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August 15, 2008

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"In reality, the Russia-Georgia dispute involved a tiny ethnic enclave with deep historical ties to Russia that resides in a tiny post-Soviet Union country. If Russia wanted to re-conquer Eastern Europe, it’s an odd place to start."

Nah, it's a pretty sensible place to start. Russia's new rise is fueled by energy resources, and they've placed themselves in a position to control the pipelines from the Caspian region to Europe, while waging war in an area where we have few military options between ineffectual and nuclear overkill.

And it doesn't involve just that enclave, that's merely where they entered Georgia. In case you didn't notice, they kept going.

Brett: I think it's an odd place. More to the point, though, while I think Russia is quite capable of intimidating its neighbors, I'm really not sure how many of them it could successfully occupy.

How much has its army been rebuilt over the last few years? Has it completely overcome the disciplinary and other problems, or only in part? Does it presently have anything like the resources, military and other, that it would need to occupy even Georgia permanently - let alone the Ukraine?

I don't see any reason to think that the answers to these questions are 'yes'. If not, it could be that Russia is just retaking the disputed regions, trying to fire a shot against the bows of its neighbors, and generally implementing Jonah Goldberg's Ledeen theory.

Nah, it's a pretty sensible place to start. Russia's new rise is fueled by energy resources, and they've placed themselves in a position to control the pipelines from the Caspian region to Europe, while waging war in an area where we have few military options between ineffectual and nuclear overkill.

This is rare occasion when I agree almost completely with Brett.

Putting on my amoral geopolitics-as-a-chessgame hat for a moment, I can’t imagine a more favorable place for Putin to challenge us. The terrain favors him in almost every way, both geographically, in terms of the tenuous linkages between Georgia and the rest of NATO, in terms of catching us with our pants down having prematurely extended an implicit NATO guarantee of protection to a country we realistically can’t and won’t protect, and in terms of having a perfect sap of an opponent in Saakashvili, who walked right into a trap (ditto for Bush/Cheney).

All this, and he gets to dominate the BTC pipeline as a prize.

This whole thing could not have been set up better for Russia if we tried to, and having McCain trying to force us into sticking our NATO hand into the blender before the blades have stopped moving is the gift that keeps on giving, from Putin’s point of view.

I'd go farther and argue that McCain's pre- existing assumptions about pretty much everything,(including women, race, social security, taxes), remain the assumptions that generally prevailed at the Naval Academy and in the wardrooms of the Fleet in the 1950s and early 1960s, which is to say, in the middle of the last century.

hilzoy:If Russia wanted to re-conquer Eastern Europe, it’s an odd place to start.

Nah, it's a pretty sensible place to start. Russia's new rise is fueled by energy resources, and they've placed themselves in a position to control the pipelines from the Caspian region to Europe, while waging war in an area where we have few military options between ineffectual and nuclear overkill.

That just observes that dominating the region is important to Russia- it doesn't make the domination of Georgia into a logical first step towards a new Iron Curtain, except in the most generalized sense that it secures them more resources without likely US/NATO interference.
Which is like describing 'the US withdrawing from Iraq' as a move towards invading Iran, since it would give us more military and financial flexibility to execute an occupation.

Nah, it's a pretty sensible place to start. Russia's new rise is fueled by energy resources, and they've placed themselves in a position to control the pipelines from the Caspian region to Europe, while waging war in an area where we have few military options between ineffectual and nuclear overkill.

And it doesn't involve just that enclave, that's merely where they entered Georgia. In case you didn't notice, they kept going.

Meh, actually I'm not convinced that the pipeline thing was the determinative issue in Russian decision-making here. It's worth noting that, among many of the entirely false statements issued by the Georgian government over the past week reproduced faithfully by the credulous press, the Russians did not attack the pipeline. Not that they would - it would be a step too far. I just point it out to remind people that the Georgian government's entire gameplan - maybe even before they attacked on Thursday - was to portray themselves as a Bosnia-type situation or a Kuwait-type situation requiring Western intervention.

Incidentally, as best as I can tell, the Russians moved into Georgia proper days after the Georgians claimed they did. I think the reason is that the Georgians eventually deliberately pulled all of their troops back to Tbilisi to force the Russians to come in. You see, while they are blowing up Georgian munition stores and supposedly dismantling a US signals-intelligence installation in Gori, the real reason why the Russians suddenly decided to come into Georgia very late in the day is because they are trying to control their own rowdy allies. The Ossetian and Chechen militias really are a Visigoth-like bunch, whereas the real Russian units seem to have performed remarkably professionally (a sign of how far their military reforms have come in the past year).

Obviously all indications are pretty provisional right now.

Oh yeah, back to the point. The pipelines certainly add to Georgia's strategic import, but I think what really prompted this is the location: the Caucasus are extremely diverse and disputatious, the Russians have basically been involved in fighting there since the USSR broke up. One of their main concerns is simply not to let autonomous republics secede - Russia is extremely decentralized and has a vast array of 'nationalities' within it, and fears allowing secession precedents to be established. Secondly, Russia has an enormous Muslim population, and greatly fears Islamic or national radicalism percolating up from the Caucuses into Russia proper.

The final ingredient is NATO squirreling around in there, clearly up to no good (from the Kremlin's perspective).

Likewise, Ukraine et alia fear Georgia will become a precedent for Moscow to exploit Russian-minority grievances in their territories.

Both world wars began because the perennial instability of national boundaries in Eastern Europe interacted with the alliance systems of the great powers - one reason why NATO should be very wary of extending itself further Eastward, and the reason why the Western Europeans are extremely reluctant to do so.

Who-did-what is meaningless, because it goes back forever, and everyone's hands are dirty.

And as to why they are doing it, the Georgians were outstandingly stupid in trying to suppress south Ossetia. there were Russian peace keepers there and they killed them. (let alone more general russian ties with south Ossetian people).

It is like if the Cubans invaded Guantanamo and killed a whole lot of the guards there and a killed a lot of Cubans. A country like Russia can't stand for that sort of thing politically.

"At the beginning of World War I, cavalry units on horseback charged Gatling guns."

No, they didn't. The Gatling gun was a Civil War weapon. There were still some used in the Spanish-American War, but not by WWI. You mean the Maxim gun. And Lewis gun, Vickers, etc. Gatlings were obsolete.

The Polish cavalry went up against German tanks at the onset of WWII, IIRC. Churchill may have been involved in a cavalry assault against machine guns in the Boer War. The French may have been employing Napoleonic tactics as late as WWI.

It's like music. No genre ever dies. You're never just fighting the last war, you're always fighting every war you ever heard of.

The Polish cavalry thing is a rather tired myth also.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Krojanty>wiki link

Germany made a great deal of use of the horse in WWII.

Re: I'd go farther and argue that McCain's pre- existing assumptions about pretty much everything,(including women, race, social security, taxes), remain the assumptions that generally prevailed at the Naval Academy and in the wardrooms of the Fleet in the 1950s and early 1960s, which is to say, in the middle of the last century.

But he's relatively progressive when it comes to music: He favors Eurodisco as his most recent genre!

If Reagan "won" the Cold War, does the situation in Georgia mean George Bush just "lost" the Cold War? Or does it mean that Condi's managed to change the face of geopolitics to make her once-outdated Soviet expertise relevant once again?

Georgia is Russia's Grenada - a small, easily-crushed opponent used to demonstrate "resolve."

McCain is all about Vietnam. "We should have won. American didn't have the political resolve to win in Vietnam." If we elect McCain we will continue to fight Vietnam. Wars are not chess games they are about politics. If you go into war with the wrong political assumptions you won't get the right results. I don't think McCain gets it!

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