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Is Georgia Worth Going to War Over? (update)
Posted by: McQ on Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russian troops are apparently bent on destroying the Georgian military as they continue their thrust into Georgia. The mission of Russia now appears to be "regime change" and it compares the invasion of Georgia to the US invasion of Iraq:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chafed at the criticism, likening Russia's moves against Georgia to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and using the American presence there as justification for Russian calls for the overthrow of the U.S.-allied Georgian government.

"Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages," Putin said from Moscow. "And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed 10 Ossetian villages at once, who ran over elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilians alive in their sheds —- these leaders must be taken under protection."
I've actually been waiting for this. It is the most logical way to rationalize the invasion even if it isn't a particularly good analogy for Russia to use. But one thing it does point out is that Russia believes if "regime change" is a legitimate reason for the US to invade another country, it is certainly just as legitimate for Russia to do so.

And while you can argue the differences between Iraq and Georgia until you are blue in the face, the basic premise holds, like it or not.

This is, in my opinion, one of the stronger arguments against the war in Iraq and what it provides as a rational for military moves such as that Russia is now making.

Of course the question the US has to ask is, "is Georgia worth going to war over?"

The unfortunate answer for Georgians is "no". Even if the answer were "yes", militarily we'd be hard pressed to do it.

But going to war with Russia, at any time, is the least desirable option, and Russia knows it. Georgia is in an area of the world that militarily offers Russia short supply lines, and us extended ones. Right now Russia has air supremacy over the area. And it controls the Black sea as well. Not a situation in which we would want to commit our military.

And we must realize that it would probably be only our military were we to decide such an intervention is necessary. None of our "allies" are likely to send any combat troops, even as a source of oil for Europe is threatened.

So while it is heartbreaking to see and hear Georgians wondering out loud where the US is (and expecting reciprocity for their participation in Iraq), they must be realizing by now that other than humanitarian assistance, there is no other aid coming. There is no cavalry riding to their rescue.

What Georgia painfully points out is, superpower or not, there are limits to what the US can do for its allies. While many are criticizing the US response to the crisis and recommending various types of action against Russia, in reality, Russia is going to do what it feels it needs to do and no country is really in a position to stop them.

Russia's move into Georgia will certainly damage their standing in the world, but, ironically, strengthen their position in the region. And right now, obviously, Russia finds that to be a more important position to pursue. Exactly the opposite will accrue to Georgia's erstwhile allies. They will righteously denounce Russian's invasion, but when all is said and done, their influence in the region will be severely damaged. When faced with the reality of Russia across the border vs. the promises from the West, regional states are more likely now to pay much closer attention to what Russia is all about than the West.

Is Georgia worth going to war over?


But the result is a severe loss of influence in the region and a Russia that, if it gets away with this, won't hesitate to do it again if it feels it to be necessary.

UPDATE: Russia announces an end to military operations (unverified at this time):
President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt Tuesday to Russia's military operation in Georgia, but his country remained defiant in the face of mounting international criticism of the action against its neighbor.

"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, however, said he ordered the military to defend itself and quell any signs of Georgian resistance.

"If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them," he told his defense minister at a televised Kremlin meeting.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Still really in lurking mode, but I have to say this is one post where I think your analysis is pretty good. I think the better comparison is to Serbia/Kosovo than Iraq though. My take:
Written By: Scott Erb
In the abstract sense of Russian power, it was good to see the Russian military in action. Probably a little embarrassed by the tiny scope of the mission, this could still be a mild steroidal confidence booster on the scale of a Grenada.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that the Russian population is now down to 140,000, making it less populous than Nigeria and just a tad larger than the island civilization of Japan (and but twice the population of the isolation state of Iran).

And the Georgians might have learned a lesson about bear baiting that will help them survive in the future.

Still, Russia, despite the noise about its resurgence in the form of a mob state and a "strategic partner" with this or that power conglomerate, is a civilization that’s near the end of its lifespan. And the staggering spent bear is surrounded by wolves.

With its nuclear arsenal it remains the corpse in armor it became as the Soviet Union, with one last romantic flicker about its own greatness to keep it going.

"Not with a bang, but a whimper."
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Typo: that should be 140,000,000 for the Russian population.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Just out of curiosity Bruce, what if Putin also seeks "regime change" in The Ukraine or the Baltics? Do you think we should respond militarily to help them if the worst happens?
Written By: John
Great.....another people (Georgians) who will now hate us and spit on the ground at the mere mention of our name...
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Was support for aggressive conflicts part of our alliance with them? Somehow i dont think it was, they messed with the Russians first and got that they deserved if my facts are straight.
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
It’s pretty clear that Putin wants to regain the territory lost in the last 17 years. As Martin writes above, will Russia stop with Georgia or will they move on to other newly independent countries like the Ukraine and the Baltics? Sure, they’ve made some cold, hard calculations about where and when to begin reclaiming their land, and it’s time for the US to ’man up’. If our word, and our principles are to mean ANYTHING to the rest of the world, we had better demonstrate our willingness to defend/support those principles. A close examination of the globe reveals that Iraq is but an intermediate sortie away, and we have plenty of available air assets that can provide some support. If the US starts backing down on crises that remove democratic regimes, well then every tinpot (read Chavez) that wants to grab land is going to be encouraged. Saying that ’it’s just not worth it’ sounds like moral equivalence taking hold in the conservative playbook......and that ain’t good at all.
Written By: Agricola
Was support for aggressive conflicts part of our alliance with them? Somehow i dont think it was, they messed with the Russians first and got that they deserved if my facts are straight.
I don’t think you have your facts straight then. Just looking at the facts from this year, it’s clear that the Russians have been baiting Georgia.
Written By: Keith_Indy
it’s clear that the Russians have been baiting Georgia
Yes, but the whole Georgian move toward the West had overtones of bear-baiting.

And the Russians take exception to being mocked by their former wards as their civilization lies on its death bed.

The Georgian president, who is by all appearances a good and courageous guy, perhaps got a little too deep into his own press clippings.

Also, one could not say that Russia has no strategic interest in Georgia.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
I don’t think you have your facts straight then. Just looking at the facts from this year, it’s clear that the Russians have been baiting Georgia.
yeah its very possible they are not straight, i guess im fuzzy on what exactly SO is, was it a breakaway from Georgia or Russia?
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
was it a breakaway from Georgia or Russia?
That might depend on whether you’re looking at it from a Georgian or Russian perspective.

I think (I’m guessing) that the problem is the result of the old Soviet policy of resettling non-Russian republics with ethnic Russians. Again guessing, that region (Ossetia) of what is generally thought of by Georgians as part of Georgia was a region heavily re-settled with ethnic Russians. Hence the irritant to Georgians and the interest to Russia, if my guess is correct.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
That may all be true Martin, but it seems clear that the Russians have been trying to manufacture this event for some time. If manufacture is to strong, then nudging events towards this.

SO is an autonomous republic of the Republic of Georgia.
Written By: Keith_Indy
So Sakozy said back to the original positions in Moscow.

The one thing that shouldn’t be missed in all this is that there have been reports that the Russians hadn’t amassed a force along the border, but merely rolled out from their standard positions down the dusty roads to Georgia.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
it seems clear that the Russians have been trying to manufacture this event for some time.
I don’t disagree with that.

I wasn’t trying to shift blame to the Georgians. The Sicilian mafia would have a hard time dealing with the Russians, from the point of view of reasonableness.

I’m just saying that the Georgians need not have forgotten one elemental rule: Don’t poke your stick into the hornets nest.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
The Times came clean on having referred to Senator McCain as a Vietnam-era "fighter pilot" when in fact he was shot down while at the controls of an A-4 Skyhawk - technically an attack aircraft rather than a fighter.
They also corrected the list of credits for the April 28, 1960 theater review of ’West Side Story’
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
On the bright side, all of the Europeans who assume America will come to their aid and thus skimp on their own defenses may now pay more attention. Russia may prefer to be feared than loved, but that has some silver linings for us, too.
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Just out of curiosity Bruce, what if Putin also seeks "regime change" in The Ukraine or the Baltics? Do you think we should respond militarily to help them if the worst happens?
Well that’s the idea we’ve sold them on, although their going to be much less likely to buy into it now, given the situation with Georgia.

But Georgia is in one of those unique geographical places where support is almost impossible to render quickly.

The Ukraine isn’t. Additionally, the Ukraine is a much larger country than Georgia. I’m not sure what the status of their military is but it would have to be a larger military than Georgia.

If I were the US, I’d certainly be offering training and equipment to the Ukraine (and the Baltic states).

To me, what you do to ensure the Russians get the message that Georgia was an exception is to go to work in the other areas shoring up their defenses and training their military. Russia may complain, but really hasn’t a leg to stand on given its actions in Georgia.
Written By: McQ

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