The Caucasus War: It Is About More than “a Kosovo for a Kosovo” Now

America’s stake in the Caucasus war just went up.

In the past 24 hours, the Russians launched offensive operations beyond the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, marking a dramatic expansion in their war aims — well beyond the putative casus bellum of protecting Russian citizens. (It should be recalled that these “citizens” are Abkhaz and Ossetian locals who were issued Russian passports without, for the most part, ever setting foot in Russia.)

The town of Gori, in Georgia proper, is apparently the first to face a determined Russian assault. Georgian Zugdidi, just south of the second front erupting from Abkhazia, is also apparently occupied, though reportedly ceded by fleeing Georgians. It’s Gori, though, where the real fight is: and a look at the terrain around Stalin’s hometown tells why. This map shows Gori at the southern end of the plain to which the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali is the northern entrance. (Recall that this war began with a Georgian assault on Tskhinvali; they’ve been tossed clear down against the mountains in two days.) Gori sits on a pass leading into a long valley that slopes toward the southeast. About 50 miles at the other end of that valley, against that long blue lake in the lower right-hand corner of the map, is the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

In light of the recent, and somewhat frantic, Georgian offers of truce, there aren’t many reasons to take Gori if the Russians are merely interested in the direct protection of their clients. Though it wouldn’t be entirely out of character for the Russian army to simply bludgeon a city because it’s there, the logic of events lends credence to what America’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, charged today: that the Russians seek the overthrow of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The synopsis of the exchange, at the UN Security Council’s emergency meeting on Georgia, between Khalilzad and Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, makes for chilling reading:

Mr. KHALIZAD (United States) …. went on to say that Mr. Churkin had referred to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s phone conversations with United States State Secretary Condoleezza Rice this morning, a conversation that raised serious questions about Russia’s objectives in the conflict. Mr. Lavrov had said that President Saakashvili, the democratically elected President of Georgia, “must go”, which was completely unacceptable and “crossed the line”. Was Russia’s objective regime change in Georgia, the overthrow of the democratically elected Government of that country?
Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) …. said “regime change” was an American expression that Russia did not use. As was known from history, different leaders came to power either democratically or semi-democratically, becoming an obstacle to their people’s emergence from difficult situations. The Russian Federation was encouraged by Mr. Khalilzad’s public reference to that, which meant he was ready to bring it into the public realm.
Mr. KHALILZAD (United States) asked whether the goal of the Russian Federation was to change the leadership of Georgia.
Mr. ALASANIA (Georgia) said that, as he had heard Mr. Churkin, the question asked and the answer received had confirmed that what Russia was seeking was to change the democratically elected Georgian Government.
Mr. CHURKIN (Russian Federation) suggested that he had given a complete response and perhaps the United States representative had not been listening when he had given his response, perhaps he had not had his earpiece on.

Dealing with Churkin is rarely pleasant, but the facts in Georgia now — and especially the assault on Gori — render this episode something more than one of his usual tantrums.
Here’s where America’s stake goes up. As I noted when this war kicked off in earnest, the Georgian state blundered into this with eyes open, and Saakashvili is not the sort of man to whom we ought to harness our own policy. Were the Russians content to merely fulfill their putative war aims of 48 hours ago, and strictly occupy Abkhaz and Ossetian territory — in other words, were Moscow content to deliver a Kosovo for a Kosovo — this would be painful but acceptable, and not worth a showdown between America and Russia. A Russian overthrow of the Georgian government, coupled with what must be some sort of occupation, is altogether different. It would mark the explicit debut of Russia as a post-Cold War revisionist state in fact, and not just in rhetoric; it would be an explicit repudiation of the post-World War Two order in Europe, as the first inter-state aggression of its sort since 1945; and it would be an explicit warning to those seeking America’s friendship and the aegis of NATO.
Defending the standards of Europe’s long peace, preserving the strategic outcomes of the Cold War, and upholding the credibility of the institutional guarantor of that peace and the winner of that war: these are things worth acting for — and yes, worth fighting for.
None of this is to argue that the United States must now fight Russia for Georgia. On a pragmatic level, there is no American manpower to spare, and the risk of such a confrontation spreading is too great. The Vice President has told Saakashvili that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered,” and one hopes he has not leapt direct to the idea of armed force. (There is, though, much the West may do to help the Georgians help themselves short of that, from imagery sharing to signals intelligence to resupply.) But we must understand and swiftly come to grips with the realities of what this war costs us, and the institutions — NATO in particular — that protect us.
Already we see that several of our allies, and aspirants to that status, are tremendously alarmed at Russia’s war on Georgia. They understand what it signifies, because they remember all too well suffering aggression from the same source. As that memory drove them to seek refuge in alliance with us within NATO, it befits us to justify their confidence as an ally should. We noted yesterday the extraordinary joint communique from the Presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that condemned Russia’s “imperialist and revisionist policy in the East of Europe.” Poignantly, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, is now allowing the Georgian government — whose online portals are blocked by Russian action — to use his own official website to disseminate news and photographs on the war. Most remarkably, Ukraine, which hosts the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol, is threatening to bar Russian access to the port. Ukraine was one of the two states denied a NATO Membership Action Plan at the NATO summit last April, specifically because of fears of Russia’s reaction. The other was Georgia.
America’s stake in the Caucasus war just went up. It may be too late to save Georgia — though we ought, within limits, to help Georgia save itself — but it is not too late to contain the damage to America and its allies that Georgia’s tragedy inflicts. As the Russian tanks roll toward Tbilisi, we should think hard about how far we’re willing to go to do it.

Placerea e de partea mea, Akira/The pleasure is mine, Akira

Since you are have knowledge of international law, I have to read your posts carefully. Also, my English forces me to spend more time.
But since you are so kind, I will answer back to some of your statements. I agree with some of your pov, with others I don't. Hope I don't upset you so soon.

I try not to be naive; that was my answer to onecent: talking about principles when the actual course regarding Russia was predictable from 1991 - not after this date - is at best laughable. Near abroad is a concept designed to permit practical - not formal - measures to maintain Russia's influence where they want to. Because they choose who their neighbours are. I assume you know the joke, but it is also true; and it has direct pratical consequences; is not a metaphysical statement.

Russia ended her negociations with China regarding their border: 3220km !!!! It took 22-23 years to remove a conflict 300 years old between two great expansionist countries. And they cannot solve teritorial issues with these small countries ? But it is these conflicts which enables them to hang on their wish: world power at - almost - any cost; for others mainly.
WEurope included. Do you need a Harvard degree to see that ? Only if you live 5000km away from millions who can give you the same degree for free and in 3 minutes. So yes, that is my point.

If you say Stalin gave G. those two teritories it become even more complicated. The only acceptable peaceful sollution would be negotiations among Russia, Geo, Abh. and O. Without these, all you get is conflict, military or otherwise.

Kossovo has cosmic proportions: US, WE, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, SA -and maybe Sudan - against Serbia. Austria's plan was semipublic since 80s. There are 7000 Iranians established in K.and Bosnia. Yes, I also believe Serbia inherited K.; and this is easy to see. Historically and legally Serbia is right. If Albanians don't want Serbian rule this is something else. But US said all the time it is about law. No, it was defeating communism in EE starting with Yug. And afterwards it was inertia only. They should think why you have this reaction...Mine is less stronger

Well, with Georgia and NATO: I think you are wrong here; even with Saak.behaviour, G. and Ukr. received an informal OK at Bucharest. I don't remember the details; but this is certain. The documents issued at the end leaved no doubt. It was public here. I am to lazy - sorry- to find the document. Also, it was a context attached to that paper which made 100% sure this interpretation. Also, it was scheduled - again, all true - an Nato inspection in Georgia after september 1st. To asses their readiness for being accepted in December. Maybe I will remember the details I mentioned above. The shield negotiations were also mentioned by analysts - well connected - and politicians, not by journalists. Remember the histeria back then ; now the shield is a Nato opperation, not US only. That's why Fr. and Ger. got involved.

Again, we say the same; it is not about K.; it is about the full complications brought by US/WE policies. There is no way to describe their actions. Oh, I forgot: Kishore Mabubani, said 3 months ago at BBC: geopolitical incompetence. And he said it with the utmost contempt he could display; and he's one the best diplomats in the world ! If a diplomat at this level has this behaviour...

Americans complain we see them in stereotypes. R. Hallbrooke proved 3-5 years ago as the embodyment of american stupidity when approaching conflicts. I couldn't believe my ears...but the guy confirmed word for word.

To be clear: I reffer to achieving good results and leaving no loose ends; "stupidity" reffers to this objective. They should remember they are dealing with people; far more complicated the all the machines. Not all of us are Americans/westerners: enlightened, civilized, etc. And if they don't kill us all, then they should think they are handling highly difficult situations...

In addition: @onecent

I forgot to give onecent some informations.

Russians had 300 peacekeepers under OSCE agreements, I repeat. They said G. attacked the peacekeepers and their army had to protect them and the Russian nationals: Osetians - and Abh. -have Russian passports and nationality.
Moreover, Russians documented at OSCE and UN every incident before 11 Aug. Georgians did not.
This is what I meant with Russians playing by the book.
I don't know if Russian intervention is covered by the agreement. But their case is obviously covered with practical arguments - Russian specialty -: since georgians attacked our troops, and breached the agreement, we had to react with our forces.

I don't support Russia. They support themselves pretty well. And if my posts look angry, I am not. But if there is a distance between words and deeds of such magnitude and regarding basic knowledge, what other tone I have to use other than sarcastic and what other word should I use other than "ridiculous", if I want to describe what happens there ? Not to support Russia, but to show what happens.

What I said about Harvard degree is exagerated, obviuosly. But Russia's behaviour is basic knowledge for the commoners from Chech, Romania, Poland, Georgia, Armenia, Hungary, Slovakia. You need the degree to solve the issues, but the problems are known.

So, I don't talk about Russia being right. I reffer to what do you know about Russia and to what can you do if you know. Attacking Russia from the pov of higher principles, when you depend so tight on Gazprom and when you have billions invested in Russia ?! - and you have to invest to keep the system working; from the bussines pov, almost everything is brilliant in Russia now. This is why Medevedev was elected as president ... by Putin. And Russia is needed in "the war on terror".


Please, it was a pure pipeline grab by the Russians. It was also a warning shot at other ex-Soviet countries, specifically Crimea and Ukraine.

The Russians never change. This was as well choreographed with troops and ships assembled in position as their venture into Afghanistan. And, the smear that the Georgians were intentionally firing on civilians isn't worth much more than any of their other decades worth of Soviet/Russian disinformation. The devastation to Georgian civilians is there for the world to see.  Russians lie. They lie a lot.

The Russian "peacekeepers" were clandestinely arming and supporting the separatists.

You sound more like the hordes of  native Russian apologists that have been showing up in media  comments and on blog sites than a Romanian.


The analysis here said nothing about the pipelines - there are three, aren't they ? Not because there are not there; they said the pipelines are not significant compared with North-Stream and South-Stream.

I wrote about trying to win a confrontation with Russia when you know you cannot win. Of course it is about Ukraine also; I told you I watch the news here; this is all over here; you can not miss this connection. 30 min. ago I watched another piece about Crimeea and the Russian majority there; another one was yesterday. Why Ukr. president helps Saak. ? This was not on the news, but it is obvious; NATO membership of his country is also under threat.
onecent, despite what appeared to happen at the Nato summit, both Ukr. and G. were not rejected, this also was obvious. They -Fr. and Ger. - tried to play a game with Putin hoping for him to accept the shield. Nato countries vowed in their final statement to accept U. and G. applications in December. The Russians saw this, hence the methodical destructions of military bases and roads; again this is obvious.

In those regions are two kinds of Russians troops: peacekeepers accepted via international agreements and Russian regular troops, the 57th army. I think these guys - 57th - were providing arms in the open: why should they hide ? The "breakaway" status - not the indepedency - was recognized internationally - as a "de facto" element. It's not me being apologetic, but if the facts are like that ...?
You expected me attacking Russia: unfortunately, this is useless; because this was preventable. You either prevent a Russian buildup on the ground - and this prevention did not happen, or you don't attack them. Just attacking Russia goes with the principle only; you must have support on the ground. And this wasn't there.
It is not enough, onecent, to notice what happens at Russia's borders and their objectives. You have also to ask what can you do.

So, why do you want to give Russia a chance to win everything they want ? Using principles and speeches about democracy and respect do no help Georgia and U. if the international context is not in their favor. I saw a lot of comments on CNN and BBCWNews about the possible international answers: opinions varied from "We cannot do anything" to "We cannot do anything".

It is in my country's interest to have both G.and Ukr. in Nato and EU, not outside.

This outcome, onecent,has been (again)obvious from early '90s; why do you think Moscow maintains this confusing situation on the ground ? Btw, do you think they really want Abh. and Osetia to become Russian teritories or they want to maintain the current situation ? They have the power to prevent both Geor. and Ukr. becoming independent from Russia; if you don't have big chances against them, then do nothing; it is bad for you. That was my point. Not about Ru. being right. And in particular it was about Mr. Trevino not being right; in details, that is. Because he was right regarding the big picture. Saak. as president is the best choice for them; you know why.

About Saak., again: why would they remove him when they had the opportunity to remove his military ?

And yes, Osetians and Abk. procedeed to ethnic clensing. I know. And can you have an effective answer to this ?

If you can contradict me about facts, onecent, ok; talks about principles are useless.

And Kossovo is playing well for the Russians; it is for propaganda purposes only, yet. But it works. Again, do you have something practical at your disposal ?


Sorry for my English.

I am from Romania.
I wanted at first to have a debate with Akira (are you a she or a he ?)for being to strongly in favor of Russia, but in the end I saw she/he is right with almost all he/she said. Dobr den/vetcher is appropriate, Akira ? Until then: Salut !

There were TV debates here with diplomats, academics, politicians, officers, some of whom favor US. But:

1. no, Mr Trevino, Russians are not after Saak. They are after Georgia not joining Nato. This is why they bombarded Georgian assets. You should watch TV5 Monde now and then. If S. leaves, it will be a bonus. But this is a "false" target. Still, even without TV5 you could think at Russia's possible political goals behind their military operations.

2. They went to Georgia itself to achieve strategic positions to counter future Georgian actions.

3. A US suporter - a colonel - said Georgians bombarded civilians in Osetia at the beginning of their operations. And he was there ...

4. There is a higly complex political and legal arrangement concerning Oset. and Abkh.created in 1992; Russians played by every rule, Georgians did not. I don't support Russia; but the legal and political practice in that part of the world are the best. US is in Russia's pocket; that is the truth. There is no US supporter in Rom. to think otherwise. For all of us here this is elementary.

5. All these guys called Saak.: "crazy", "fool", "butcher" - of his own people. The diplomat repeated countless times "scelerat"; I don't know how to translate. It's worse than "mentally sick", believe me.

6. I am not a nationalist ; obviously, if Albanians want their own state, it is difficult to oppose. But they have no right - legally.
There is still a UN resolution from 1999 which mentions explicitly the integrity of Yugoslavia - not Serbia. But, Akira, I believe there is no way to prevent this "integrity" to be transferred to Serbia. By aproving Kosovo's independence, US is in breach with this resolution - 1449 ?, 1499 ? i don't remember; see UN's site. Try to read it.

You, in US /WE, complicated to the extreme with Kossovo. Russians warned you. Putin went as far to mention: a 300 years old (international)relations system is destroyed.

What the georgian parliament did in 2006 is (probably) irrelevant. Are you sure this was the only step necessary to change the rules there ? Other parties had no say in this ?

Russians have peace-keepers under OSCE; they have legal clearence to protect them.

But I will come back for a "debate" with Akira about UN charter.

Akira, what do you think

Akira, what do you think those Russian "peacekeepers" have been doing with their time in South Ossetian and Abkhazi, it wouldn't be using their presence to arm and organize the separatists now would it? Get real. The Georgian parliament voted to dissolve the "peacekeeping" treaty in Feb. 2006. The treaty was nothing more than an entrapment. It's been a farce. It's interesting that this happened two weeks after the US announced that it would support deployment of a new international force in Abkhazia which was rejected by Moscow immediately. The timing with the global media absorbed with the Olympics is obvious too.

The point of this invasion goes well beyond Georgia because among many Russian objectives is "to send a message to any other uppity neighbors like Poland, Lithuania, and the Ukraine", I'm quoting Robert Amsterdam( commentary has been very insightful. Another objective is to strangle Europe's energy options. Any European that feels Georgia deserves their fate deserves having the predatory USSR reassembled and freezing in winter.

Your invoking the UN is ridiculous as their record of doing anything useful for humanity in decades is a sick joke. It's the most useless corrupted organization in existence. Their idiotic peacekeepers sat on their butts watching Hezbollah stockpile rockets in southern Lebanon before they launched them into Israel creating the last round of havoc there.

If Russia was keen for territorial agression they could have years ago recognized South Ossetian and Abkhazi independence.

It's sort of like pondering a shark attack by wondering why it didn't happen 5 years earlier. So what. Who cares. That the Russians didn't conform to your time table doesn't make this act of sheer aggression any less real now. You spew a lot of garbage. I hope you never have to live someday with the consequences of your muddled and no less smug thinking.

@ onecent

The Russians had laid a trap for the Georgians by ordering the Ossetian militia to attack the Georgians at the border.
The Georgians walked into this trap, aattacked the militia and WITHIN HOURS the Russian army, navy and airforce was on the move. This takes normally days to one week in a similar terrain.


Yep. It was well planned by the Russians down to the start of the Olympics timing. Thanks to the German and French rejection of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, the Russians felt empowered to act.

Georgia is lost. The Republic of Crimea and eventually Ukraine will be under the jackboot in time.

I just hope the spineless lefties in Europe are happy with the outcomes - a needed viable democracy on the border of Russia gone and the Russians have enhanced their energy monopoly. How stupid.

The European America haters, which is all of the EU outside of the newer Eastern members, as far as I'm concerned as an America can continue their trajectory into dhimmitude and subservience to the Russian thug state. They can gnash their teeth and foam at the mouth hating America as they whimper and weasel their way into oblivion. They will never be our allies in dealing with the re-Stalinized Russians nor Islamofascism.

Hopefully the US taxpayer will someday refuse to fund the corrupt and useless UN and NATO. It's coming. Let the western Europeans defend their own interests and use their own money. Most Americans aren't going to allow their children to die, and, face it, Europe is only fit and committed as "peacekeepers" for an ally that undermines themselves and us at every turn. What a sham.

Kindergarten and conspiracy theories

1) Akira has demonstrated that he can make lists: cat, dog, mouse, bear, etc... That is Kindergarten stuff.  But can he identify ordering principles and/or common characteristics.  That is very doubtful.

2) It was not me who introduced the UN in this context.  It was Akira. He stated literally: "Georgia is a UN member and according to the UN Charter, nations have a right to self-determination".  Now, he claims that "the assertion that the UN Charter's reference to self-determination applies only to UN members is ridiculous".  Did anybody make such an assertion?  Did I make such an assertion?  No.  So, what we have here, is someone like Armor, who cannot read, but blindly attributes his own train-of-thought to others.  While I would agree that all nations SHOULD in principle have a right of self-determination, I can see that argument for what it is. It is a moral argument, not a legal argument, and it hinges on the concept of "nation". So what was the point of introducing the UN at all?  I repeat, the UN has nothing to do with the internal 'autonomy' arrangements within its member states.  It does not interfere with how the Russians organise their internal 'autonomy' for Chechens, Ossetians, etc...and neither should it get involved with internal Georgian autonomy arrangements.  But the UN Charter DOES get involved when a member state invades another member state.  Georgia did not invade Russia, but Russia did invade Georgia.  It is remarkable how people can deny reality to themselves, in order to be able to cling to emotional 'attachments' and/or hates ("Saakash...the idiot", etc...).

@ Arius

1) Unlike Akira, I do not think that you underestimate Georgian "arrogance and stupidity".  I do think that you underestimate the current Russian regime's brutality and nefarious goals.  And that is sad, because the evidence for that has been accumulating very rapidly in recent years.  You SHOULD know what has happened to Russia's media and judiciary, and you should know the basic facts of what has happened to Chechnya and its capital city, etc...because presumably, you are a westerner who has had access to multiple 'free media' reports on such matters.

2) Again, why do you believe the Russian version of events, and not the Georgian one.  How do you know Georgia "attacked"?  And who did Georgia attack?  It certainly was not Russia!

3)  As to your 'conspiracy' version of events ("go-ahead from Washington etc.."), well that is a reflection of the unlimited Western tendency for self-hatred and head-in-the-sand-attitudes.  It is now part of our internal 'culture wars' and has been so for quite a number of decades since roughly the 1960's.  Although it was also apparent, to some extent, in the interwar period in the first half of the previous century.

4)  The breakup of Youslavia was a different conflict, and should not be used or misused to obscure the reality of the current conflict in Georgia.   The bombing of Yougoslavia was undertaken to stop the ongoing actual 'genocide' and ethnic cleansing that was going on in several parts of the balkans in the 1990's.  It was certainly not a 'legal' action, but it was essentially undertaken for moral reasons. And it was NOT undertaken to stop national self-determination of any particular ethnic group in the balkans.  If you cannot recognise that reality, or if you claim that there has been anything similar going on in Georgia (in terms of genocide and ethnic cleansing) recently, then I must conclude that you are either an uninformed or a dishonest 'observer'.  


Iraqi troops to Georgia

Yes, a reciprocal force of 2,000 would be just a tiny portion of the massive internal security apparatus that has been created in Iraq. However, I would not favor using Moslem forces against Russian Christians. That would be like the Christian Cossacks introducing their Moslem Tartar allies into the Ukraine in 1640. (See With Fire and Sword by Henryk Sienkiewicz.) Eastern Orthodoxy may be a separate civilization from Western Christendom, but it is better for the West to cooperate with Orthodoxy against non-Christian civilizations, than vice-versa.

Washington is behind it

Georgia would not have attacked and started this war if it was not given the go-ahead from Washington. I continue to be stunned that I, an old cold warrior, has since 1989 shifted to supporting Russia more often than not.

The author is wrong that this is the first 'explicit repudiation of the post-World War Two order in Europe', a repudiation that already occurred with the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. The West didn't cry about it then; why now?

Washington is behind it?

How could Washington give the green light to a Georgian provocation of Russia when the U.S. would have to strain to supply weapons, troops, or funds to support the Georgians? If the putative motive is to create a national security situation in November that is more favorable to McCain than Obama, doesn't that trade away a known strong card (the success of the troop surge in Iraq) for a speculative strong card (the need to have a Republican president in the chair across from Putin)? Wouldn't the concrete prospect of conflict with Russia make more people crave a negotiating appeaser in the White House? If Georgia did indeed initiate this conflict, I think it is more likely that it wanted to force its potential allies to support it after the fact. Neither the E.U. nor the U.S. would have endorsed provoking Russia.

Assuming the U.S. made no promises to support this effort, the U.S. has no obligation to let itself be dragged into it, i.e., to have a major commitment determined by the ill-advised actions of a potential ally. To some extent the Georgians have to suffer the consequences of their own actions. From the point of view of justice, however, they have already been adequately punished and it would be rather shameful for other nations to let Georgia be enslaved by Russia as a result of Georgia's actions. I think the best thing for the U.S. is to ask for a truce and offer to supply Georgia until a truce is in place and a treaty can be negotiated. (Maybe this would be a good chance to give Kosovo and parts of Bosnia back to Serbia.)

The heated discussions on this website are good, but calling fellow contributors names and other non-substantive comments probably does more to harm the credibility of TBJ than engaging in discussion with contributors who hold unpopular views, at least if such persons are susceptible to reason regarding their views.

Relevance and irelevance

@ Akira

1)  You certainly have 'strong' opinions, but calling a head of a state (that you don't seem to like) an "idiot" is not a reasoned opinion.  Your 'legal' reasoning starts with the statement that "Georgia is a UN member, and according to the UN Charter, nations have a right to self-determination".  I have my problems with that particular argument, but will not digress and 'accept' it for the moment.  Well, then the next question becomes, are 'Abkhazia' and 'Ossetia' UN members?  You know that they are not.  When the UN accepts new members it recognises the territory of such members. When Georgia became a UN-member the UN membership accepted or recognised the territorial integrity of Georgia (AS IT EXISTED THEN), and the UN (nor any of its members) has anything to do with internal 'autonomy' arrangements of any of its members. Does the UN interfere in Spain's problems with Basks, or China's problems with Tibetans or Uighurs, or does the UN have any views on how Belgium should deal with linguistic problems in Belgium or Canada or India etc...?  My point is that from a legalistic (or UN) standpoint, neither the UN, nor any of its members (especially Russia) has anything to do with internal 'autonomy' arrangements in other member states of the UN.  I further claim that your rendition of recent history is inaccurate.  The 'autonomy' of Abkhazia or Ossetia became only serious 'international problems' when recent Georgian governments did no longer toe the Russian line in international affairs.  I have no doubt that there have always been 'local' sources of conflict within Georgia, but this has only become an international problem because the Russians (another neighboring UN memberstate) decided a number of years ago to exploit those internal tensions.   Do you think the UN should sanction intervention of China into Mongolia because there are some ethnic 'Chinese' in Mongolia, or of Russia into the baltic states because there are ethnic 'Russians' there, or of Senegal into Mauretania because there are some blacks in the latter, or of France into Canada because there are French-speakers there, etc....? In short, your pseudo-legal UN-argument is a sham, and you should know that.  The Russians are invading Georgia because they can 'afford' it, i.e. because they are stronger or because there is nothing that can (and will) stop them.   All your ethnic-historical comments are just a smokescreen.  And you should know that the Putin-regime is not going to bring freedom nor democracy to anybody in any region of Georgia.

2)  The "great issue at hand" has nothing to do with whether Georgians (or whoever) are "Europeans" or not.  The great issue is whether freedom and democracy are being  protected (by someone) ,or not, in the actual world in which we live.  Or, to put it another way, the great issue is whether 'free nations' can act IN TIME when authoritarian/totalitarian regimes are 'on the march' or extending their power. That is the historical perspective, not the easy one, nor the politically-correct one.

3) Your comments on relations of Russia with 'Russian citizens' elsewhere parallel exactly the commentary of nazi Germans in the 1930's concerning 'Germans' in their then near-abroad.  And if you cannot understand my reflections on Hawaii and Alaska it is because you did not read them carefully.  Ask yourself the simple question: WHEN exactly did the Russians hand out Russian passports to Abkhazians and Ossetians, or have they always had Russian passports?  They have not always had them.  And even if they did, that would not justify a Russian invasion to dictate internal Georgian autonomy arrangements.  If you can answer that question (about Russian passports) honestly, then you will realise how silly your comparison is with Northern Ireland.  The people of Northern Ireland have CONTINUOUSLY had British Passports, and they have been CONTINUOUSLY been part of Britain.  And yes, the Irish government has not invaded Northern Ireland to 'help' ethnic-Irish individuals.  Perhaps it would have if it could have in past times.   The point is that the current Russian invasion is about power imposition. It is not about legality, and it is certainly not about democracy and freedom or your "self-determination".

Case closed on Akira

@ Akira


1) I understand that you are opposed to the US helping Georgia fend off Russian aggression.  That COULD be a defendable position, although you have NOT provided any reasoned explanation for such a position.  All your assertions about various ethnicities, Khalilzad, the UN, etc...are all irrelevant to the great issue at hand.  Your opposition to helping Georgia WOULD be even more understandable and defendable, if you were a US citizen who could rightfully ask why it is always the US that has to keep autocratic and totalitarian characters/forces in the world at bay, while most of the rest of the (relatively) 'free world' takes a free ride on Uncle Sam's back.

2) I guess you will only be able to see an 'open case' when the Russians issue passports to some groups in Hawaii or Alaska (say to 'native' Hawaiians or eskimos), and then proceed to invade those territories to assist 'their oppressed' citizens.  Perhaps only then will you - belately, for sure - be able to see that the issue at hand has nothing to do with "ethnicities, Khalilzad, the UN, etc...".  It has everything to do with power relations in the world and, ultimately, with the fate of democratic rule/government and individual freedom anywhere and everywhere in the world.   


UN Charter 1.1:

"The Purposes of the United Nations are: ... (2) To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples."

You have two variants: "nations" who signed the treaty and "nations" in general: any time a nation appears, then the relations with this new nation have to be based on various principles, be they UN members or not. And if some UN members do not recognize them as nations ?...Russia does not recognize Kossovars as a nation, one could say. I would wellcome your answer.


Awhile back I saw a talk with a bunch of US journalists about Rice (one of them had just written a book about her). They were talking about what a great job she'd done, how she's corrected some of the worst errors of the first Bush term. The whole thing was completely mystifying to me. I guess they identified success as a lack of new military conflict (which they attributed to Cheney), rather than any positive success. I remember thinking, holy crap, these journalists are the people that are helping shape our opinions.

But, the journalist who wrote the book on Rice gave a very telling anecdote: apparently, the Russian Foreign Minister in his dealings with Rice treats her like crap because she's a black woman (uses racial language, no respect, etc.,) and that Rice admitted it threw her off and made her very emotional. Wonderful.

@ Rob

And she probably thought that those remarks and racist behaviour was a "natural" behaviour by the Russian. Russian diplomats are by far the best in the world and control their behaviour continuously in order to reach maximum effect. Of course this "racist" behaviour and "superior" attitude is bound to throw her in a mental inferior position. She should know that but....

Remarkably absent in

Remarkably absent in protecting pro-Western Georgia on the world stage, is that other half of the "West": Western-Europe and the EU. Sure enough, Sarkozy intends to do some freewheeling diplomacy in this crisis. But once again it will be up to the US to provide Russia with an answer that goes beyond "let's all be friends".

Btw, kudos to the BJ writers for their up-to-date and insightful articles on this topic. I thought BJ had gone to sleep (especially the Dutch part), but I was wrong!

The Russian invasion of Georgia

As I pointed out in my previous comment on your previous article, the target is the Georgian president.
We shouldn't be surprised about the M.O. of the Russians, they have done nothing else in their history when the defense is practically non-existent. For the Russian KGB/FSB there is only one result to each problem; winning with brute force, they only withdraw if the defensive reaction is too strong. That will not happen here.
The Georgian independence is over, it will only continue under Russian control. The US "advisers" will leave and the world will watch the Olympics where another bear plays pussycat.
God help us with the wimps in charge in Europe and shortly, hopefully not, in the US.
Well Condoleeza can make one more notch on her table of losses.