Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:18:19 PM EST
Ceasefire in Georgia: Putin Outmaneuvers the West - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin has achieved his goal in Georgia -- the country has been destabilized. And the West will have to look on powerless when its ally, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, is eventually driven from office.

 A Russian officer walks through the damaged South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. The march on Tbilisi has been called off, if such plans ever existed. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev has announced the end of military operations in the Caucasus for the time being. According to sources in Moscow, some in the Russian military found it very painful to have to halt the advance just 90 kilometers from the office of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The hardliners would have loved nothing more than to do a bit of clearing up in the headquarters of this Georgian hothead.

But hasn't Russia already achieved everything it had set out to achieve? Moscow will now argue that it has fulfilled its "peacekeeping mission" as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin puts it, and that it has stuck to international agreements regarding the Caucasus by protecting one side and restraining the other. Now only one task remains -- Saakashvili needs to go, say the Russians.

And that poses the next quandary for the West. Russia will now stress its readiness to enter negotiations, but only on one condition -- that Saakashvili quits. The Russians will demand that the West (and especially the Americans) let their their darling go.

by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:21:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Russia must stand down

Despite Russia's overwhelming advantage in size and firepower in its conflict with Georgia, the Kremlin may have the most to lose if the fighting there continues. It is too soon to know with certainty who was responsible for the initial outbreak of violence in South Ossetia, but the war that began there is no longer about Georgia's breakaway regions or Russian peacekeepers.

By acting disproportionately with a full scale attack on Georgia and seeking the ouster of Georgia's democratically elected President Mikheil Saakashvili, Moscow is jeopardising its standing in Europe and the broader international community - and risking very real practical and political consequences.


For Moscow, the most obvious casualty of the fighting could be the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 - supposedly the crown jewel in the country's campaign to reinvent itself. Sochi is only a few miles from the border with Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia. Regardless of any political consequences, if fighting spreads, it could drive up insurance rates for the games to the point that it becomes prohibitively expensive to hold the Olympics in the region at all.

Russia may face other costly consequences for the violence. Vladimir Putin's plans to make Moscow an international financial centre may evaporate as the prospect of sanctions on the country rears its head. Western financial institutions, which have done little to expose evidence of official Russian corruption, may start pursuing the issue much more publicly.

Is that a call to US insurers and banks to put Russia on their shit-list? Coming from someone heavily involved in their regulation/lobbying?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:40:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean Senator Biden (D-MBNA) might be doing something fishy here?
by paving on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 04:27:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps Biden is giving his "firm and resolute" image a polish.  What he describes could adversely impact Russia at a cost acceptable to the USA.  Beats sending forces or more saber rattling.  Might actually give Putin something to think about.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 06:28:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarkozy Closes in on a Deal: Russia Agrees to Withdraw from South Ossetia - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News

In talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has agreed to move his troops back to their pre-conflict positions. The deal has not been finalized yet, but it could involve peacekeepers from the European Union.

It was a long time coming, but on Tuesday Russian President Dmitry Medvedev finally ordered an end to Russian military activity in Georgia, according to news reports. Not only that, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to the capitals of both Georgia and Moscow on Tuesday seems to be bearing some fruit, though a peace deal had not yet been agreed upon by late Tuesday, Sarkozy said.

 A Russian troop column in Abkhazia. The Russians opened up a new front in the war on Monday, but on Tuesday, President Medvedev ordered a cessation of hostilities. The diplomatic moves raised hopes that the six-day-old conflict -- between Russia and Georgia over the two renegade Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- would soon end. Georgia said that violence continued on Tuesday even after Medvedev made his announcement.

"The security of our peacekeepers and civilians has been restored," Medvedev said. "The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized," the Russian president said, referring to Georgian troops.

by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:22:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Vladimir Putin capitalises on US ambivalence | Gerard Baker: American view - Times Online

Say what you will about Vladimir Putin, the man certainly has chutzpah. As his forces drove further into Georgia yesterday across the border from the province of South Ossetia, the Russian Prime Minister lashed out at the US for helping Tbilisi in the escalating war.

In a speech to Russian officials Mr Putin condemned the US for facilitating the emergency transfer home of some of Georgia's 2000 troops serving alongside Americans in Iraq.

"It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us," Mr Putin said.

For Georgians, the accusation that the US was assisting them in their struggle must have added cruel insult to mounting injury. Despite years of efforts by Mikheil Saakashvili to cement relations between his country and the distant Superpower, despite Georgia's strenuous moves to push for Nato membership, and despite the courageous efforts of Georgian forces in supporting the US invasion of Iraq, the sum total of actual American assistance to the beleaguered former Soviet state in the last few days has amounted to a few verbal protests against the Russian action.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:24:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
has the potential to be interesting - in case it's actually true:


For Georgians, the accusation that the US was assisting them in their struggle must have added cruel insult to mounting injury.

If this war could dampen some overzealousness of  Georgians concerning the USA and enlarge more critical thinking towards the neocon realpolitik strategy, things might not be all bad.

by Nomad on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 05:16:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Neoconservatism ≠ realpolik

People doing realpolitik are dealing with reality in a cynical manner. Neoconservatives don't deal with reality. They've long passed that station.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 06:10:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Lines Drawn as South Caucasus Region Faces Regional Split | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 12.08.2008
The fighting in the south Caucasus may be coming to an end, but life in the region is unlikely to return to normal soon. If some get their way, the map could look very different to the one before the war began.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced on Tuesday, Aug. 12, that he wanted to take his country out of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Moscow-dominated regional grouping of ex-Soviet countries.


Addressing a 70,000-strong crowd in front of the Georgian parliament building in Tbilisi, Saakashvili said that Georgia would quit the CIS and urged Ukraine to follow suit.


"We have made a decision: Georgia is quitting the CIS," he told the crowd. "We urge Ukraine and other countries to follow our decision."

by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:25:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was surprised to find that a number of Hungarian media had more critical articles on the conflict that deviated from the Atlanticist narrative: essentially, they wrote there isa a Great Powers match, with the USA also active as provocateur, and Azeri oil as a factor. It seems their reason is one single historian specialising on the Causasus: she could give a coherent 'bigger picture' the journalists could grasp. There is hope.

On the other hand, to briefly state my view on what I see was discussed over several diaries on ET: I see an cynical ugly game played by two opposed imperialists on top of ugly games played by local potentates, and the West's hypocrisy is no saving grace.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:43:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McCain says all Americans back Georgia in struggle

Republican presidential candidate John McCain phoned Georgia's president Tuesday to tell him all Americans back his country's efforts to thwart military attacks from Russia...

"I told him that I know I speak for every American when I said to him, today, we are all Georgians," McCain said to loud applause.

What a presumptuous shitbag

by paving on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:43:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Statement from Senator Barack Obama on Russia's escalation of violence against Georgia
Chicago, IL | August 09, 2008

Chicago, IL -- "I just spoke separately with Secretary Rice and President Saakashvili about the grave crisis in Georgia. I told President Saakashvili that I was deeply concerned about the well-being of the people of Georgia.

"Over the last two days, Russia has escalated the crisis in Georgia through it's [sic] clear and continued violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. On Friday, August 8, Russian military forces invaded Georgia. I condemn Russia's aggressive actions and reiterate my call for an immediate ceasefire. Russia must stop its bombing campaign, cease flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia. Both sides should allow humanitarian assistance to reach civilians in need. Russia also must end its cyber war against Georgian government websites. Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected.

"As I have said for many months, aggressive diplomatic action must be taken to reach a political resolution to this crisis, and to assure that Georgia's sovereignty is protected. Diplomats at the highest levels from the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations must become directly involved in mediating this military conflict and beginning a process to resolve the political disputes over the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A genuinely neutral mediator - not the Russian government - must begin a process of negotiations immediately.

"The situation in Georgia also requires the deployment of genuine international peacekeeping forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The current escalation of military conflict resulted in part from the lack of a neutral and effective peacekeeping force operating under an appropriate UN mandate. Russia cannot play a constructive role as peacekeeper. Instead, Russian actions in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia appear to be intended to preserve an unstable status quo."

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:47:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is now on record as being opposed to unilateral violations of sovereign territory.  That's an improvement!  What he does not do is condemn the meddling by larger states in the internal politics of sovereign nations.  He won't come out against that but we will have to wait and see if his administration chooses to actively engage in such behaviors.   The VP and other cabinet selections will telegraph this soon enough...
by paving on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 04:36:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As a marketing person, I really admire this speech. Every word is exactly right for speaking to his audience of shilled sheep.

If he had any class, he could give the same speech, only substitute the word Palestine with the word Georgia, Israel when he speaks of Russia. Except at the end, of course, where he claims (without evidence, but doubtless to great cheers) Russia is the bad actor and cannot play a constructive role as peacekeeper...at that point he means the US cannot be play a constructive role in Israel.

I really am inspired by this guy Obama. He's going to really lift the sinking boat called america up to new heights. </snark> Get your bets in. The Repugs will re-surge in his 2nd year, just like after Clinton's.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 03:01:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]

BP shuts pipelines on fears over Georgia

BP shut down a pipeline carrying Caspian oil from Azerbaijan to the Georgian Sea on Tuesday citing concern about security in Georgia.

Toby Odone, a BP spokesman, said the 150,000 barrels a day pipeline from Baku to Supsa on the Georgian Black Sea had been closed as a "security precaution."

A natural gas pipeline linking a BP-operated field offshore Azerbaijan with Georgia and Turkey has also been closed.

Exports through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to the Turkish Mediterranean, the main artery for exports from BP's huge Azeri field offshore Azerbaijan, halted last week after an explosion on the Turkish section of the pipeline. The pipeline carries 850,000 barrels a day

Kurdish separatists have claimed responsibility for the accident in Turkey.

Mr Odone said a fire at the site was extinguished on Monday, but the area was still "too hot" for repair work to begin and it was unclear when deliveries to the Ceyhan would recommence.

Mr Odone said "very small volumes of Azeri oil, less than 100,000 barrels a day," are now being exported via railways across the Caucasus and a pipeline to Russia.

BP has always kept its access rights to the Baku-Novorossisk pipeline, even if it hasn't been using it much lately.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 03:50:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm finding this Civil Georgia page useful.  It's funded by USAID and the Swiss Government, so caveat emptor, but it's definitely a peek into what the Georgians are trying to sell.

Apparently Saakashvili tried to claim that a Russian airstrike hit the BTC pipeline.

The Georgians are doing their damndest to sell this Russia as a threat to global oil supplies meme.

Over on Daily Kos, a large group of people have bought into this, and the idea that Europe will "freeze" because the Russians are going to use their "energy weapon."  And they are all puzzled why European states haven't taken a tougher line against Russia.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 06:34:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
M of A - War Nerdism

On the evening of August 7 the Georgian President Saakashvili went on TV and announced a cease-fire. This came after some small tit for tat fire exchanges on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. A few hours later Georgia launched a massive artillery barrage against the South Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. It used Grad multiple-launch rocket systems. Such weapons are effective against area targets, like large infantry clusters, not against pinpoint aims. To use such weapons against civilian areas leads to mass casualties and is in itself a war crime.

The attack hit people at sleep in their homes. It was followed by bombings from SU-25 ground attack airplanes in and around Tskhinvali.

The Russian peacekeepers in South Osssetia had less than a battalion of mechanized infantry between the border and Tskhinvali. This batallion was attacked by a multi battalion Georgian tank and armored infantry forces. The Russians retreated through and around Tskhinvali but held the line within the city limits.

According to Russian sources the Georgian assault killed some 1,500 to 2,000 civilians.

by Fran on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 04:18:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Civil Georgia: Georgia Quits CIS

<blockqoute>President Saakashvili said Georgia would quit the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and officially denounce Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "occupational forces."

"We have decided to quit the CIS and to say farewell to the Soviet Union," Saakashvili told a crowd of tens of thousands of people gathered outside Parliament. "We call on Ukraine and other members to also quit the Russian-ruled CIS ."</blockqoute>

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Aug 12th, 2008 at 06:29:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Video: Russia orders end to operation after bombing of media centre - Times Online

A victorious Kremlin agreed to a ceasefire in the Caucasus last night on terms that left Georgia and its Western backers weakened.

After five days of fighting, President Medvedev of Russia ordered his troops in South Ossetia to hold their fire and fixed a six-point peace plan with President Sarkozy of France.

The deal, confirmed by Georgia's President Saakashvili last night, did not address the future of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakway provinces that want closer links with Russia.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 01:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tom Parfitt travelled to Tskhinvali, in a trip organised by the Kremlin, to witness first hand the destruction caused by the battle for South Ossetia

Close to the centre of the city Russian officers led the group to the city's main hospital which was hit by small arms fire and shells during the first days of fighting. Doctors at the hospital said they had been forced to carry out operations in corridors and the basement of the building without electricity, water or light.

It seems reports of the city being leveled were a little bit of exaggeration, BUT neighborhoods definitely were leveled by Grad rockets

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 06:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Why Russia's response to Georgia was right

for some of those witnessing the fighting in the Caucasus over the past few days, the narrative is straightforward and easy. The plucky republic of Georgia, with just a few million citizens, was attacked by its giant eastern neighbour, Russia. Add to this all the stereotypes of the cold war era, and you are presented with a truly David and Goliath interpretation - with all its accompanying connotations of good and evil. While this version of events is being written in much of the western media, the facts present a different picture.


Russia's response has been targeted, proportionate and legitimate.

Russia has been accused of using the conflict to try to topple the government and impose control over the country. This is palpable nonsense.


It is clear that Georgia wants this dispute to become something more than a short if bloody conflict in the region. For decision-makers in the Nato countries of the west, it would be worth considering whether in future you want the men and women of your armed services to be answerable to Mr Saakashvili's declarations of war in the Caucasus.

Russia is a member of the Security Council, of the Group of Eight leading industrialised nations and partner with the west on issues as varied as the Middle East, Iran and North Korea. In keeping with its responsibilities as a world power and the guarantor of stability in the Caucasus, Russia will work to ensure a peaceful and lasting resolution to the situation in the region.

Worth reading in full. Interesting words are being used, like the "narrative" I flagged above.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 07:40:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Reproach for the west on its role in Georgia
By Anatol Lieven

The bloody conflict over South Ossetia will have been good for something at least if it teaches two lessons. The first is that Georgia will never now get South Ossetia and Abkhazia back. The second is for the west: it is not to make promises that it neither can, nor will, fulfil when push comes to shove.


Western governments (...) and most especially the US, bear a considerable share of the responsibility for the Georgian assault on South Ossetia and deserve the humiliation they are now suffering.


The Bush administration, backed by Congress, the Republican presidential candidate John McCain and most of the US media, also adopted a highly uncritical attitude both to the undemocratic and the chauvinist aspects of the Saakashvili administration, and its growing resemblance to that of the crazed nationalist leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia in the early 1990s.

Instead, according to European officials, the Bush administration even put heavy pressure on international monitoring groups not to condemn flagrant abuses by Saakashvili's supporters during the last Georgian elections. Ossete and Abkhaz concerns were ignored, and the origins of the conflict were often wittingly or unwittingly falsified in line with Georgian propaganda.

Finally, the US pushed strongly for a Nato Membership Action Plan for Georgia at the last alliance summit and would have achieved this if France and Germany had not resisted. Given all this, it was not wholly unreasonable of Mr Saakashvili to assume that if he started a war with Russia and was defeated, the US would come to his aid.

Yet all this time, Washington had not the slightest intention of defending Georgia, and knew it. Quite apart from its lack of desire to go to war with Russia over a place almost no American had heard of until last week, with the war in Iraq it does not have an army to send to the Caucasus.

The latest conflict is humiliating for the US, but it may have saved us from a catastrophic future: namely an offer of Nato membership to Georgia and Ukraine provoking conflicts with Russia in which the west would be legally committed to come to their aid - and would yet again fail to do so. There must be no question of this being allowed to happen - above all because the expansion of Nato would make such conflicts much more likely.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 08:31:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I will forward this to U.S. friends of mine (my brother, who is in the States right now, says that the reports on U.S. TV are cartoonishly anti-Russia).

However, aside from the obvious fact that this was written by the Russian foreign minister, I anticipate them zoning in on the following sentence:

Russia's response has been targeted, proportionate and legitimate.

Can that statement be credibly supported by more "objective" witnesses and reports?  Alternatively, can claims that Russia's response was not targeted or proportionate be easily disproved?

Cynicism is intellectual treason.

by marco on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 08:32:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From what I understand, Russia claims that 1,500 Ossetians were killed by indiscriminate early Georgian artillery assault, and Georgians are claiming a few dozen victims from Russian bombs.

So Russia's reaction seems to have been relatively limited, casualty-wise (physical damage may be another thing).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 09:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is to believe CNN and Australian TV Russians are heading toward Tbilisi as we speak and Georgian Special Forces are going to meet them...so no peace

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 08:52:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Early fears that it was headed for the capital, Tbilisi, were allayed when the convoy turned down a side road.

Chance said CNN had been told by Georgian officials that the convoy was heading for an abandoned Georgian military base.

 I thought so...They are not to be trusted...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Aug 13th, 2008 at 08:57:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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