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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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
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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
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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
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