Behind the headlines on Russia-Georgia conflict
By Aditya Ganapathiraju at Sep 02, 2008
As East-West tensions flared at the beginning of August, the media has told a "good guy" versus "bad guy" narrative, especially in the US mainstream news. But many important details have been left out of discussion.
When the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered the military offensive to retake Southern Ossetia August 7, it triggered a massive Russian counter-attack and subsequent occupation of Georgia proper.
The intelligence company Stratfor concluded that the U.S. must have had prior knowledge of the initial Georgian offensive considering the US military advisers in country and satellite surveillance of troop movements. Stratfor concluded that the US viewed Russia through the "prism of the 1990s," when it was in much worse condition militarily and economically and "assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion," in retaliation.
The Russian counterattack on August 8 was executed within hours of the Georgian offensive and was likely carefully planned for some time. Many have wondered why the tiny country of Georgia and its leader would have considered such a bold and aggressive move against Russia, the regional military and economic power.
"Saakashvili's buddies in the White House and the Office of the Vice President kept egging him on," senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, David L Phillips, told the Los Angeles Times.
The provocation, Phillips believes was done despite the State Department's repeated attempts urging Saakashvili to restrain his actions. Nevertheless, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in July to Saakashvili "[w]e always fight for our friends," according to the LA Times report, which painted a picture of a White House that was sending the Georgian leader "mixed signals."
To the West, Georgia's Saakishvili "Rose Revolution" as well as the other "color revolutions" in the former Soviet states like Ukraine represent the advancement of freedom and Western values while preventing unfavorable leaders friendly to Moscow from gaining power.
Russia on the other hand, sees these revolutions as a CIA and National Endowment for Democracy- funded effort to encircle Russia with NATO forces, despite former presidents George H. W. Bush's and Bill Clinton's promise not to expand the Cold War alliance into former Soviet Union territory.
A telling but virtually ignored event occurred at UN shortly after fighting broke out. Russia called an emergency Security Council meeting Friday morning, the 8th and submitted a three-sentence draft resolution calling for both sides to "to renounce the use of force," according to Reuters. The United States, Britain, and others backed Georgia in blocking the resolution.
According to Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, there was an "absence of political will" in the Security Council. Apparently, Washington was expecting a quid pro quo from Russia to support new tougher sanctions on Iran in exchange for support for the resolution, former career Indian diplomat M K Bhadrakumar wrote in Asia Times.
The conflict has brought forth claims of large-scale atrocities including reports of ethnic cleansing and targeting of civilians both by the initial Georgian offensive as well as the Russian counterattack and occupation, as Human Rights Watch and media outlets on the ground like Reuters, The Independent and Al Jazzera reported.
Despite the bloodshed, recent events in the Caucasus will be a boon for the US military establishment as the Wall Street Journal reported in an article titled "Attack on Georgia Gives Boost to Big U.S. Weapons Programs"
While Sec. of Defense Robert Gates has tried to limit expensive new military systems like the $143 million dollar F-22 Raptor jet due to their ineffectiveness in the US's current wars, fighting in the Caucasus has renewed efforts by companies to push for these programs.
One stock analysis company told the Journal the fighting in the region is "a bell-ringer for defense stocks."
Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Democrat John Murtha, remarked the US has spent so many resources in Iraq and Afghanistan that it's ignoring "future threats," with others in the defense establishment pointing to Russia and China as potential adversaries this.
The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power. Stratfor. August 12, 2008 http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/r who usso_georgian_war_and_balance_power
Georgia war rooted in US 'self-deceit' Inter Press Service. August 26, 2008 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH26Ag02.html
Georgia Conflict May Spark New US Policy Battle over Russia" The Los Angeles Times August 13, 2008 http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/washingtondc/la-fg-usrussia13-2008aug13,0,729074.story
The Evil Empire Revisited" Philip Giraldi. Antiwar.com August 26, 2008 http://www.antiwar.com/orig/giraldi.php?articleid=13356
"South Ossetia Leader Says 1400 Killed in Conflict" The Independent. (See bottom for paragraphs for UN events) August 8, 2008 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-strikes-as-%20georgia-moves-against-rebels-888487.html
"The end of the post-Cold War era." M K Bhadrakumar. Asia Times. August 13, 2008 http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH13Ag02.html
"Wrong on Russia" Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett. The National Interest. August 20, 2008 http://www.nationalinterest.org/PrinterFriendly.aspx?id=19606
Refugees 'escape horror' of South Ossetia battle. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. August 11, 2008 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/08/11/2331118.htm
"Georgia: Join Treaty Banning Cluster Munitions, Government Acknowledges Using Weapon Against Russian Forces." Human Rights Watch http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/09/01/georgi19722.htm
"Georgians tell of ethnic cleansing." The Independent. August 20, 2008 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/georgians-tell-of-ethnic-cleansing-902908.html
Al Jazeera report on atrocities. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvhgfQijYdM
Attack on Georgia Gives Boost to Big US Weapon Systems. Wall Street Journal. August 16, 2008 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121884933721146317.html?mod=googlenews_wsj