Perhaps *the* question about the Georgia – Russia conflict

Excerpt from Stratfor’s “Intelligence Guidance: Dust Clearing In Georgia”, 9 August 2008 — Stratfor does this sort of thing well, among the best at this of the public geopolotical shops in my opinion.

Some major questions remain open.

First, what motivated the Georgians to invade South Ossetia on the night of Aug. 7? Why did they believe that they could do that without incurring a Russian response? Did the Russians indicate to them some form of nonbelligerence and then double-cross them?

The second, even more intriguing, question is the American role in all of this. The United States has hundreds of advisers in Georgia and could not possibly have been ignorant of Georgian intentions. The United States also has ample means of technical intelligence with which it could have noted the Russian buildup and perhaps even known Moscow’s intentions. The United States is Georgia’s patron. What happened in Tbilisi and Washington to allow the Georgians to walk into a Russian nutcracker? There are levels of intrigue here that we do not yet understand. In some ways they are more important than the final outcome.

About the blogosphere’s coverage of the conflict

Joshua Foust sums it up, posted 9 August at Registan (brief excerpt; I recommend reading the full post):

As the fighting in South Ossetia heats up, it’s interesting to see the rush by all the bloggers to do the biggest, grandest roundups. By looking at this, you see those who think they’re clever by either stating the obvious (Russia wants to split Georgia, Abkhazia is getting involved), the conventional wisdom (Russia wants to disrupt the Georgia energy corridor), or the plain old wrong (Russia wants to annex Georgia). The examples are countless, and while not necessarily wrong, none are really saying anything those who are knowledgable of the situation haven’t been saying for months or years.

… Basically, ignore all of that. We will not have a useful picture of the minutae of the fighting for at least several days (really? Russia will own Georgian airspace just like that?), until some good correspondents get on the scene and we’re not left hearing only what the various foreign ministries say.

… But even that is just conventional wisdom. Who cares? It’s called conventional wisdom because everyone already knows it. Finding something new or interesting about this conflict is tough, and the blogosphere is being more hurtful than helpful in offering anything of value.

I agree.  Much of these are somewhere between waste of time and providing the illustion of information.

See Zenpundit for links to some of the most valuable blognotes about the war.

Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Other posts about the Georgia – Russia conflict

The Russia-Georgia war threatens one of the world’s oil arteries, 10 August 2008

9 thoughts on “Perhaps *the* question about the Georgia – Russia conflict”

  1. One aspect of this is the possible role of and definite effect upon organized crime that this conflict will have. Both Georgia in general and South Ossetia in particular are filled with organized crime.

    The blurb for Organized Crime and Corruption in Georgia states:

    Georgia is one of the most corrupt and crime-ridden nations of the former Soviet Union. In the Soviet period, Georgians played a major role in organized crime groups and the shadow economy operating throughout the Soviet Union, and in the post-Soviet period, Georgia continues to be important source of international crime and corruption. Important changes have been made since the Rose Revolution in Georgia to address the organized crime and pervasive corruption.

    Meanwhile, the abstract for The Political Economy of Organized Crime: Breakaway Regions in the Newly Independent States states:
    The regional fragmentation in Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has larger repercussions for the successful consolidation of democracy in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. Tbilisi is encountering serious difficulty in governing these regions due to the rise of highly organized, Russian-backed crime groups in these two areas. Crimea in the Ukraine is experiencing a rise in Russian-connected organized crime as the ethnic Tartars demonstrate for greater regional autonomy from Kiev. As a result of exhaustive data collection on the types, origins, and financing of organized crime in Russia, the Ukraine, and Georgia through the Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, the potential exists to determine if correlation in a time-series analysis can be found between Mafia-connected Russian businesspersons, their investments and presence in Crimea, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia after 1991, and polling data from the regions concerning increasing calls for regional autonomy and independence. The relative silence from Russia on the issue of highly influential and corrupt Russian businesspeople promoting instability in these breakaway regions for fun and profit is disturbing in its implications for regional peace.

  2. Two questions actually

    1. Did the US green light the adventure
    2. Was the US so irrelevant that Saakashvili didn’t bother asking

  3. Prety obvious though, after wading through all the drivel:

    (1) Georgia thought it could get away with a quick fait accompli, possibly a quick ‘ethnic cleansing’, ie drive the South Ossetians into Russia.
    (2) It thought Russia would be deterred by Georgia’s close links to the US and Israel … a few ‘nods and winks’ there possibly?
    (3) It probably also thought that the Russian response time (Olympics and all that) would be to slow and that ‘facts on the ground’ would end up in their favour.

    Idiots. Georgia is probably so penetrated by Russian agents that the (in all but name) KGB knows in advance when Saakashvili goes to the toilet. Plus, what is the Primary Golden Rule in military affairs … “do not attack Russia”.

    The Russians will give them a very severe smacking, plus they will send a very clear message to the West … “no further”. They will force Georgie into a crawling, humiliating backdown .. not an “oops I got it wrong, lets call it off” that they’ve tried. A lot of Georgia’s US and Israeli supplied military equipment is going to go up in very expensive smoke.

    The Bear is showing its teeth, just a quick snarl though. Lucky the US didn’t manage to get Georgia into Nato isn’t it, otherwise things would get very, very, very interesting.

    And as usual it is ordinary people who lose on all sides, their families, their sons, their houses, their businesses. 21st century and we are still doing this sort of nonsense. Oh well, add to the Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, et al, list. And FM wonders why I am such a pessimist.

  4. “Georgia thought it could get away with a quick fait accompli”

    George W. Bush thought this when he attacked Iraq in March 2003. The South Carolina militia thought this when they attacked Fort Sumter in April 1861. So, not the first time someone’s arrogance has led them into this strategic error.

  5. I agree that if the US, Saakhasvili or Israel dreamed up this caper, it was even stupider than the invasion of Iraq. The other possibility — and I say this more admiringly than critically — is that Russia itself tricked or seduced the Georgians into this foolish act, so that it could proceed to annex Abkhazia and secure a port on the Black Sea.

    In the last seven years, Russia has re-created itself, economically, diplomatically and militarily — partly thanks to the inattention of the US, which placed all its bets on Iraq, on Iraq, forgetting the other player in the Great Game.

  6. This has played out pretty much as expected, Georgia is now going to be much smaller.

    But there’s some fascinating sub-plots here. Many of which will probaably not see the light of day for years (or ever). The War Nerd correctly pointed out (in The Exiled) the fact that the tunnel to the north, just over the border was not attacked and closed. If it had been then the Russians would have had a heck of time getting in there, especially their tanks. Given the number of US and Israeli ‘advisors’ there, your think maybe someone would have pointed that one out. Maybe they did, I caught a report that the Georgians claimed that they didn’t cut it for humanitarian reasons, given the reports coming out of what they did (from reasonably unbised reports) I think we can we can discount that one. The other is that they tried but were forestalled by the Russians, no reports yet …but? The other is that they and their advisors were even more stupid then we give them credit for, the US and Israel must have sent the ‘C’ team in there then.

    The other is unconfirmed reports of US ‘advisors’ being involved in the attack, in both the planning and the execution. Now that would be a shocker if true.

    Plus my speculation that the Russians would have tried very hard to capture some US and Israeli ‘advisors’. The Israeli ones are all ‘retired’ from the IDF and are private citizens so are legally just mercenaries. Oh and yes, ‘implimented interrogation’ is perfectly legal, including what is it again.. ‘waterboarding’. That event, if it has happened at all, will never see the light of day, unlike anyone captured who will eventually be exchanged. A horrible Schadenfreude thought, an ‘advisor’ in Lubyanka (or wherever they use now) saying, “this is against the Geneva Convention” … “What’s that, I thought that was abolished? Stanislov, hand me those pliers from over there”.

    Plus, watching Israeli politicians backpedaling about supporting Georgia had me in stitches. They must have cringed when the Georgian Minister said “how well our Israeli trained troops are doing”. Ouch. Expect some very nasty payback for the Israelis in the future .. say S-300 anti-aircraft defences for Lebanon in the near future?

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