Friday, August 08, 2008

Georgia's First Strike

I had no idea.

Georgia has restarted fighting in South Ossetia, a breakaway republic discreetly backed by Russia. At the time of writing, based on reports in the Russian news media, the rebel capital of Tskhinvali has been captured... and levelled. Georgian forces have announced an imminent three-hour ceasefire to allow refugees to leave the warzone through a safe corridor.

Georgia's casus belli, as far as I can tell, is the bombing of Georgian towns by military aircraft originating in South Ossetia. It and Abkhazia have been a source of provocation for Georgia for months now, and there has been some convincing evidence that the Russian military was actively involved. (A Georgian aerial drone was shot down by a MiG-29, and neither the Abkhaz forces nor the Russian peacekeepers within Abkhazia proper have that type of aircraft.) Georgia itself has been the object of much of Russia's ire in the last couple of years, including an economic blocade and persecution of ethnic Georgians living in Russia.

There has been a scarily plausible opinion going around that as the Beijing Olympics kick off and the world's attention is elsewhere, Russia would make a move. Georgia was visibly spooked by the lack of support from the West, including Germany's block of NATO membership for the country.

It seems that Georgia has considered a military aggression on the part of Russia and/or its rebel allies inevitable, and has decided to make the first move.


Mingus said...

Why can't Russia leave people the fuck alone? Georgia obviously feels cornered, so if they really have begun hostilities, I seriously doubt it was of their own accord.

Giustino said...

It seems to have caught Medvedev off guard. He's conferring with advisers.
The problem is that he's down in the polls and needs to out-Putin Putin. I have no idea what's going to be his response.

Mingus said...

Medvedev is irrelevant.

Alex said...

I'm watching Putin live at the Olympics at the opening ceremonies. Funny enough, the announcer on Eurosport live referred to him as President Putin, but then corrected himself to say PM.

Giustino said...

Medvedev is irrelevant.

In the decision making process, probably. But I think we overestimate the pyramid of political power which he allegedly sits atop.

Medvedev (and Putin) have had to put up with a lot of hardliners whining about Georgia for some time.

They have to show them that they are capable of responding in this situation.

Should he invade the Baltics then where Russians are "discriminated"?

There is no pretext for any kind of military conflict, plus, if they invaded Latvia, they'd wind up shelling their own "compatriots."

It will be interesting to see how this is settled, though. It will be a new lesson in understanding the security issues of the post-Soviet space.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second. Who has been fomenting seccession and rebellion and causing trouble in South Ossetia? Who is using this as a vehicle - as a model for possible future aggression in the Crimea, in Transistria and who knows where? Not Georgia. "First strike" my butt. The USSR shelled its own territory in 1939 and claimed Finland aggressed. This is a Russian setup. People be wary of convoluted thought and demagogic arguments.


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