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The Situation in the Caucasus

BBC map of Georgia

[Map from the BBC]

It would appear that Russia wants more than a “Kosovo solution” according to BBC reporting: Russian troops in Georgia advance

Russian troops have entered Georgia from the breakaway region of Abkhazia, as the conflict between the two neighbours appears to be broadening.

Moscow said it had launched a raid on the town of Senaki to stop Georgia from attacking Russian forces in South Ossetia, another breakaway region.

And Georgia says Russian troops have captured the town of Gori in central Georgia – a claim denied by Moscow.

Russia confirmed for the first time on Monday it had advanced beyond the borders of Abkhazia, saying it had launched an operation in the town of Senaki.

A defence official told the Interfax news agency the move was intended to prevent Georgian troops from shelling South Ossetia, and to stop them from regrouping.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says the further Russia penetrates into Georgian territory, the harder it is for Moscow to claim it occupies the high ground.

But, our correspondent adds, the worrying question is – does the Russian leadership care about its reputation abroad any more?

Based on the reporting, Russia, at a minimum would seem to want all of northern Georgia, connecting the two disputed regions, and Georgia doesn’t have the resources to stop it or slow down the advance.

The US can’t do anything, and neither can NATO without a member state involvement. The only possible savior of the Georgians at this point may be the Turks, if they feel their interests are threatened by this move. The Turks don’t like Russians, and the mutual animosity goes back centuries, but there is no way of predicting when or if they might feel like acting.

The Ukraine may actually enforce their threat of denying the Black Sea fleet port rights, which leaves the Russians with a bit of a dilemma, as they have no suitable port facilities on their coastline.

All of the former republics are probably holding crisis talks at the moment.

Danger Room is reporting that Georgia is getting some help in another arena of the battle, cyberspace: Estonia, Google Help Cyberlocked Georgia

All of Georgia’s Internet connections come through Russia, and they are under a sustained denial of service attack. Some things have been shifted to Blogger, and Estonia is helping with others. Estonia had earlier been attacked in a similar fashion during a controversy with the Russians.

9 comments

1 Badtux { 08.11.08 at 11:08 pm }

It appears that now Russia has decided on regime change. They have called Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili “unhelpful” and have demanded that Georgian troops immediately surrender and disarm. Undoubtedly their next step will be to demand that Saakashvili surrender to them as a “war criminal” so that he can be hauled back to Russia and face trial for “war crimes”.

The Russian bear is a bit gimpy nowdays, not like back in the day. But you don’t taunt even a somewhat-decrepit bear, lest it show you that it still possesses a few teeth in its grizzled snout. I have absolutely no idea what Saakashvili was thinking when he decided to stage that assault upon South Ossetia… sure, legally he was right. But he’s just as dead either way, and it may be that he takes Georgia down with him, depending on what the Russians decide to do (will they go ahead and install their own puppet government and turn Georgia into a de-facto province of Russia, or will they pull back and simply tell the Georgians, “you will install a government that is acceptable to us or we come back”?).

As for the Ukraine, how, exactly, will they prevent the Russian Black Sea Fleet from going wherever it wants to go? Will they fire on the Black Sea Fleet when it attempts to dock in the Crimea? Are they really that interested in war with Russia? Curious penguins really don’t want to know, but suspect they will find out anyhow :-(.

– Badtux the War Penguin

– Badtux the Observant Penguin

2 Bryan { 08.11.08 at 11:36 pm }

I assume the Ukrainians will cut off power to the Russian base after a series of diplomatic notes is exchanged. The Ukraine may even get some European support.

The Georgian move was incredibly stupid without air support, and they don’t have any. It would appear to be a move based more on testosterone than tactics, because there is no way any American official was stupid enough to have OK’ed the action. There was nothing in place to block the moves from Abkhazia, or to deal with the Black Sea fleet.

The US training has been in small group, anti-insurgency actions, not massed troop movements and standard land warfare. This was suicide from the launch of the attack, and Putin has been signaling that for a while.

This could devolve into another Chechnya.

3 LeftLeaningLady { 08.12.08 at 8:32 am }

Bryan, thank you for paying enough attention and explaining things in ways that I can understand it. I am not a moron (mostly), but foreign affairs do confuse me. Of course, I think the most confusing thing is our country’s response to most of this stuff, because those in charge are supposed to understand. I appreciate you for being here to help me understand.

4 Michael { 08.12.08 at 10:49 am }

I also have to wonder whether the action now might not have something to do with the fact that Sochi, the Russian site for the 2014 Winter Olympics, is about 75 miles as the crow flies to the northwest of Sukhumi along the shore of the Black Sea, and about 290 miles northwest of Tblisi. If they settle the “mess” now, it’s far less likely to make them look bad on global television six years from now.

5 jams O\'Donnell { 08.12.08 at 12:24 pm }

It looks as if Medvedev has called a cease to operations but Georgia as kissed goodbye to Abkhazia and South Ossietia I can’t imagine that Russia won’t be happy until it has a pupet in place in Georgia though

6 Bryan { 08.12.08 at 12:44 pm }

LLL, I had a taxpayer funded interest in what the Soviet Union was up to for 8 years, and like to know what is going on around me, because when things go bad my neighbors in the 33rd Fighter Wing and Air Force Special Operations generally get forced into it.

I had forgotten about that, Michael, and it certainly would have played a role in the new Tsar’s thinking. They are very concerned about perceptions of Russia, more for internal consumption than external at the moment, but both are considered.

Georgia wasn’t ready, Jams, and I wouldn’t assume it’s over, not matter what is being said to the media. Propaganda is flowing from both sides. Regime change is definitely going to be a demand, as the goal switched from a “Kosovo solution” to an “Iraq solution”. Another gift from the Hedgemony to the world.

7 Michael { 08.12.08 at 2:14 pm }

I wouldn’t have thought about it myself, Bryan, if I hadn’t heard something on “Marketplace’s” morning report on NPR the other day about the billions Russia was pumping into Sochi to make it a showplace. Then when I saw your map today I got to thinking, fired up Google Earth, and got out the ruler and measured the distance.

8 Kryten42 { 08.12.08 at 10:07 pm }

Putin won’t back down. As you say Bryan, he has both domestic and international reasons. China had it’s *coming out party* with the Olympics (especially the opening ceremony), and Russia wants to show the World it’s a player, and if Putin can show that the USA is impotent as a bonus, people will love him. The USA has expended all it’s *good will capitol* in World affairs, and Russia is building up theirs. Putin *really* can’t stand Bush, and he knows who the real players in the USA are. When Bush made his recent speech about Georgia, I am sure Putin had a laughing fit and it just spurred him on, you can see that from the timing and the increase in aggression. If Bush really wants to help anyone, someone should just duct tape his mouth, though it’s several years too late for that now. 🙂

9 Bryan { 08.12.08 at 10:40 pm }

They are going all out, Michael, just like they did for the bid for the Olympics. It is going to cost them, because Sochi has always been considered a summer beach resort, and not associated with winter sports. All of the facilities will have to be created from scratch.

The Shrubbery wandered the world annoying people. He is such an obnoxious twit that even countries that have vital interests in common with the US don’t want to support anything the US does.

Georgia just found out what Iraqi Shi’ia already learned, no one in the family is trustworthy or keeps their word.

I’m having Bay of Pigs flashbacks, same problem, no air support. McClatchy reported that Georgian forces were making progress on the ground before their units were subjected to aerial attacks.