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What does Russia Want?

by wiseprince Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 08:23:06 AM EST

Originally Posted at Voices in the Wilderness

Russia and Georgia have found themselves in military conflict for 3 or 4 days now and there does not seem to be any let up despite calls by The United States and the European powers (demands without weapons in the real world does little to change facts on the ground). The conflict will not stop until Russia has achieved its goal but the real question is what is the end state for Russia?

Needless to say money an oil, in today's crude driven world, goes hand in hand.
The BTC pipeline carries crude oil from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It connects Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Ceyhan port. I am short on time so won't go through two much detail but strategically speaking Russia would love to control this major crude pipeline as well as the South Caucasus Gas Pipeline running parallel to it. Simple enough goal the implementation of this plan is, of course, a diplomatic tight rope. There would be nothing better for Russia than to have a pro-Kremlin leadership which may be why their public policy seems to be shifting towards regime change as Mikhail Saakashvili is far to pro-western (what with his daily CNN interviews and all).

NATO has shown a willingness to have Georgia to be a new member of the alliance but of course Georgia is of little help to NATO without a real army able to defend and protect the member states of the alliance. As a result Georgia has been building up its military as a prerequisite to its acceptance into NATO. Needless to say Russia views this in the context of the so called "Red" revolution and the "Orange" revolution (Political coups orchestrated by Washington, as far as Russia is concerned) and sees the membership of a border state as another way to surround Russia with enemies (similar to the scheme vise a vie Iran). For those familiar with the tenants of NATO it is clear that this type of action by Russia after Georgia was an official member would bring about the full weight of NATO forces (which essentially means Military conflict with the United States) and no one wants that. By taken action now they give both the Europeans and the United States an out, a reason not to intervene (I'm sure the Western powers are grateful). Military action against a neighboring state will give NATO pause when discussing missile defense with Poland, Ukraine and the like (which was one of the major sticking points with the Bush administration).

All in all I would score this a win for Russia as they have shown that they are not against escalation if the right buttons are pushed. This forces the Western powers not to push as many buttons as they have been over the past 4-6 years. As with Ukraine, Russia has an opposition to work with in Georgia. It will be interesting to see whether or not they have more political capital after the invasion.

One benefit that may play out for the United States is more support at home for the Missile Defense System Bush has been pushing for 8 years. Fortunately or unfortunately though, I highly doubt Bush has enough political capital left on the home front to get anything done. Furthermore, the host countries may listen a little more closely when Russia warns against it

the rose revolution. Red is still associated with the Soviets.

It is possible that the aftermath will work out similarly for Saakashvili as the aftermath of Kosovo did for Milosevic.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 09:54:17 AM EST
It's definitely increased the chances of Poland accepting the missile shield. For those who haven't been following that saga, the Tusk government that took over last fall has been slow walking the negotiations with the clear intention of running out the US electoral clock. My guess, FWIW, is that they'll still do so, but that if McCain wins, a deal is pretty much certain.
by MarekNYC on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 10:47:15 AM EST
I'm not so sure about that. Russia has put out a few warnings that seemed to threaten military action if Missile defense were a go. This war may have given a little more credibility to those threats. Moreover, the international community has proven itself to be somewhat impotent on this matter. Russia has come out looking strong (especially after tough talk from the Bush administration, which in the end proved to be just words)
by wiseprince on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 07:54:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  • Poland is EU and NATO. The Russians are not insane. They may consider Poland their legitimate sphere of influence, but they also know that, unlike with Georgia, The West(TM) will respond in force to an invasion of Poland. Irregardless of the quality and quantity of Russian casus belli.

  • Poland does not, AFAIK, have any large, pro-Russian breakaway regions, and has certainly not launched more or less unprovoked invasions of them recently.

  • There would be little or no precedent for treating deployment of strategic weapons as casus belli (except the Bay of Pigs invasion, and that may not be the most fortunate choice of justification to invoke...).

  • War with Poland would threaten the infrastructure Russia uses to sell oil and gas to Europe.

  • If Russia wants to put the thumbscrews on Poland, all they have to do is turn off the heat in the middle of the winter. They don't want to do that, of course, because that would threaten their ability to trade with Europe. But war would threaten that ability even more.

So I don't think Russia is going to declare war on Poland. Or even hurt them much. Ukraine might be another ball game, however. But I still don't see it happening without significantly greater provocation than deployment of strategic weapons. The Russians are not insane.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 11:27:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree - the Russians aren't nuts. A serious attempt to reestablish hegemony over Poland would lead to at best a new Cold War with the Europeans firmly in the US camp, and more likely a full on all out hot war.
by MarekNYC on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 12:34:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Victor Davis Hanson on Russia in Georgia on National Review Online
Lost amid all the controversies surrounding the Georgian tragedy is the sheer diabolic brilliance of the long-planned Russia invasion. Let us count the ways in which it is a win/win situation for Russ

In an otherwise laughable analysis, David Hansen correctly recognises this as a major victory for Russia - and thus a defeat for the neo-cons

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 11:39:44 AM EST
A good analysis, and the answer here:


"Is this the dawn of a new Cold War? The analogy is misconstrued, because ideology is no longer relevant. The guns of August offer a different, and even more chilling, parallel. It had been clear for some time that the fate of Russia's relations with the United States and Europe -- not necessarily collectively -- will depend on how the three looming crises are resolved: the stationing of the U.S. missile defenses in Central Europe, Ukraine's membership in NATO, and the Georgian conflicts. With the last chip down, the other two are still in the air. The Kremlin's message is crystal clear: Don't tread on me. Or, it's realpolitik, stupid!"

by kukute on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 02:26:52 PM EST
The analogy is misconstrued, because ideology is no longer relevant.

As if it ever was...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:09:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting that you chose a tiny url instead of simply citing RFERL. Very sneaky!

Must say, it's nice to see someone putting their brain cells to work over there.  Did you see Latynina's 08-08 post?  About how Saakashvili's war was going to be "chemotherapy" for the "cancerous tumours" (siloviki) running Russia?  I want whatever she is smoking!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 04:51:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry poemless,

I never go to those places by myself, I'm quite depressed with main media in general.

I think that the best coverage of this war has been made in T M of Alabama. Over there, two days ago I followed some links "b" provided in his 08-08 post: some articles, sites and blogs. Some blog brought me to this article.

I got very surprised reading this article in this place.

Probably, it's the exception of the rule, in the same way that El País has a very good article now and then...

I've tried to find Latynina's post, just for fun, but I couldn't find it.

By the way, thank you very much for your "I don't Care Why".

Very often, I jump from "Bloody bastards!" to  "I don't Care Why". But then, I start listening to Robert Wyatt and the likes and I get too sad, like enjoying the sorrow... Then, I need some coffee and a bit of anger to get out, fighting mentally with some pundit or warmonger...

Anyway, this war has been very short and it was nice to see some correction on some MSM after the first agreement.

by kukute on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 01:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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