NATO's adventures in the real world I: Proxy war with Russia, anyone? -

NATO’s adventures in the real world I: Proxy war with Russia, anyone?


“If it’s true that Russian troops and armaments have been sent to Georgia, it means that we are in a state of war with Russia,” Georgia’s National Security Council secretary Alexander Lomia told AFP today. Well. Above is an LA Times photo of Russian troops and armaments being sent into South Ossetia, a multi-ethnic breakaway province which Georgia still defines as Georgian territory.

Already both the Russians and the Georgians have exchanged artillery fire and there are conflicting reports about who has the upper hand. Whether the two countries are now at war depends on your definitions, but it’s hard to see how one can be avoided at this point.

The stakes here could hardly be higher, for many reasons, including this one:

Canada supports Georgia’s (eventual, not imminent) accession to NATO member-state status (it’s mentioned in the last paragraph of this release about Ukraine). NATO is a collective security organization whose central tenet is that an attack on one is an attack on all. There’s a shortish line between the South Ossetia conflict and a NATO-Russia war in which Canada would, at some level, be involved. Not our problem today, but that would change if Georgia ever became a member.

When I visited Tbilisi last December, Georgia’s acting president Nino Burjanadze said a direct Russian-Georgian confrontation in South Ossetia or Abhkazia would be a “very, very difficult situation.” And now it’s here.


NATO’s adventures in the real world I: Proxy war with Russia, anyone?

  1. Reuters has a photo up of George Bush speaking directly to Putin at the Olympic opening ceremony. One presumes this was on their minds.

    I don’t know the immediate history of this situation, but I would venture that the timing of this event is suspiciously connected to Olympic distractions?

  2. Crazy situation. Russia is saying at least 10 of their peacekeeping soldiers there are dead, so I would assume they will try and secure Tskinvali before any talk of a ceasefire can be had.

    Georgia is also reporting that the Russians have bombed locations outside S Ossetia…

    Wasn’t this just a matter of time, post-Kosovo?

  3. The Russians did draw a straight line between the West recognizing Kosovo and their intention of “protecting” the autonomist wishes of Abhkazia and South Ossetia, Dije, so you definitely have a point.

  4. Did I hear something about Russian fighter jets shot down on the radio this AM?
    This could get ugly real fast when no one is paying attention.

  5. I think NATO membership just went out the window. Georgia can’t play capture-the-flag, scurrying back under the NATO umbrella and thumbing your nose at Russia.

    The AP report was a bit sketchy as to details. I wonder how many Russian tanks are involved. One thing is, if the Russians can’t quickly crush this Georgian offensive it will be a major embarrassment.

  6. Thanks for the link.

  7. From the timesonline link:

    “The Georgian leader may have calculated that he needed to make his move now against the breakaway region while Mr Bush is still in office. It is unlikely that his successor would be as supportive as the current administration.”

    Am I wrong, hasn’t Senator McCain been awfully agonistic towards Russia?

    “When I looked at Putin’s eyes I saw 3 letters: K, G, and B”
    Senator McCain

  8. Blues Clair Maybe Georgian leader thinks Obama is going to win and he’s far from certain the senator will help a fledgling democracy.

  9. It wasn’t a partisan question jwl. I was just curious about what the timeonline story was implying.

    Looks like McCain has already issued a statement:

    “Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory.

  10. Blues, jwl’s partisan answer to your non-partisan question is nonetheless probably in line with the Georgian leader’s thinking. If I were Georgia, I would not want to gamble on counting on an Obama presidency for 2009- either.


    “TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Georgia’s president says the country is calling home its troops from Iraq amid heavy fighting in the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

    Georgia has 2,000 troops serving with the coalition forces in Iraq, making it the third-largest contributor after the United States and Britain.”

  12. Even if Bush were dictator for life and fanatically pro-Georgia, what could he really do at this point? Bomb Russian tanks in South Ossetia? Threaten ex post facto nuclear retaliation on behalf of a non-ally?

    I’m thinking that the Russians are going to stay in South Ossetia, quadrupling the “peacekeeping force” or whatever. Presumably the Georgians can’t force them out. So it’s status quo ante. Is the idea that a McCain presidency would help with a negotiated Russian withdrawal next year? I just can’t see the Russians cooperating more readily with McCain (Mr. “look in his eyes”) than with Obama. Actually I can’t see them cooperating with anyone. This is like Chechnya II, except that now the random little Caucasian nation wants to join Russia. What Russian government could resist playing the good guy for a change?

  13. Well, considering all the time, effort, and money the Putin administration put into building and maintaining that war machine of theirs, it was only a matter of time until they pointed it at something outside their borders.

    Doesn’t make it any more pleasant when it happens, though. Good luck, Georgia.

  14. Well, it’s not as if the Georgians’ noses are clean either, what with the fact that they actually started this fire. Nor is America’s nose clean, for that matter. We’ve been arming, equipping, and training the Georgians for several years now, and sided with them on the question of South Osettia. So this whole mess is one part Georgian, one part Russian, and one part American. All sides are really to blame for what’s happening, and what may happen in the future.

    If the U.S. government was actually consistent, it would support the South Osettians in their quest to break off from Georgia. We did it in Kosovo (in spite of all good reasons to the contrary, like the terrorist thugs that now rule Kosovo) so why not do it in the Caucuses?

    The answer, of course, is that America is simply taking the contrary position to whatever position Russia takes. How else could such an inconsistent policy of supporting “freedom” in Kosovo be reconciled with opposing “freedom” in South Osettia?

    Frankly, neither one of them deserve to have their “freedom.” They’re just a couple of fake countries, especially Kosovo (or should I say New Albania?).

  15. I should add that by America, I also refer to Canada, since in this matter the two nations have had the same mind.

  16. Just for the record, that 5:33 am comment (if badly transliterated) by “Levan” is obscene.

    Russian nationalists are very anti-Western right now — some for idiotic reasons, some for ones which are understandable. (For instance, NATO expansion eastward, breaking Bush’s promise to Gorbachev, wasn’t the best way to build up trust.)

  17. Thanks God that Saakashvili hasn’t A-bomb. But he can make the situation “non-return”. He CANNOT conquer S. Ossetia now and all he can do now is to call NATO troops to “defend” Georgia. And this is the greatest threat for all of us. Somebody counts dollars, but it is a question of our lives.

  18. Mark:

    “How else could such an inconsistent policy of supporting “freedom” in Kosovo be reconciled with opposing “freedom” in South Osettia?”

    I’ll gladly admit that the two cases are rather parallel, except in one particular: the Serbs officially regarded the Kosovo Albanians as foreigners who had no right to be living there, whereas AFAIK Georgia hasn’t any intention of expelling the South Ossetians from South Ossetia. Furthermore, Serbia had just demonstrated, in the Bosnian war, its indifference to (or support of) the brutal ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs, and there was good reason to suppose that the Serbian tank columns rolling into Kosovo were going to target the civilian population per se.

    So I don’t think the situations are especially parallel. But for the life of me I don’t understand why Saakashvili has decided to force a decision on this. It looks like suicide.

  19. Sorry, “not *especially* parallel.” They are *rather* parallel. Wait, can two lines be “quite” parallel? Substantially parallel, except where they eventually intersect? I always hated geometry.

  20. And now you can keep reading lies about Russia….For your information, Georgia started mass bloodshed in Ossetia, so if Russia didn’t intervene the result would have being genocide.

  21. I think I’ll take my news from AP instead of from people with Russian first names posting on Canadian comment threads.

    Doesn’t mean it isn’t true, of course. I mean, the Georgians have apparently flattened Tskhinvali. But my point was that their “war aim” doesn’t seem to have been ethnic cleansing, which was the case in Kosovo.

    This would have been easier if Russia had sponsored a referendum in South Ossetia on independence and/or absorption, which I understand would have passed at 95% Yes.

    Anyway, it’s all a bit moot, no? The Georgians can’t win and the Russians can’t exactly occupy Tblisi.

    Well, it’s more interesting than the Olympics.

  22. hello im ann-marie and im 13 years old. I want U.S.A to help georgia because situation in georgia is very serious. here is war between russia and georgia, now georgia is on the edge of servival, please support us as much as you can, support with troops. we are an very serious situation we need your help and not your all words help.russia bombed tskinvali gori qoti and all of wonderfull teritories they not whant to stop teror. 2,000 georgians are dead. why does russia to death georgian? i think putin vant to stop michel saakashvili politic carieri. if they think to saakashvili was stop him politic carier Putin was made mistake.russia bombed tskinvali gori qoti and all of wonderfull teritorie they not whant to stop teror an they are worsening the war