkhazia have been de facto independent from Georgia since the bloody civil war in 1991-1992 in which both sides commited acts that can be called ethnic cleansing as is the norm in the Caucasus due to vendetta being a part of culture. Georgia did not have any say in the life of these breakaway republics for the last 15-16 years.

– Georgia DID start it. I can hardly imagine a reason that would prompt artillery shelling of an entire large city of civilians (and peace keepers!) … And OF COURSE Russia had to respond because 80-90% of Ossetians are Russian citizens (quite legally, btw!). The US have started wars over much less worrying premises… :) Not to mention the Israeli response to the capture of just a few soldiers.

– I also like it that no one even mentiones the fact that in addition to SOUTH Ossetia, there is a NORTH one which is a part of Russia, so tell me which country has more links and closer ties to the South Ossetia?

– Any military support that Russia has provided to the breakaway republics is negligible (until the intervention) because the Ossetians didn’t really have anything to oppose the Georgians apart from small arms – no tanks, no serious artillery, etc. Georgia, on the other hand, was seriously supplied by the US. Why the US? Because most of Georgia’s military budget is formed by US loans. True, that the actual armaments came from somewhere else, but we know where the money came from – nobody is making any secrets out of it. Plus, of course, the couple of hundred of “instructors”. Who, btw, did their job quite well – the initial assault was very well executed.

– Russia had an extremely limited presence in South Ossetia – around 500 peace keeper troops. That IT! Both the Ossetians and the Georgians had the same numbers as well. That was the agreement! Mind you that when things started up on Aug 8th, Georgian peace keepers turned their weapons on their other colleagues. Some effective peacekeeping that is. :(

– finally about NATO. We can only speculate whether this would have happened if Georgia was given the membership action plan. But now, with almost all military infrastructure demolished, almost no army left, I wonder how much sense would there be in still doing that from NATO’s point of view? It’s not a charity – the other members should be getting something back in return. The question is what can Georgia offer now apart from its territory? And if that’s the case, what might this be used for…?

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RCMoya612 08.26.08 at 11:59 am

Mikhail, spot on! Thanks for bringing that information to bear, all of which has been brought up here in one form or another above.

Still won’t stop some from contesting the validity of the claims, because you know you’re just completely brainwashed by the media while they are not…

It’s as the Czech novelist Zdener Urbanek put it during the Cold War:

“In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West. We’ve learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive.”

139

mossy 08.26.08 at 1:32 pm

Well, Mikhail, if you read Russian, why don’t you get on Ekho Moskvy and read what Latynina says. You might also check out Novaya gazeta. You might also check out the UN site and read up on the rules and regulations on peacekeepers and peacekeeping missions. I think they are in Russian, too.

140

bored observer 08.26.08 at 1:37 pm

“I love it when people here start claiming to be better informed than others based, from what I see, almost purely on Western media reports…”
It’s the same with Israel and Iraq. No Arabic speakers/readers nor the interest in finding them.,

“…because 80-90% of Ossetians are Russian citizens (quite legally, btw!).”
Because Russia has been handing out passports.

But that’s still beside the point.
Arguments concerning blame are not arguments concerning methodology.
The methodology of politics and justice should be the only issue here. Who’s actually responsible “right and wrong” is secondary.
The cold war was not Lord of the Rings.

141

David 08.26.08 at 1:45 pm

Surely there is a difference between choosing your dominator and him choosing you—both situations with which the Georgians are familiar. For many of the countries in Russia’s “near abroad”, the American option appears as the friendlier, somewhat freer and potentially more prosperous of the imperialisms on offer. That is, don’t countries have the right to choose which sphere they prefer to be influenced by? Or should they simply throw themselves under the wheels of the mainstream knee-jerk “anti-imperialist” narrative (many of whose exponents are also elite white males) such as Hidari reproduces above?

142

J Thomas 08.26.08 at 1:49 pm

Still won’t stop some from contesting the validity of the claims, because you know you’re just completely brainwashed by the media while they are not…

Why should either believe their media? We all swim in a sea of disinformation.

But I think the general patterns are clear. When there’s ethnic strife, foreign powers can exploit that strife for their own ends, which tend to be bad for the local people involved in the ethnic strife.

So it follows that in each local area we do better to do what we can to reduce ethnic problems, before somebody else exploits us.

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mossy 08.26.08 at 2:05 pm

Oh, just for the heck of it, to keep you all interested… here’s an answer to Mikhail’s question about what could have caused Saakashvili to attack. It is a translation of a transcript of a radio show by Yulia Latynina, who spent last week in Georgia and is a specialist on the Caucasus:

One of the main conflicts – one of the main motivating factors that caused Saakashvili to decide to attack first was the fate of Georgians living in an enclave between Java and Tskhinvali, that is, cut off from Georgia proper. Saakashvili attacked after — for the first time in the history of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict — this enclave was fired on by heavy artillery from both Tskhinvali and Java, that is, it was being wiped off the face of the earth. This is absolutely true. I didn’t hear it from military people, I heard it from people who fled Tamarasheni, Kurta and Kekhva – from those villages that were being destroyed before — I emphasize — Saakashvili attacked Tskhinvali. I couldn’t understand how they could have escaped. I asked them and others and got an amazing answer. There was a Chechen peacekeeping post there called Yamadaev, and beginning on the 9th the Transkam road was cleared by both Russian and Chechen units who were breaking through to Tskhinvali. And the Chechens arranged one of the main escape routes for those villagers. They really helped them. Of course they took away their weapons and sometimes their cars, but that’s the Chechen way. They said: You saved us by giving us haven in Georgia during the Chechen war, and Chechens will never forget that. And it would seem that if the Chechens hadn’t done that, Russia would have had to answer for extremely serious ethnic cleansing, because it’s clear what would have happened to the residents of that enclave once the looters came. … [Saakashvili learns about the attacks on the enclave and then gets a phone call “that a column of Russian tanks – 150 units – are approaching the Roki Tunnel [between Russia and South Ossetia]… this is the most important part of the entire story… because if the column was moving when Yakobashvili said it was, then it would seem that the Georgian president really didn’t have any choice except to start the war – the war had actually begun, and the Georgian president only had the tactical decision of where to start the first battle, in Tskhinvali or outside Gori.

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Mikhail 08.26.08 at 2:16 pm

>why don’t you get on Ekho Moskvy and read what Latynina says.

that’s exactly like saying “why don’t you go listen to Fox News…” ;-)))

>Because Russia has been handing out passports

I did say it was quite legal, right? Sigh.
One cannot just “give out” passports. There are laws for this sort of thing. The reason Ossetians are mostly Russian citizens is that after the break up of the Soviet Union there was a general agreement between the republics that the population could pick and choose the citizenship they wanted since the Soviet one wasn’t valid any more. In Russia there is a law, as the successor of the USSR, that anyone with a Soviet passport and who has not taken on another citizenship can obtain a Russian passport. Which is what Ossetians have done – given that Georgian citizenship wasn’t exactly an option many of them would have preferred.

So, please, stop with the “handing out passports” nonsense.

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Hidari 08.26.08 at 2:24 pm

‘Or should they simply throw themselves under the wheels of the mainstream knee-jerk “anti-imperialist” narrative (many of whose exponents are also elite white males) such as Hidari reproduces above?’

Yes that’s it. The anti-imperialist line is the ‘mainstream’. So in many ways it’s the people who parrot the Bush/Brown line who are the real rebels aren’t they?

Incidentally I know I’m not part of any elite every time I get my paycheck.

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bored observer 08.26.08 at 2:45 pm

The first response to anything I’ve said and it’s to a secondary point. but thanks for the correction.

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Mikhail 08.26.08 at 2:59 pm

bored observer, well, I agree with the main point. :)
Both sides are largely at fault, but it would be ridiculous to point a finger at Russia and say it’s all their fault. It’d be like pointing it at the US and saying Kosovo is all their fault… :) We wouldn’t want that, now, would we? :)

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David 08.26.08 at 3:15 pm

“The anti-imperialist line is the ‘mainstream’. So in many ways it’s the people who parrot the Bush/Brown line who are the real rebels aren’t they?”

Brendan, the implication that contemporary “anti-imperialism” is by now anything much more than an alternative kind of conventional wisdom among a certain section of the white male Western elite, and their subordinates, is a rare and in some ways enviable form of self-aggrandisement and deceit. The people who parrot the Bush/Brown line might well be considered the real rebels in any such milieu. But it’s not as if there are only two choices: there are more than enough facts and events to string together three narratives at least, or even four. Have you considered developing one, for instance that—while obviously shunning the propaganda of the hated Bush/Brown regimes—doesn’t mimic Russian propaganda demonising and belittling the Georgians?

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J Thomas 08.26.08 at 3:24 pm

Both sides are largely at fault, but it would be ridiculous to point a finger at Russia and say it’s all their fault. It’d be like pointing it at the US and saying Kosovo is all their fault… :)

But you are asserting the cases are equivalent, which is precisely what the argument is about.

Some of us want to say that claiming this one is russia’s fault has nothing to do with saying that Kosovo etc are the USA’s fault.

I believe the fundamental issue is that the USA is good while russia is evil, so it makes no sense to compare specific incidents.

If you disagree that the USA is good while russia is evil, I doubt it will help matters much to discuss the details.

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Hidari 08.26.08 at 3:26 pm

Ah, finally a representative of the Decents to illuminate truth, beauty and justice.

The people who parrot the Bush/Brown line might well be considered the real rebels in any such milieu’.

Rebel: definition. ‘To refuse allegiance to and oppose by force an established government or ruling authority.’

Reductio ad absurdum, definition. ‘Disproof of a proposition by showing that it leads to absurd…conclusions.’

But enough of this gay syllogistic banter! Let’s hear from the real voice of Decency.

‘Georgia

In the Forefront of the Fight Against Fascism

Jorr-Jah

Definition:

1. Defenceless democracy scurrilously invaded and occupied by the fascist Russians.

Laughably described by the Guardian conspiracy theorist Seumas Milne as being backed by America and Israel for their own benefit, to the general outrage and horror of Decents, who can recognise centuries-old anti-semitic tropes when they see them.

Source: That Milne Bloke Is Teh Fashizzle, Harry’s Place, 14th August

2. Defenceless democracy scurrilously invaded and occupied by the fascist Russians.

Perceptively described by diagram-doodling deep thinker Marko Attilla Hoare as being backed by America and Israel for their own benefit, to the general approval and agreement of Decents, who can recognise incisive and serious analyses when they see them.

Source: Those Russian Blokes Are Teh Fashizzle, Harry’s Place, 20th August

Any insinuations that Georgia is being backed by America and Israel for their own benefit is therefore borderline satire, exposing the ridiculous unseriousness of the Left, unless it isn’t, in which case it’s not. ‘

http://decentpedia.blogspot.com/2008/08/georgia.html

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Mikhail 08.26.08 at 3:39 pm

“If you disagree that the USA is good while russia is evil, I doubt it will help matters much to discuss the details.”

Of course. Do you always think in black & white?

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David 08.26.08 at 4:02 pm

Unfortunately, Brendan, I don’t fit into any of the categories of that legendary semi-comic masterwork (though now sadly decayed into squawking incoherence, if the above quote is anything to go by). Since I’m still a Marxist/ socialist/ communist (albeit a democratic one), I don’t believe I count as either a decent or indecent (although I haven’t consulted the rule book). But don’t let that deter you from your overdefensive reductions—nor from your sterling, semi-comic contribution to the defence of the Kremlin mountain men.

But why shouldn’t Georgia choose who it is to be backed by? Surely it knows its interests a little more concretely than any of us do?

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 4:11 pm

“I believe the fundamental issue is that the USA is good while Russia is evil, so it makes no sense to compare specific incidents.

If you disagree that the USA is good while Russia is evil, I doubt it will help matters much to discuss the details.”

It doesn’t help much coming to a discussion forum with such preconceptions either.

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Righteous Bubba 08.26.08 at 4:34 pm

I believe the fundamental issue is that the USA is good while russia is evil

I just assumed this was a joke. Russia’s so evil it doesn’t even deserve a capital letter.

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mossy 08.26.08 at 4:35 pm

How about this:
Look at the facts, all the facts. When you do, you will see equivalency in some places (vis-a-vis Russia and the US), and lack of equivalency in other places. You will eventually come up with a very big, complex picture of events and actions that involve competing and contradictory laws and norms. You will pass out blame to every side of the conflict, and you will regard with some understanding all sides of the conflict. You will also see that the narrative you are struggling (by saying “that’s not true” or “they must have [known, acted, expected, been aware of, counted on]”) to put into your little world view (good vs evil, Western imperialism vs Russian imperialism) doesn’t quite fit.

I have certainly been, uh, adament, in what I have written, because I’m frankly exasperated by the willingness of the American (or largely Western) left and liberals to cut Russia slack while castigating Western powers. That’s going to come back to bite you in the butt. But mostly I wish you’d stop all the dithering up there in the stratosphere and concentrate on the details. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that what Latynina reported was true. What should Saakashvili have done?

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 4:55 pm

“I’m frankly exasperated by the willingness of the American (or largely Western) left and liberals to cut Russia slack while castigating Western powers.”

You may think that we are “cutting them slack”, I’d disagree. I think we’re quite aware of the Russian jackboot, in the same way that we’re aware of the American jackboot. And what we address are the realities of the world (the concerns of nations) not how we would like the world to be. The only equivalence is that Russia and the US are both countries whose governments act in their perceived self-interest. A proper way to analyse the situation is to place yourself in the shoes of the different parties. Analogies (like the placing of missiles in Mexico) are a useful part of this process – but do not reflect equivalence, just a search for a a better analysis.

“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that what Latynina reported was true. What should Saakashvili have done?”

Well I don’t think that shelling the South Ossetians helped … I’ve no doubt that Saakashvili came to power on a (popular) promise of pro-US policy and Georgian nationalism. But then (fulfulling Godwin’s Law) Hitler came to power on a popular promise of righting historical wrongs, and that didn’t get the Germans very far in the long term.

The Caucasus, like the Balkans, is replete with historical grievances, and periodic violence. At the same time it’s full of peoples who live happily alongside each other. Periodically politicians (of all countries, including the US and Russia) come to power who seek to exploit such rivalries for their own ends, and cause mayhem. Such politicians may be popular. It doesn’t make them good.

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someone 08.26.08 at 4:59 pm

This Latynina woman sounds insane. Palestinization? What is she talking about, for godsake. She is a loon.

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J Thomas 08.26.08 at 5:01 pm

Sorry, I wasn’t speaking for myself and I didn’t make that clear enough.

But look back at the earlier discussion. First there’s the idea that russia is running an empire and the USA isn’t, with the various arguments that US client states have so much freedom that they aren’t really part of an empire at all.

And then there’s the idea that even if the US is running an empire, still we have a Good Empire compared to the russian Evil Empire.

And things the USA has done are not considered comparable to things russia has done. Not just quantitatively different, like evil russians kill lots of civilians on purpose while we kill a few civilians by accident when we can’t win without collateral damage etc. Simply incomparable. Because we’re good and they’re evil.

By this logic, it tends to follow that if the USA chooses sides in somebody else’s conflict, the side we support must be good also. Because if they weren’t good we wouldn’t have supported them. So people who say Georgia is not good must be wrong.

If someone is doing this sort of logic, what good is it to argue with them?

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mossy 08.26.08 at 5:05 pm

gastro george, I don’t quite agree with you. If you look at the inches of outraged ink (or outraged inches of ink) spent on the Israeli attacks on Palestinians and the ink spent on Russian action in Chechnya, the former is about a zillion times larger than the latter. Or just read this thread.

Okay, let’s say you’re right (and you are) that bombing the South Ossetians didn’t help. So he doesn’t. And a number of Georgian villages are destroyed and there are a bunch of tanks in South Ossetia. The Georgians are outraged and freaked out. Everyone else is watching the Olympics. Then what happens?

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mossy 08.26.08 at 5:13 pm

“someone” — she isn’t a loon. I don’t agree with a lot of her opinions, but she has excellent sources of information. Her point about South Ossetians is that they are ready to believe wild, demonized, conspiracy theories about Georgia. That they are being robbed by their leaders and don’t know it. That they are being betrayed by their leaders and don’t know it. Have you ever been in that part of the world? I have. You are having a nice conversation with someone and then they suddenly say something like: All Ingush women smell. Or: Ossetians like to kill.

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Mikhail 08.26.08 at 5:20 pm

mossy: Latynina is a well known loon in Russia, peddling interests of whoever has more money. She is about as much an authority on the Caucasus as I am. :) As for Yamadaev’s Chechen forces… That is hilarious, but I can clearly see you don’t read Russian speaking sources.

Here is a good article – it has everything, “the mystery and the murder”, the NATO and Georgia, and comes from Stratfor:
http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/russo_georgian_war_and_balance_power

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 5:24 pm

Re the ink, I think this is more a reflection of what we think we can influence, and what we have a responsibility to influence. We can do more (if not a lot) about the policies of our government and it’s allies. What we think about Russia will have less effect. There just isn’t enough time if we all have to condemn everything, so prioritisation is inevitable.

I hate to sound even more pompous and/or boring, but couldn’t Saakashvili negotiate …?

“… like evil russians kill lots of civilians on purpose while we kill a few civilians by accident when we can’t win without collateral damage …”

Now that’s what I call a fantasy world. I suggest you read more history. Start with the native Americans, pass through several Latin American countries, visit Vietnam, and end up in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or do you think that bombing village compounds in Afghanistan is unavoidable “collateral damage”, otherwise known as murdering innocent people. Put yourself in an Afghan’s shoes. No, really …

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 5:27 pm

“Her point about South Ossetians is that they are ready to believe wild, demonized, conspiracy theories about Georgia. That they are being robbed by their leaders and don’t know it. That they are being betrayed by their leaders and don’t know it.”

Just reverse South Ossetia and Georgia in those sentences and see how it sounds …

Both versions are probably true.

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someone 08.26.08 at 5:29 pm

You are having a nice conversation with someone and then they suddenly say something like: All Ingush women smell. Or: Ossetians like to kill.

Sure, but there’s nothing remarkable about it, it’s everywhere – ‘muslims are terrorists’, ‘Arabs can’t be trusted’, and you can find it all right on the pages of the NYT and WSJ.

Are the South Ossetians different from other people, are they more willing to believe wild conspiracy theories than the others? You yourself seem to have no problem believing wild conspiracy theories spread by this Latynina person. She has excellent sources? I’m sure the South Ossetians do too.

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J Thomas 08.26.08 at 5:46 pm

Gastro George, I find I agree with you right down the line about the generalities. When we get to specifics, should the US government do anything beyond what it’s been doing? For its short-term self-interest it can talk about how bad the russians are and otherwise proceed with whatever it was doing before. And it can supply more arms to georgia, since they might be particularly grateful for them now, and their gratitude might be useful later.

On the other hand if we had a lot to do with getting them into it and now we’re not doing much of anything to help, they won’t be so grateful. I dunno.

What about Mossy’s question? What should the georgian government have done? One alternative would have been to send in their military to help get georgian refugees out of ossetia. That way at least fewer georgians get killed during the ethnic cleansing. That would be unsatisfying, of course. Would it have made sense for them to start clearing out ossetians who live near the georgian border as a sort of compensation? Truck georgian refugees in the direction of georgia, and ossetian refugees deeper into ossetia, so that the ethnic cleansing wouldn’t be so one-sided?

In general, is there some good way to deal with ethnic cleansing issues? It’s bad when people can’t get along and some of them get killed or driven from their homes. Much better when they do get along. Can we use military force to make people get along when they don’t want to, or is that force restricted to deciding who wins?

I think it’s mostly restricted to helping decide who wins. Military units can’t keep small groups of people in mixed neighborhoods from murdering each other and getting away with it. The most they can do is herd people into defensible encampments and try to defend them there.

So here’s an idea that seemed crazy to me when I first thought of it. Say an area is demonstrated to be suffering from ethnic cleansing. Then “we” (meaning the USA or the UN or whoever can be trusted with the job) send in an army to supervise evacuation of anybody who calls himself a noncombatant. “We” move them all to places that accept refugees, and then we let the combatants fight it out. Declare the place a lawless area, and don’t prosecute anybody for crimes committed there or extridite people to there. At some time (maybe a minimum of 5 years?) we see whether somebody has a credible claim to a government that has suppressed the violence, and if so we recognise that government and let refugees move back provided they want to.

Let anybody walk into the lawless zone or walk out. If reckless citizens of the georgia in the USA want to take shooting vacations in the lawless zone, let them. (Their insurance companies might have something to say about it.) As long as people want to fight over that land, as long as nobody can stop the fighting, let the volunteers fight. But keep noncombatants out of it.

I don’t exactly like this approach, but it’s relatively cheap and it might do as much good as we can actually do.

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 6:14 pm

Of course, conflicts such as these (and the Balkans) suffer from the “I wouldn’t start from here” syndrome. Unfortunately we’re already here, and unravelling these old disputes is always a potential nightmare. What is certainly not a help is to resort to more arms. Areas such as these have been (more or less) peaceful. But that has commonly been under another hegemon. For example Tito’s Yugoslavia and the Ottomans both imposed a certain degree of peace on the Balkans. It could even be said that the Soviets ensured a degree of peace over the Caucasus (between the regular purges). But demilitarisation and negotiation are surely the on the recommended path?

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gastro george 08.26.08 at 6:38 pm

Re letting them fight it out in a “lawless zone”. I don’t think that recognises a deeper truth. This is not about fighting, about peoples with a blood lust who just need to satisfy it until they are worn out. Put more directly, you’re not going to find Saakashvili, Putin or Bush entering the zone. This is about power and manipulating people for your own ends. It’s the manipulated who do the fighting and the dying. It’s both the South Ossetian and the Georgian peoples who do the dying, not their “leaders”, nor those of the imperial powers.

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J Thomas 08.27.08 at 6:41 am

My deeper truth is that it is the people who are ready to be manipulated into fighting who create the opportunity. The ethnic divisions are the entry point for manipulator’s wedges.

So what if it becomes clear that they can’t win quickly? Ethnic cleansing looks like a sweet deal to start with. Someplace where your people are in the large majority, and you throw out the minority and take their stuff — we did it after our revolution, tories left behind lots of good stuff when they ran for their lives. But sometimes it goes the other way round and you have to take care of refugees from places that your people are the minority, and it drags on.

If we evacuate all the noncombatants then what is there to win? You aren’t fighting to protect your family, they’re gone. You aren’t fighting to protect your nation, it went with your family. Your land has only killers on it, tearing things up. And if it got some disreputable killer-tourists taking advantage then it isn’t even heroic. You aren’t fighting your ancestral enemies who want to take your land, part of the time you’re fighting random maniacs who wouldn’t even be there if you still had a society.

A few places like that might serve as a horrible example to other places where the ethnic tensions could get out of hand. And possibly people like Bush and Saakashvili and Putin would less often want that result. A bunch of refugees, a violent anarchic no-man’s-land, who benefits? Well, they might think they benefit.

But those manipulated people? If every woman in the country understands that ethnic violence means she’s going to have to leave her home and go live in some foreign country for years, there’s just a chance they’ll make sure it doesn’t happen.

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