War between Russia and Georgia

(Crossposted at Dailykos)

As most of you probably know, Russia has ordered troops into the disputed region of South Ossetia after Georgia escalated the conflict by an offensive against the Ossetians. Georgia has withdrawn its 2000 soldiers from our Iraqi coalition, and although an actual declaration of war does not seem to have occurred, its clear that a war is indeed occurring.

My own take on the situation is that Georgia is somewhat at fault here for escalating the conflict, but Russia also seems to have had its moves planned out, and if its indeed escalating the conflict and moving against Georgia proper (rather than restricting its intervention to Ossetia) as Georgia claims, then its also at fault.

Conflict between the Ossetians and Georgia is nothing new - during the Russian Civil War, the Ossetians launched a bloody Bolshevik-supported uprising against the Menshevik Georgia government; eventually, the Red Army intervened and was joined by many Ossetians. Afterwards, however, the two groups seem to have been peaceful up until the breakup of the USSR around 1989.

Essentially, what happened was that Georgia wanted South Ossetia, and many South Ossetians wanted to join North Ossetia (basically a part of Russia) or form their own nation. This escalated into the War in South Ossetia from 1991-1992. There was apparently minor Russian involvement, but the war was fought mostly between Ossetia and Georgia. After a coup d'etat against the Georgian president, causing significant instability, a ceasefire occurred in which South Ossetia became de facto independent, though internationally recognized as part of Georgia.

It should be noted here that Georgia seems to have a lot of internal dissent - Reuters has an article from 2006 on how Georgia has treated its minorities. South Ossetia is not the only de facto independent but internationally part of Georgia state - another one is Abkhazia, which may also join the war against Georgia (according to wiki - reference is in Russian so I can't understand it.)

There have been several flareups in Georgian-South Ossetian relations since 2004 or so; the most major one began on August 1, when a 'sniper war' began occurring between Georgia and South Ossetia; both sides blamed the start of conflict on the other. During this time, Georgia appears to have been moving tanks and soldiers towards the border. Considering Georgia's response to this 'sniper war', I think its likely that this escalation of the conflict occurred as part of their plan.

On August 7-8, Georgia began a large-scale invasion of South Ossetia. According to Wikipedia (russian references, again), many South Ossetians began evacuating to North Ossetia (part of Russia), and Georgia bombed these fleeing refugees. Abkhazia began to send volunteers towards Ossetia at this point. According to Georgian officials, they took over 2/3 of South Ossetia, and surrounded its capital, Tskinhvali.

In response, Russia began to intervene in the conflict on the Ossetian side, moving tanks into Ossetia, a move which Georgia described as an invasion. However, Russia does not appear to be restricting the conflict to Ossetia - it has reportedly bombed airbasesnext to Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. Georgia also claims to have downed two Russian jets over its own territory. Russia denies these claims. There are US instructors stationed at one of the bases Russia supposedly bombed, so this should be cleared up soon enough.

My analysis:
Georgia has created an analogy between itself and the Winter War, when the USSR invaded Finland. My interpretation is that if this is like the Winter War, its with South Ossetia being Finland and Georgia being the USSR - complete with pro-Ossetian Cossack and Abkhazian volunteers (similar to the aid to Finland)... of course, this analogy doesn't include Russia.

Russia controls most of the natural gas supply to Europe, so the European Union and most of the Eastern Europe former-USSR countries can't do much to intervene. China has criticized the attack (as an act of war during the Olympics, when there's supposed to be world harmony), but its probable that they are quietly supportive, given the strategic alliance between them and Russia. And of course, the US is in no position to intervene in any way, given our commitments in Iraq. Plus, if you thought that invading Iran would cause a world energy crisis, Russia has the world's largest natural gas reserves, and is the world's leading energy exporter. But it seems like Russia has had this planned out for a while, and though the world is going to protest, there isn't anyone capable of stopping it from taking over Georgia if it wishes. The question is, of course, if its escalating the conflict to Georgia (as Georgia claims) by bombing Georgia proper, or if the conflict is only over Ossetia.

A few maps:
Undetailed map showing locations of Ossetia and Abkhazia inside Georgia
Detailed map of Abkhazia
Detailed map of South Ossetia

Tags: Georgia, russia, South Ossetia, Vladimir Putin, war (all tags)



Tips for peace

Though I doubt it will come anytime soon.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

First, great diary.  Tipped, rec'd.

Do you read this as Russian attempts to quell any further flare-ups in the always-volatile Caucasus?  Or is there greater subtext here, such as extinguishing the nascent Democracy in Georgia?

by the mollusk 2008-08-08 08:35AM | 0 recs
My interpretation

Russia says that its just intervening in Ossetia. If that's the case, I think its justified - It was Georgia that escalated the conflict by launching its invasion.

Georgia, however, says that Russia is escalating the conflict further by bombing Georgia proper (which Russia denies.) If that is true, and Russia is trying to take over Georgia, then its in the wrong.

The problem is, of course, this is developing news and there are a lot of contradictory stories so right now we can't really tell who's right or wrong.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: My interpretation

"Russia says that its just intervening in Ossetia. If that's the case, I think its justified"

Would Nazi Germany have been justified if it had only "intervened" in Sudetenland?

South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the new Sudetenlands, Georgia is Czechoslovakia. Right now as the new Nazi Germany prepared to devour the new Czechoslovakia, you people are all talking about "Georgia escalating" the conflict.

Yeah, tiny country actually wanting to control its soil, vs huge imperialist nation sending troops to a neighbouring nation, gee let me think who's actually "escalating the conflict".

Why don't we keep Russian troops inside Russia, and allow Georgian troops to be inside Georgia, doesn't that make sense to everyone? And why don't we decide that the one in the wrong is the country which decided to invade the other country?

Has Georgia invaded Russia? NO.
Has Russia invaded Georgia? YES.

Neither Russia nor Georgia, nor America, have ever accepted South Ossetia as an independent nation. They all claimed it to be Georgian soil.

The morality of the situation here is quite clear to everyone who's halfway honest.

by Aris Katsaris2 2008-08-08 11:05AM | 0 recs
The obvious difference:

There's a long history of struggle between Ossetia and Georgia. And Georgia definitely has not treated its minorities very well - hence why there are not one but TWO de facto independent states in 'Georgian' territory - South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Its clear who started this war - Georgia decided to invade South Ossetia. That's not something up to question. Did you even read my diary? Wikipedia has a decent (apparently unbiased) article on the conflict that I suggest you read up on before making any knee-jerk judgments.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: The obvious difference:

"hence why there are not one but TWO de facto independent states in 'Georgian' territory - South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

The reason there are "two" de facto independent states in Georgian territory, is because Russia is using every single minority in neighbouring nations to grab bits and pieces of them, before shallowing them whole. It's done that in Ukraine with Crimea, it's done that in Georgia with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it's done that in Moldovia with Transnistria, it's attempting to do that in Latvia with the Russian minority there.

In the case of Abkhazia in particular, the Abkhazians ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Georgians in order to be an actual majority of the population in the region. Under the Georgian government, the Abkhazians atleast had an actual vote. Now when the Abkhazians voted a person the Russians didn't like, Russia simply decided to cancel the results of the elections.

Now the Abkhazians are Russian serfs and nothing more -- before they were actually Georgian citizens.

"Its clear who started this war - Georgia decided to invade South Ossetia"

Really? No Russians involved at all? Is it just a little Georgia-vs-South Ossetia thingy, with no Russian involvement? And all those Russian troops in the region, they're just innocent tourists?

If your argument is that South Ossetia is part of Russia, then say "Georgia decided to invade RUSSIA".

And if your argument is that South Ossetia is an independent nation defended by Russia, then you'll have to explain why Russia hasn't actually recognized it as an independent nation.

The actual reality says that South Ossetia is a territory of Georgia that RUSSIA had invaded and that RUSSIA was occupying, and that RUSSIA was keeping its people as serfs, and that Georgia is merely trying to take its own territory back.

by Aris Katsaris2 2008-08-08 02:03PM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

As best as I recall reading, the rebellions against the government in Tblisi are not actually the doings of native local people, i.e. Ossetians and Abkhazis themselves.  

The people instigating it are supposedly ethnic Russians- colonists- doing the bidding of Moscow.

by killjoy 2008-08-08 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

but if you know that, how is it that the Georgian government does not know that and would fall for the trap of attacking Ossetia?

by the mollusk 2008-08-08 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

As opposed to what, allow Russia to eventually recognize it as "independent" and one week later officially make it part of Russia?

It was necessary for Georgia to take control of its own soil. I just wish they had managed to enter NATO first.

by Aris Katsaris2 2008-08-08 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

I appreciate your knowledge of the situation.  Do you have the time or inclination to write a diary about this?  I'd like to hear more of your point of view on this.

Also, I would attribute anyone's equivocation on this issue to be due to a general lack of information on the subject.

by the mollusk 2008-08-08 11:50AM | 0 recs
You describe me with that one

Also, I would attribute anyone's equivocation on this issue to be due to a general lack of information on the subject.

I trust the good intentions of the Russian gov't as far as I can throw it, and am inclined to be against anything they are for.  That does not mean that all the other players on the field are shining examples of Pure Goodness, but I am only learning the details of the situation now.

I'm not even entirely sure about my feelings on "self determination".  It has a good Freedom feel to it, but dividing the entire globe into ethnic enclaves of "self determination" has, oh, just a tiny bit of downside (among them the escalation of inter-enclave prejudices and tensions, and the nearly endless possible intra-enclave subdivision).

But given the simple choice between American Interests (pro-Georgia) and Russian Interests (pro Russian), I'm siding with the US.  Will easgerly keep reading to evolve my understanding.

Great diary, recced.


by chrisblask 2008-08-09 08:51AM | 0 recs
Can you give me a reputable link for that?

Your statement seems to show a lack of general knowledge about the region.

South Ossetia tried to become independent from Georgia in 1989 (where only the Red Army was able to prevent the two from actively going to war) and again in 1990, while both were still Soviet republics! Russia is supporting the South Ossetians, but the bulk of the war was fought by Ossetians themselves, up until now.

Wikipedia has a decent article on this.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 12:38PM | 0 recs
The Eye of the World

The eye of the world looks elsewhere as the Olympics dominate the news. From the view point of the agressor, today was a good day to attack.

by Zzyzzy 2008-08-08 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

Where, if anywhere, does the U.S. national interest lie in this situation.  Completely independent, of course, of whether we have the wherewithal to do anything about it.  We do always have some degree of leverage if we want to use it.

I've always tended to weigh in on the side of self-determination but it gets tricky when the parties have these intricate Russian doll-like relationships.  I mean, the people of Georgia have the right to sovereignty and independence, of course.  But then so do the people of South Ossetia.  And so do the people of Eastern South Ossetia, and so forth.  The world confuses me sometimes.

by Steve M 2008-08-08 11:34AM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

I am not sure from your diary: who you support - Georgia, Ossetia, Russia or you neutral? And why?

by engels 2008-08-08 11:37AM | 0 recs
I tend to support self-determination

So I guess you could say I'm kind of pro-Ossetia. Georgia's record on minorities is quite bad, and it is clear that Georgia started escalating the conflict with it's full-scale invasion.

Not sure on Russia's involvement; if it just 'liberates' South Ossetia and doesn't install some sort of puppet state, then that's acceptable... I'm a bit suspicious on whether it will go any further.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 12:40PM | 0 recs
Re: I tend to support self-determination

Russia always installs puppet-states. South Ossetia will be as independent from Russia as Sudetenland was from Nazi Germany.

by Aris Katsaris2 2008-08-08 02:04PM | 0 recs
Re: I tend to support self-determination
if you are pro-Ossetia, than you you have to modify your diary so it will be clear that Gruziya (Georgia) is the aggressor and that aggression led to death of thousands of Ossetians and Russian actions saved a lot of lives by preventing this agression to spread out.
About puppet states: if Russia even does it, she  learned it from USA, UK etc.
by engels 2008-08-10 04:21PM | 0 recs
Yeah, trust Mother Russia

Um, maybe not. I want to get your diary straight, are you attacking Georgia for invading it's own territory but not Russia for inteloping in a sovereign affair?

by Dog Chains 2008-08-08 11:48AM | 0 recs
Georgia is invading South Ossetia. Period.

Officially, South Ossetia is part of Georgia, but to use an analogy, this is a bit like the invasion of Tibet by China in 1950. Except the Chinese invasion was a lot more peaceful (they invaded halfway, stopped, treated the local population very well to 'win hearts and minds', and successfully negotiated the Tibetan leaders into surrender.) In contrast, some reports have Georgia bombing fleeing South Ossetian refugees; the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali is in ruins, etc.

by MILiberal 2008-08-08 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Georgia is invading South Ossetia. Period.

I was thinking a more recent analogy might be Serbia crushing rebels in Kosovo, with many outside powers criticizing US military intervention since Serbia was a sovereign nation.  Only this time, the US is using the sovereignty argument and Russia is taking military action in defense of the independence movement.  I would prefer states (Serbia or Georgia) be convinced diplomatically to treat their minorities better in situations like these as independence for every ethnic minority sets bad precedents, but I agree that Georgia should not have tried to reclaim South Ossetia by force.

by Mr DC 2008-08-09 02:55PM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

Pretty decent diary. Rec'd. For some reason, I dont think anyone cares because of the Olympics

by bsavage 2008-08-08 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: War between Russia and Georgia

"Long live the U.S.S.R"

  -- Sign posted outside an Estonian elementary school out of protest by Russian students after a statue of a soviet occupying soldier was moved.

The Russians have been horribly humiliated on the world stage the last 15 years, and they are seeking the "good old days" of Stalin and Brezhnev... sure, people were killed, but Russians were feared and powerful!

Putin and his successor has been stoking this nationalist flame for awhile now and have promised to return Russia to it's past glory.  Expect more aggression in the future and attempts to "return what has been taken" from Russia... i.e. all of eastern europe.

Russian expansion and aggression will be the West's greatest challenge in the upcoming century... With China investing in the third world and mobilizing it, the return of a true totalitarian threat will not be far behind.

Expect more of these actions, as Russia tries to retake Eastern Europe piece by piece....

by LordMike 2008-08-08 02:11PM | 0 recs


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