Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia/Georgia: The Political Entrepreneur's War

The Russian attack on the Georgia is all about political entrepreneurs seizing their opportunities to make a very bad situation worse.

How bad is the situation in Georgia?

First a Little History.

Georgia was formed out of the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

But South Ossetia didn't want to be part of Georgia any more than Georgia wanted to be part of the Russian Confederation.

As a result, South Ossetia rebelled in 1992 and established itself as an autonomous "breakaway republics" with Russian help.

Eventually, Russian peacekeepers were introduced into South Ossetia to keep the two sides apart.

The Four-Cornered Mess.

Side 1. South Ossetia seeks independence and has allied itself with the Russians against Georgia's authority.

Side 2. The Russians have been eager to help South Ossetia because they want to be the predominate power in the Caucasus region. They also have a grudge against Georgia for their original secession.

Side 3. Georgia wants to re-establish its authority in South and has sought an alliance with the United States as a counter-weight to the South Ossetian alliance with Russia. Georgia has been trying to join NATO as a way to make their problems with Russia into America's and Europe's problems with Russia.

Side 4. American neo-conservatives have welcomed Georgia with open arms because they want to extend American influence around Russia's borders and because they want to block the Russians as often as they can.

The Action Commences.

For some reason, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia decided that he had an opportunity to attack South Ossetia militarily and re-establish Georgian sovereignty. So, Georgia attacked and at least temporarily seized the capital of South Ossetia. But Georgia has a tough calculation to make. The Russians have a peacekeeping force in South Ossetia and could be expected to react to an attack on their peacekeepers if nothing else. President Saakashvili must have calculated that "international pressure" would keep the Russian counter-attack from being very effective.

But Saakashvili was very mistaken.

It turns out that the Russians viewed the Georgian attack on South Ossetia as a golden opportunity to take "a miserable country like Georgian and throw them up against the wall" as a way to demonstrate Russian power.

And that's what Russia's been doing as they've not only repulsed the Georgian offensive against South Ossetia but launched wider attacks inside Georgia. They've been showing Georgia and everybody else who wants to see that defying Russia carries a big price.

What about the United States?

I imagine that most Americans don't care about Georgia and South Ossetia any more than they care about Inner Mongolia. For neo-conservatives however, the Russian attack on Georgia is a golden opportunity to create a permanent Cold War kind of state between the United States and Russia. In general, neo-cons do not want to see countries like Russia and China emerge as "regional powers" with "spheres of influence" around their borders. They view that as a threat to America's status as the only global super-power. As a result, the neo-cons want to treat Russia as an enemy state and view Russian moves against countries like Georgia as equivalent to Russia attacking Canada or France. This is what John McCain is doing with his belligerent statements about the Russians. He's using the South Ossetia situation as an opportunity to define Russia as an enemy and show how tough he would be in the face of that enemy.

And how tough can the U. S. be concerning Russia?

Not very.

The bottom line is that there's no support in the U. S. for a military confrontation with Russia over Georgia and South Ossetia. Besides our military is tied up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But McCain's not worried about being tough. He wants to establish "talking tough" as the core of American policy with Russia.

Just what we need.


Anonymous said...

I guess everyone has forgotten about Chechnya and any lesson to be learned from it if there was one.

Ric Caric said...

Perhaps Georgia wanted to turn South Ossetia into another Chechnya.

Anonymous said...

Russia started war against Georgian forces because they killed over 2000 civilians in the capital of South Ossetia.