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The Bear resurgent
Posted by: McQ on Monday, August 11, 2008

The Russian invasion of Georgia is more than just a military action, it is a statement to the world that Russia is back and seeking to regain its superpower status.

In a carefully chosen military action, it is essentially thumbing its nose at the West and especially NATO.

I say carefully chosen because unlike the Ukraine, for instance, there is very little if anything we can do of any immediacy to help Georgia right now. Mounting any sort of military operation would be extremely difficult without the ability to support them from, say Turkey or Armenia if we're talking about ground and airforces. Getting the permission to do that is very unlikely.

That leaves the sea and the same sorts of difficulties. Again, permission to push a fleet through narrows of the Dardanelles is not likely. It would also be of limited military value. And then we'd face a Russian Black Sea fleet.

Rumors of an amphibious landing on the western coast of Georgia seem unlikely. It doesn't appear an operation like that will be necessary. Russian troops have pushed through South Ossetia into the Georgian town of Gori, effectively cutting the country in half. Tblisi is isolated to the east. The other breakaway province of Abkhazia, in NW Georgia, is also effectively in Russian hands.

While Georgia pretty much brought this about by invading South Ossetia Friday, it is obvious by the quick reaction that Russia anticipated the move and was more than prepared to counter it. And their counter-attack was an overwhelming attack with a purpose. It is also obvious that the plan involved going beyond what most observers consider to be the logical stopping point if the purpose was only to repel the Georgian attack into South Ossetia.

Russia, it would seem, is making a statement. One part of the statement has to do with NATO and the reality, not the promise, of the protection it does offer to those former Warsaw Pact nations (and new nations which were formed when the USSR disintegrated). Or said another way, it is demonstrating what NATO is and isn't willing to go to war over - and it seems Russia has a very good handle on that. NATO isn't going to go to war over Georgia. Nor is the US.

Of course that's not what Georgia expected.
As a Russian jet bombed fields around his village, Djimali Avago, a Georgian farmer, asked me: “Why won’t America and Nato help us? If they won’t help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?”

A similar sense of betrayal coursed through the conversations of many Georgians here yesterday as their troops retreated under shellfire and the Russian Army pressed forward to take full control of South Ossetia.
Of course the expectations of Georgians are pretty unrealistic. A) it was Georgia who started the conflict - NATO is a defensive organization which is under no obligatin to back aggression by one of its members (and Georgia isn't yet a member). B) it is obvious Georgia completely miscalculated the Russian response. And C) by the time NATO or the US could actually respond in force, the conflict will be over.

So back to Russia, if part of their action is to demonstrate the impotence of NATO to the new nations formed out of the old USSR, what else is it trying to say?

I think it is saying it is no longer the shambling, bumbling, toothless bear of the recent past. It is demonstrating in a very visible way that it can again project power, at least militarily, within its region and do it both swiftly, decisively and overwhelmingly. If you don't think the Ukraine and other bordering nations aren't paying attention, you're wrong. At a minimum, this will indeed change the balance of power within the region.

While Russia is nowhere near the power it once was, it is no longer an impotent state either, and it has just served warning that it will no longer stand idly by and allow what it considers to be assaults on its sovereignty to go unanswered.

How does that relate to us and what is going on in Georgia? Well, regardless of how resurgent the Russian military is, it still can't stand up to ours and they know it. So they will pick their battles carefully until they feel they're capable of doing so (if necessary). Georgia is perfect example of that. They know perfectly well that neither NATO or the US can really do much, militarily, to aid the Georgians. Russia has a 1.1 million man military, Georgia has about 37,000. The time and basing factors preclude any meaningful intervention on our part. About all we can do is put intense diplomatic pressure on them to stop the invasion and withdraw.

Endgame? Most likely they "get" South Ossetia and perhaps Abkhazia out of the deal. I say "get" meaning they will exercise control over what will become "autonomous regions."

A bit of payback over Kosovo, whose independence the Russians opposed. Georgia will regain its sovereignty but at the price of those two areas and with the understanding that Russia holds the mortgage on it and will foreclose at the slightest provocation and there isn't much the West or NATO is willing or able to do about it.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

So where at the western anti war groups?

Oh yeah, it is only our wars that are bad. True colors.
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
Written By: shark
URL: http://
" it is demonstrating what NATO is and isn’t willing to go to war over - and it seems Russia has a very good handle on that"

Let us hope so.

"they will exercise control over what will become "autonomous regions.""

Or maybe they will do what the Soviet Union did after the breakup of Tsarist Russia; they will reabsorb all (or as many as they can get away with) the little countries that gained independence when the old Russian empire collapsed. The independent Republic of Georgia was invaded by the USSR in 1922.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Delurking to correct what I believe to a misapprehension of McQ’s part:
A) it was Georgia who started the conflict - NATO is a defensive organization which is under no obligatin to back aggression by one of its members (and Georgia isn’t yet a member).
McQ, Georgia claims, and I have no doubt of it, that it’s artillery fire into South Ossetia was in response to SO separatists firing into Georgia. That fire could not have been undertaken without the collusion of the Russian "peacekeepers" swarming in South Ossetia. Also, the almost instant mobilization of logistics supported combined arms columns has not been Russia’s forte—ergo they had these forces ready to go before Georgia fired a shot.

We couldn’t have gotten a reprisal raid into, say, Mexico on 24 hours notice unless we already had the troops ready to go with supplies and intelligence. I don’t believe the Russians can do it if we can’t.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
Written By: Tom Perkins
I certainly understand there is more to the story, Tom, but right now that’s a Georgian claim that is unsubstantiated, at least as far as the NATO decision-making process would be concerned.

Obviously you (and the Georgians) could be right - but I don’t believe NATO will see it as a provocative enough reason to invade (or so their rationalization will go).

BTW - decloak more often will you?
Written By: McQ
The Daily Mail has a good map of the conflict:

Currently Russia is one of the only major world powers that is a nex exporter of both food and oil. This places them in a position of comparative strength in the current petro supply shock situation the world economy is in with the accompanying food difficulties. Their fuel supply leverage on continental Europe is huge, and they have additional money and power to pursue some of their ambitions. While crushing Shalikashvili is nice, this conflict may really be about control over the Baku-T’blisi-Ceyhan pipeline (2002 map).

That being said, since the preparations for this offensive must have started at least 4 months ago, the timing is very interesting. Operating under cover of Olympics indicates to me that the Russians are still not operating from a position on complete strength as far as they themselves perceive it. The USSR would make a move like this any day of the week, not wait for everyone to be looking the other way.

What REALLY makes me worried is that US intelligence appears to have been caught flatfooted by this event. I see no evidence that US policymakers have been advised in advance to begin factoring Georgia into their equations, even in such a little way as to create a diplomatic deterrent with a few blandishments specific to Georgia. So either the US has already decided to throw Georgia under the bus in every way - which I see as less likely - or we’re caught totally off guard.
Written By: nmj3e
URL: http://
What REALLY makes me worried is that US intelligence appears to have been caught flatfooted by this event.
REALLY why are you surprised or worried...the US intelligence services almost NEVER catch wind of these things...Prague 1968...Yom Kippur 1973...Fall of the Shall 1979... Iraqi agression v. Kuwayt 1990...Collapse of the USSR/Fall of the Berlin Wall.

To be fair, these are events that might be difficult to predict, but nonetheless I don’t think we had any forewarning, or not much more than 24-72 hours of warning.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Well, I guess I’m the last true cynic, other than George Bush, with my take on this.

I see this as payin’ it forward — in other words the price demanded by Putin from the U.S. — for an Israeli hit on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The Russians will get off with a slap on the wrist for this and they will in turn "round up the usual suspects" when the Israelis act.

At the end of the day the Russians will have carved some steaks off of Georgia and the Iranians will have some nuclear facilities made into landfills (via Israel’s use of advanced U.S. bunker-busters).

Then the Israelis will settle some scores with Hezbollah’s terrorists in Lebanon while the Iranians scream into the void about Israeli terrorism. Putin will use the Iranian mullah or two he controls (by my theory—remember, Putin is KGB) to keep the Iranians on the reservation. And if Mookie acts up in Iraq, he’ll finally get one in the head.

The only thing the U.S. could do about the Russians would be to try to isolate them and that would cause Putin to walk the long way around, which he’s already doing anyway.

Putin gets a double on this one, because he doesn’t want the mullahs having nuclear weapons either. So he gets benefits for allowing something to his benefit, with the added benefit that he can afterwards still commiserate with the Iranians.

One thing that occurs to me is whether, if Putin secretly guaranteed the Iranians protection, he can get off with a shrug and a "what do you want from me; you think I need a war with the Americans?"

So, if Putin chose the Olympics as the time for his Georgian operation, what will coincide with the Israelis hitting Iranian nukes? The U.S. political conventions?
Written By: Martin McPhillips
I see this as payin’ it forward — in other words the price demanded by Putin from the U.S. — for an Israeli hit on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
I believe something like that is in the works. I’m curious to see what the Iranians do now. I’m also curious to see when Iran manages to obtain and field those new air defense radar systems they’ve been waiting for.

Am I the only one to find it extremely surprising that oil prices didn’t jump? It’s almost like having a standoff between superpowers is a calming influence on the markets.
Written By: Arcs
URL: http://
... Djimali Avago, a Georgian farmer, asked me: "Why won’t America and Nato help us? If they won’t help us now, why did we help them in Iraq?"

Dude, we’re really good at hanging people out to dry. Ask the Hungarians. And the Czechs. And the South Vietnamese. And (if the dems have anything to do with it), the Iraqis.

nmj3e: What REALLY makes me worried is that US intelligence appears to have been caught flatfooted by this event.

It often appears to me that the intelligence community is good for exactly two things: leaking classified info to the press and making excuses for its failures.

"You mean the Japanese fleet could be off Diamond Head right now and you wouldn’t know it?"
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
I don’t necessarily believe that the paying it forward analogy is a certainty.

I believe they could be pushing the envelope whenever and wherever they can.

At the least, they are not interested in the status quo.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Georgia has been increasing its military strength steadily. It makes sense the Russians would have been preparing their own troops as well. However, I am starting to agree that the super-rapid response by the Russians means that even with contingency plans, they essentially were a little too ready to go.

I wonder if we have satellite photos that show the preparations?
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

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