August 2008

The month of August has been a bad month in recent Russian history, and August 2008, tragically enough, is not an exception.  Only now, we’re talking not about the default, a sunken submarine or a terrorist act.  We’re talking about a war.  The war between Russia and Georgia.

And it’s time to begin asking the two perennial, unmistakably Russian, questions: Who’s to be blamed and what is to be done?

But let me first ask two more.  First, what is wrong with the system of "peacekeeping"?  Why do peacekeepers, all over the globe, time and again fail to prevent atrocities against people they are supposed to protect?  Why did the presence of not one, but two peacekeeping contingents in South Ossetia not stop the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians?  Why did  one "peacekeeping" contingent begin shooting at another instead of preventing bloodshed.

And the second: what is wrong with the UN Security Council?  Why do the SC members who have no difficulties with writing resolutions condemning the results of presidential elections in remote countries waste three meetings — and will undoubtedly waste the fourth, fifth, and so on —  to put the blame for the loss of innocent lives to where it rightfully belongs?

Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has made a number of serious mistakes.  Although the timing of the military offensive in South Ossetia — coinciding with the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing — seemed to be opportune, he didn’t realize that the same inattention will be paid to the following events, including Russia’s heavy response.  If the world, glued to TV screens, was supposed to ignore event A, why would it be expected to notice event B?

Saakashvili has also underestimated Russia’s military might in the region — especially its dominance over Georgia in the air space — and its willingness to use it for a resolute victory on the ground.  Perhaps, Saakashvili and his military advisers have put too much stock in believing that the Russian army is too corrupted and disorganized to be ready for combat.  Perhaps, they considered the 58th Army a paper tiger.  Well, it wasn’t.

Finally, and most importantly, Saakashvili must have overestimated the West’s resolve to defend the "beacon of democracy" in the Caucasus.  Having much of the world behind it in a "propaganda war", Georgia has found itself all alone against Russia in the real one.  Many pundits have been saying for years that the United States would never engage in a military confrontation with Russia over Georgia.  Saakashvili has chosen not to listen.  Now, it’s time to count the chickens coming home to roost. 

For the time being, Saakashvili is fully in control at home.  Yesterday, opposition leaders reportedly visited with Saakashvili and assured him their full support.  Sure, one doesn’t change horses in the middle of the stream…

But this may not last long.  Already, in an interview with the France-Presse, former Georgian Foreign Minister, Salome Zhurabishvili, suggested that the United States was partly to blame for the violence in South Ossetia.  No, she didn’t accuse Saakashvili in provoking the crisis, but the break with the "official" line is hard to miss.

Besides, it’s only a question of time that the Georgian elites recognize that the unification of the country — the hallmark of the whole Saakashvili presidency — is even further away than before August the 8th.  With a pariah status in Moscow and possible war criminal charges over his head, Saakashvili may rapidly become a liability.  And not only in Tbilisi, but in Western capitals, too.

Winning a "propaganda war" against Russia may well become the last victory of the Saakashvili administration.  Well, Russia is not known for winning propaganda wars.  In fact, it has lost just about every single one launched against it. 

But it has won a military battle in South Ossetia.  Saakashvili will learn very soon that in our imperfect times, victors of propaganda wars are getting only 15 minutes of CNN fame.  It’s victors of real wars who command the respect of the world. 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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12 Responses to August 2008

  1. ivolva says:

    That sounds a little pathetic for me (I underst you wrote it on Aug 10).
    Basically, this is mostly about oil. There is a big reason for escalation – the strategic importance of Georgia for the Trans-Caspian oil pipeline; its extension from Baku, Azerbaijan (on the Caspian) through Georgia (well south of S. Ossetia), bypassing Russia and Iran, and across Turkey to its port city of Ceyhan – the so-called BTC pipeline for around one million barrels of oil daily, adjacent to the South Causasus (gas) Pipeline with a capacity of about 16 billion cubic meters annually. Trillions of dollars at stake!
    Unfortunately, most in the West are unaware how dangerous the conflict over two tiny provinces in a remote part of Eurasia has become.

  2. Thanks for educating me on the importance of oil and oil diplomacy.
    I’m not disputing your thesis on Georgia’s importance for the West. My post was about Saakashvili’s fatal miscalculation and his political future.
    Where do you and I disagree?
    Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  3. ivolva says:

    Let’s look big picture. It sounds like direct involvement the US to conflict.
    If it was pentagon’s goal then Saakashvili’s action not looks like miscalculation for me. Moreover, Ukraine’s Yushchenko tried block Russian’s Black See Fleet in same moment. Good cooperation and planning. BTW today Yushchenko called to Bush and reported his status http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/10953.html
    ..both Presidents expressed for need to strengthen Euro-Atlantic partnership within the scope of recent events in Georgia and for effective cooperation in security field.
    My point is – this is not Saakashvili’s miscalculation, but it’s very good planned and executed action!

  4. ivolva says:

    Let’s look big picture. It sounds like direct involvement the US to conflict.
    If it was pentagon’s goal then Saakashvili’s action not looks like miscalculation for me. Moreover, Ukraine’s Yushchenko tried block Russian’s Black See Fleet in same moment. Good cooperation and planning. BTW today Yushchenko called to Bush and reported his status http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/10953.html
    ..both Presidents expressed for need to strengthen Euro-Atlantic partnership within the scope of recent events in Georgia and for effective cooperation in security field.
    My point is – this is not Saakashvili’s miscalculation, but it’s very good planned and executed action!

  5. OK, now, I’m not following your logic.
    Saakashvili’s actions have resulted not only in a sound and humiliating defeat (that sent shocks of fear all over the post-Soviet space); it led to almost total destruction of Georgia’s military intrastructure, which, BTW, was built on U.S. money.
    And now, you’re saying that it was “very good planned and executed action!” by the Pentagon and Bush?
    Am I missing something?
    Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  6. OK, now, I’m not following your logic.
    Saakashvili’s actions have resulted not only in a sound and humiliating defeat (that sent shocks of fear all over the post-Soviet space); it led to almost total destruction of Georgia’s military intrastructure, which, BTW, was built on U.S. money.
    And now, you’re saying that it was “very good planned and executed action!” by the Pentagon and Bush?
    Am I missing something?
    Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  7. ivolva says:

    I meant good executed action from western point of view. Look at events from August 15
    in Tbilisi – Saakashvili signed agreement, but said his next step would be to replace Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone with an international contingent.
    Now the US demanded on Friday that Russian troops end their occupation of Georgia immediately after Georgia signed a ceasefire agreement.
    This is a disaster for Russia and I’m sorry about it.

  8. ivolva says:

    I meant good executed action from western point of view. Look at events from August 15
    in Tbilisi – Saakashvili signed agreement, but said his next step would be to replace Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone with an international contingent.
    Now the US demanded on Friday that Russian troops end their occupation of Georgia immediately after Georgia signed a ceasefire agreement.
    This is a disaster for Russia and I’m sorry about it.

  9. Let me respectfully disagree. Russian troops are in Georgia, not the other way around.
    No one in Moscow gives a damn of what Saakashvili says. This looser is in no position to determine the content of any international peacekeepers. (Not to mention that his own future is in no way guaranteed.)
    Ditto for the US. Such claims have been made for days, and Russia is still there.
    Some people have a remarkable ability to see white for black, and I’m sorry for them.
    Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  10. Let me respectfully disagree. Russian troops are in Georgia, not the other way around.
    No one in Moscow gives a damn of what Saakashvili says. This looser is in no position to determine the content of any international peacekeepers. (Not to mention that his own future is in no way guaranteed.)
    Ditto for the US. Such claims have been made for days, and Russia is still there.
    Some people have a remarkable ability to see white for black, and I’m sorry for them.
    Regards,
    Eugene Ivanov

  11. ivolva says:

    Well. What’s cost of one week military operation of Russian army in Georgia and fixing a humanitarian catastrophe in Ossetia?
    > No one in Moscow gives a damn of what Saakashvili says.
    However, Medvedev has signed plan on resolving conflicts in Georgia even without introductory page http://en.rian.ru/world/20080816/116085152.html
    “We are somewhat bewildered by the fact that the document signed by Saakashvili differs from the document worked out by the presidents of Russia and France, so the issue is still to be specified via diplomatic channels,” Sergei Lavrov said.
    This is ridiculous and I do not understand that.
    What do you say if Ukraine and Georgia get membership in NATO in few weeks? (http://en.rian.ru/world/20080816/116083484.html)
    I can suggest another subject: Castro vs Saakashvili. How history repeats itself? Then Khrushchev removed all missiles from Cuba. Any chance that now missiles will not deployed in Poland, Ukraine and Georgia?

  12. I agree the cost is huge. But who said that being a newborn superpower is easy?
    Corect me if I’m wrong but the introductory part of the agreement only mentioned the name of Sarkozy. Saakashvili desperately wanted to make it look like the U.S. has brokered the deal. So what? What is the difference for Russia? Anyway, the last time I checked, tanks were still there.
    Let’s make sure we’re on the same page: we’re talikng about MAP — membership action plan — not bona fide NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine. I doubt it’s going to happen, especially for Georgia. Chances for Ukraine are slightly higher, but only higher.
    I don’t follow you with respect of missiles. What missile are you talking about? Missiles in Poland will be deployed unless the nwxt U.S. administration nixes the project at all. But there were no plans to deploy any missiles in Georgia and Ukraine. BTW, the Consitution bans deployment of foreign troops in Ukraine.
    Regards,
    Eugene

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