Saturday, August 9, 2008

Marching through Georgia

It was alas premature to hope the spirit of the Olympics, of Delphi, would permeate the world and declare it at peace for this period. Such hopes are revealed as pagan superstition by the tragedy of the outbreak of violence in the Caucasus, where two mighty nations align great engines of war in face of each other.

The experience of history is that Russia has to be regarded in much the same fashion as China. It is a dozing bear, whose tail must not be tweaked for one thrash of its paws can be as deadly as the mightiest roar of smaller nations.

It would be easy to misread the current crisis without deep knowledge of the situation and I confess that events have marched on somewhat in the last 150 years. The nation of Georgia, which was once part of Russia, has hopes of joining the western alliance of NATO, I gather. NATO's original aim was to contain the Russian empire which was at one time ruled by the Communist party as brutally as if by any Czar. NATO no longer declares its aim to be to keep Russia at bay, merely to maintain the peace.

I am perplexed therefore as to why Georgia appears to have launched an offensive against the tiny nation that lies between itself and Russia, a land whose name could have been conjured from a fairy-tale and whose existence, I hear, is equally magical. This land of South Ossetia has sought independent existence but Georgia has responded in the last few hours by breaching the Olympic spirit and launching an invasion.

I will not condone the Russian response; I will merely repeat that if you tug the tail of a bear it will slash with its paw. Russia has always liked to maintain a buffer zone. Rather it had been South Ossetia than Georgia.

I hear as I write a declaration from the lamentable idiot who currently, briefly presides over our great allies in America. He calls for Russia to restrain itself; rather he should order Georgia to restrain itself and withdraw troops from the Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, and he should remind it firmly that the purpose of NATO is to maintain peace. It may be he considers Georgia to be a state of the United States; more likely he is aware that Georgia has supported his preposterous adventure in Mesopotamia. If he has any influence he should use it to bring peace and justice to this region. I fear that otherwise there will be Russian troops marching through Georgia.



Geoffrey Hussein Kruse-Safford said...

The situation in Georgia is more akin to the sudden intervention by Britain on the side of the Confederate States of America during our Civil War (a situation with which you might be familiar) than the provocations of a small upstart against the innocent Russians. The Ossetians had Russian troops within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia against the express will of the government in Tblisi. They knew full well what was at stake, and after years of Ossetian provocations and intransigence took a stand on principle.

The Russians have many advantages, obviously, yet I think the destruction of Georgian independence would not be tolerated, especially as the entire goal was the autonomy of a small region in a small country. I also think it important to remember that, while bears are dangerous, they can also be cowardly, and are more fearful because of their size than any skill they might have at being destructive. They are called "maulings" for a reason. It is more akin to having a very large appliance roll over one than a skilled attack by a predator.

WEG said...

Indeed for Russia to use this as a pretext to reassimilate the free nation of Georgia would be an equal outrage. However the situation must be best compared with the region of Kosovo when, it is my understanding, NATO itself intervened to protect the autonomy of a breakaway region subject to military intervention by Serbia. It is easy for nations to feign outrage over alleged provocation; it is a mistake for them to mutate that outrage into warfare and then expect others to fall in behind them. The crisis ought to be resolved by Georgian withdrawal from South Ossetia. I am sure that wonderful institution, the United Nations, could provide peacekeepers.

I do not recall Britain made any intervention in your Civil War, although I do readily confess having misjudged aspects of the conflict in its early stages. Had it not been for the injustice and horror of the plantation system, the subsequent strength of America would not to my mind have justified the slaughter that ensued. It seems hardly likely there would have been conflict, however, had the south not been so wedded to that iniquitous system.

Geoffrey Hussein Kruse-Safford said...

I was referring, in my comment, to your speech in which you infamously said the Confederacy may have made a nation. It is my understanding of the situation that your Prime Minister was not best pleased with your performance.

No, Britain did not directly intervene - there were no British forces at Antietam or Chancelorsville - but the Alabama case certainly belies a certain, shall we say, preference. That you directed a negotiated settlement despite the inflamed rhetoric of the radical Republicans in the Senate shows your magnanimity. Yet, the incident occurred.

The UN could intervene, but Russia will most likely veto any attempt to do so. I suppose that the absorption of Georgia into greater Russia is impossible today, and would be met with diplomatic hostility. I also think the response of the American government is ridiculous. Yet, offering the province of a smaller power to a stronger power as a way of preventing a wider war smacks of another British Prime Minister, of less note than yourself.

WEG said...

It is not a question of offering the province to Russia as a means of averting war. The lives of individuals should not be traded like pawns on a board. It is my understanding that South Ossetia has a preference for autonomy and an inclination to be linked to Russia rather than Georgia.

Geoffrey Hussein Kruse-Safford said...

My dear Gladstone, I am discussing this particular issue even as we speak. I came here to take a bit of your perspective for my own discussion.

My own sense is that there is not much, in any practical manner, that can be done to alleviate this situation. Just from the perspective of logistics, any kind of material support to any side would be out of the question. I believe the UN will be neutered due to Russian insistence on the veto in the Security Council.

As to the Ossetian preference for separation from Georgia, the two referenda held on the issue were not recognized by the international community due to Ossetian refusal to allow ethnic Georgians to vote. The region has been semi-autonomous since 1992 when the Russians intervened on the side of the Ossetians (who have an ethnic enclave in the southern Russian province of North Ossetia). Yet, they have provoked the Georgians past the point of endurance, and the Georgians, knowing full well the consequences, have done what nation-states do and resorted to force as a last resort.