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Georgia/Russia: Sounds like mixed messages to me


 

From the Los Angeles Times:

A senior U.S. official involved in Russia policymaking vehemently denied that the administration had sent mixed messages, arguing that although Saakashvili had long received strong support from the most senior American officials, Georgians were warned not to engage Russia militarily.

“We have consistently, and on Thursday also, urged the Georgians not to move their forces in. We were unambiguous about it,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when discussing private talks with the Georgians. “Saakashvili had always told us he could not stand by while Georgian villages were being shelled, and we always knew this was a point of pressure. We always told him that he should not give in to the kind of provocations we knew the Russians were capable of.”

But Phillips said he believed that even if the State Department was warning the Russians, the Georgians heard a different message.

“I think the State Department was assiduous in urging restraint, and Saakashvili’s buddies in the White House and Office of the Vice President kept egging him on,” Phillips said.


 

Georgia/Russia: Sounds like mixed messages to me

  1. What message can American administration deliver that will be credible? — After they themselves had invaded Iraq and could attack Iran any time, certainly would if McCain becomes the President with Lieberman beside him, having used torture, denied due legal process to the detainees. All they can watch the sad spectacle of their mischief and empty threats.

  2. I seem to recall “mixed messages” by U.S. officials (namely by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ms. April Glaspie) was what caused the first Gulf War, by leading Saddam Hussein to conclude that Washington would look the other way. This seems to be a chronic problem in Washington’s communication with its regional allies.

  3. This bears a curious reverse resemblance to the US/Cuba/USSR crisis under Kennedy.

    But unless you think Saakashvili will live a long happy life as a powerful influential leader manning a pro American outpost in Eurasia the comparison doesn’t seem all that helpful.

  4. April Glaspie! That’s who I was thinking of. There are, of course, as many differences as echoes, but there are echoes…

  5. “Saakashvili had always told us he could not stand by while Georgian villages were being shelled”.

    Now, I think like many people that the Georgians horribly overreacted to the shelling, but still. There’s a big part of me that can’t really blame Saakashvili for that sentiment.

    I’ve always thought the Israel/Hezbollah comparison was a good one for this latest episode (though obviously Georgia/Russia was a much smaller scale). Plenty of people think Israel horribly overreacted to the attacks from Lebanon, but it’s still hard to say they should have just sucked it up and took the missile fire on the chin. Isn’t it?

    The biggest difference being, I suppose, that Iran didn’t flood southern Lebanon with tanks and troops, attack Haifa with ground forces, and bomb Nahariyya and Beersheba in response. I wonder if Saakashvili suddenly wishes he had nukes too?

  6. Communication is the key to a good relationship. The Bush White House is so profoundly screwed up, so incredibly peabrained, that it seems possible they were telling the Georgians one thing and the Russians another – before the fact, I mean. And now McCain wants to start promising the earth to the Baltic states! As though the world worked the way it’s supposed to through the prism of US network TV! God save us.

    Anyway, we need to be straight with the Russians, show them some respect, prevent crises like this, and do our best for democracy. First and foremost that means not treating international politics as a publicity stunt.

    Lord Kitchener’s Own, I like your analogy with Lebanon in terms of international law, but not only did Iran not invade Israel from fear of retaliation, they couldn’t have done so if they wished. Israel may have nukes but their conventional army on its own is superior to anything in the region. Another lesson learned from Georgia: anti-aircraft missiles do not a kick-ass army make.

  7. Speaking of historical echoes, I note that the current US SecDef, Robert Gates, was the CIA official who advocated escalating US intervention in Nicaragua in the 1980s–airstrikes were needed in place of the previously ‘halfhearted’ attempts–to prevent further Soviet encroachment in the USA’s ‘near abroad.’

    Meanwhile, recent talk of sending US anti-aircraft missiles to Georgia recalls an earlier episode in the career of Zalmay Khalilzad, current US ambassador to the UN, but once a State Department official who helped create the US policy of intervention on the side of the mujahedeen (sp?) against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the USSR’s ‘near abroad.’

    Lots of differences in the cases, but echoes too.

  8. Well, the Russians’ message is certainly clear. They’ve annexed South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and they’re in no rush to leave the other ares of Georgia they’ve entered either.

    Quote from the article above:

    “Earlier on Thursday, (Russian Foreign Minister) Lavrov said the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would never want to be part of Georgia again, following the past week’s conflict.

    He dismissed the idea of Georgian territorial integrity as irrelevant and said Georgia should forget any idea of regaining possession of them.

    In Moscow, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would respect any decision the two regions made about their future status.

    Their words followed warnings from the US that Russia had to respect Georgia’s territorial sovereignty and withdraw its forces.

    Russia’s continued deployment of troops in Gori has raised concerns that the Kremlin will not make a quick withdrawal from Georgian territory, despite agreeing to the European peace plan.

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