Monday, August 11, 2008

More on South Ossetia

I'm really starting to worry about this situation.

Recent reports suggest that Russian troops are pushing beyond South Ossetia, into central Georgia - perhaps towards the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. I think it's notable that the first city to be seiged outside of South Ossetia is Gori, which lies between Ossetia and Tbilisi - not Ossetia and Abkhazia - Georgia's other breakaway republic.

It seems like Medvedev is preparing to defend against an assault from or prepare for an attack on Tbilisi, rather than solidify his advances into the separatist regions. That's disconcerting for two reasons -

1. It would mean that this really is an invasion of Georgia, rather than a crackdown on Georgian interference in the breakaway republics, and

2. The U.S. is currently transporting Georgian troops from Iraq to Georgia to fight the Russians.

So Russia is invading Georgia proper, and the U.S. military is going to be in Georgia too... bringing Georgian troops so that they can fight Russian troops. Is it just me, or is this a recipe for disaster??? Why the hell are we getting involved in this??? What if there's a stray bomb that kills American troops helping the Georgians out? How many options is Bush really going to have to respond to something like that? And even if it doesn't come to that, what will Medvedev and Putin think? How are they going to interpret us transporting Georgian troops to the battlefield?

I don't know if this will mean war with Russia. Even I have enough faith in Bush and Medvedev and Putin to think that this is probably a slim possibility. But why are we toying with it? Why can't the Georgians transport their own damned troops. I know they've provided a bunch of troops in Iraq, but who cares! We're the United States of America - we're not obligated to play chauffeur to a Central Asian republic that sent 2,000 soldiers to Iraq. I applaud their enthusiasm, but I hardly think it qualifies them to ask anything of us.

I don't know for sure if the Russian move on South Ossetia is justified or not. My impression is that there is substantial justification for what Russia is doing in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That does not justify an invasion of Georgia. The United States needs to think straight on this conflict and not treat Russia like another Hitler in the Sudetenland - we need to treat them like the Greaet Power that they are. And maybe they overstepped their bounds here, but we can't just blunder our way into this war - we need to proceed cautiously.

We also need to remember that Russia has something in South Ossetia that we never had in Iraq - an actual smoking gun. Whoever started it several iterations back, the fact is Georgia moved troops against South Ossetia on August 7th. I know this was disputed at first, but it seems to be reported universally now. I don't want to see Saakashvili fall, and I don't want to see a Russian occupation of Georgia. But tell me - how the hell is that different from what we did in Iraq? It's different for one reason - in Georgia, Saakashvili made the first move and Russia responded. In Iraq we made the first move and Saddam responded. I would rather watch Russia take Georgia than get the U.S. into a direct conflict with Russia over a standard of international relations that we can't even hold ourselves to. If we try to do that, we're going to have egg on our face - I guarantee.


Evan said...

I'm assuming we're moving Georgian troops precisely to discourage Russia from invading. As you say, the leaders in charge should be smart enough to refrain from starting a U.S.-Russia conflict... the moving of troops from Iraq to Georgia seems to be in line with all of Bush's pushing for Georgia to join NATO, or the missile defense shield. I think the thought is that we have our interests over there, that we don't want Russia pursuing theirs too ambitiously, and that if Russia's going to invade Georgia we're damn well going to make them aware of what they're getting into.

Not that I agree with all that, but I think that the rationale makes more sense than just some stupid meddling. As you say, they're a great power. But that doesn't mean that they're any more justified on a moral level in their invasion of Georgia than we were in Iraq... it also doesn't mean that we're putting pressure on them now for glorified moral reasons. I don't think we're doing this out of obligation to Georgia, either, but rather for our own interests in the region.

I agree with you, though- the idea of a stray bomb killing an American or something like that would really escalate this. But really, do you think that Russia would continue if the US puts pressure on them in terms of actual troops on the ground in Georgia?

dkuehn said...

Right - we do have interests there. A pipeline and bases close to the action in the war on terror. It just seems unnecessarily risky. I feel like it jeopardizes our broader national interests at the expense of protecting those local interests.

I also question whether our interests really lie with Georgia here. Yes, we have the pipeline and the bases they offer. But has America gotten to the point that it will turn a blind eye to Georgia's bombardment of the South Ossetian capital because of our oil interests there?

As for whether they will continue - no, probably not. But Saddam Hussein didn't have to do anything for us to go in there. And its more the accidents and miscommunication that I'm concerned about.

Anyway, its all moot now... presumably.