(AP Photo/Shakh Aivazov)
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French President and holder EU presidency holder Nicolas Sarkozy has said he is prepared to call an extraordinary EU Council meeting if Russia does not pull out its troops from Georgia "without delay". The retreat is scheduled to begin today (18 August).
Georgia launched a major military offensive against South Ossetia on Friday in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province. The attack started few hours after declared ceasefire, just before opening Day of Olympics. The death toll can already be as high as 1400 including some Russian peacekeepers.Kosovo’s unilateral proclamation of independence from Serbia
As arguments rage about Russia’s "peacekeeping" role in Georgia, Moscow has vowed to keep up a parallel diplomatic battle in the United Nations against Kosovo’s…
As Russian forces loot and occupy a neighboring state, conscripting Georgian civilians at gunpoint to sweep their city streets, it’s not uncommon, in Moscow or in Washington, to find America at fault.
The time will come when the sequence of events and responsibilities can be established in an indisputable and impartial manner: several weeks of provocations and skirmishes along the lines separating South Ossetia from the rest of Georgia; the thoughtless Georgian military intervention in South Ossetia the night of Aug. 7-8; the brutal and disproportionate response of Russian troops, driving the small Georgian army from South Ossetia and dislodging it from Abkhazia — the other separatist province, where it had regained a foothold in 2006 — before occupying part of the rest of Georgian territory.
Belgium is in danger of falling apart. For more than six months, the country has been unable to form a government that is able to unite the French-speaking Walloons (32%) and Dutch-speaking Flemish (58%). The Belgian monarch, Albert II, is desperately trying to stop his subjects from breaking up the state.
The western press pack hunted down Russian troops at the weekend as they tried to to figure out what the military was up to in Georgia – anybody’s guess in recent days with confusing signals emanating from Moscow
The Georgian president’s supporters see him as a charismatic national hero but his detractors call him autocratic and impetuous
Kevin Drum does yeoman’s work here in batting down the argument, frequently offered in recent days, that the Bush administration somehow encouraged Mikheil Saakashvili’s reckless attack on South Ossetia:
Look: Saakashvili came to power on a Georgian nationalist platform of recovering Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He’s been jonesing for an excuse to send troops in for years, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn’t do. Likewise, Putin has been eagerly waiting for an excuse to pound the crap out of him in return — again, regardless of anything the U.S. did or didn’t do.
Wess Mitchell: The United States should announce its intention to transfer the entire Europe-based American military establishment to new locations in Central Europe, because many of the EU’s largest states are more interested in avoiding a rupture with Moscow than in protecting the vital interests of the Union’s eastern members.
The Russia-Georgia conflict is yet another example of why a leader caught up in the romance of resistance should not rely on Washington. What Saakashvili should have learned from history–and the American South.
A final observation, as I step back to survey the larger Eurasian picture. And my hope is that the Russian Foreign Ministry and its analytical wing begin to pay attention to a critical question: why, with all of its advantages, has Russia failed to deploy and use its soft power to much better advantage in the Eurasian space?
Russia is the economic center of gravity of the region; there are millions of Ukrainians and Georgians who live and work in Russia, and who have benefited from its prosperity (and by extension, helped the economies of their countries as well). Russia has done much more in economic terms than the West. There still are immensely strong cultural ties as well.
The Russian soldiers are not the worst. They have won their victory, and now hang about Georgia mopping up. Much more terrible are the civilians and volunteers who come behind the soldiers, the big-bellied men with guns, knives and army jackets thrown over their T-shirts. They are doing the murdering, the looting and burning, the "cleansing" as they drive the last Georgians out of South Ossetia. The flight of the Georgian army has let them into Georgian territory as far as Gori, so they are following and killing them there.
In recent months, calls for Russia’s expulsion from the G8 have mounted steadily, while opponents of the idea have countered with talk of the need to engage, not confront, Russia. Both sides have advanced cogent arguments. But Russia’s recent assault on South Ossetia and Georgian territory, has dramatically altered the terms of this debate. The grounds for expelling Russia from the G8 have never been stronger. But are they, even now, strong enough to warrant crossing such a Rubicon?
The five-day war between Georgia and Russia, and the opening week of the Olympic games in Beijing, captured much of the world’s and the media’s attention in the second week of August 2008. It is not surprising, then, that events in the continuing, low-level – though increasingly dangerous – war in Afghanistan have been relatively under-reported. After all, who wants to read about an asymmetrical war between rural insurgents and advanced military powers that will soon enter its eighth year?
Russia’spropaganda has been clumsy,while Georgia’shas been effective. But both kinds pose serious problems. Anyone who remembers the conflicts of the 1990s will not be surprised by reports of heads being cut off and corpses burned. But the story about black mercenaries looks far-fetched. It is more than likely that there were indeed intelligence agents operating on both sides and isolated saboteurs. Each case needs to be looked into. Experience tells us that when sensational announcements about catching spies are made, some of those caught turn out not to be spies at all. News reports of tens of thousands of saboteurs sent by Georgia to Russia and mythical bullets are all outright fantasy.
From The Times
August 14, 2008
Russia has been biding its time, but its victory in Georgia has been brutal – and brilliant
The recent war in Georgia has shocked and frightened all of Europe. Thankfully, it is coming to a halt, but whether that halt will prove temporary or permanent is beyond the judgement of this blog (and indeed any blog).
Some thoughts about what caused the war, though, are worth airing. The fighting started when the Georgian government attempted to reassert control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, which required an attack on the Russian forces that were stationed there (nominally as peacekeepers, but in fact as the advance guard of an occupation). The Russians then responded with overwhelming force, not entirely unlike a full-scale military invasion.
The Russian-Georgian war should remind everyone of a very important point regarding NATO and the European Union. Specifically, just as John Lewis Gaddis said about the Cold War, reassurance was as important as deterrence, and this made self-deterrence very important indeed.
NATO members benefited from a common deterrent towards the Soviet Union, but also from reassurance that they wouldn’t face any threats within Europe – one of the reasons NATO militaries spend so much time cooperating in multinational HQs is precisely this. NATO also provided, and provides, a degree of certainty that US, British, and French nuclear weapons are available to deter an attack on other Europeans. But, as Gaddis pointed out, the balance of power was so stable because as well as the prospect of a formidable conventional defence and a devastating nuclear counteroffensive, NATO also offered the Soviet Union confidence that nobody would do anything stupid. Reassurance was as important as deterrence, and its most important form was self-deterrence.
I picked up a copy of Süddeutsche Zeitung when boarding my plane and one particular article caught my eye, a column entitled “Für Georgien sterben?” – essentially Would You Die for Georgia? Well, no, I personally am not willing to die for Georgia, but having seen the NATO planes, I started to wonder whether British would send its soldiers to die for Georgia in the way they are dying in Afghanistan?
Here’s an incredible video that CNN obtained from a Turkish television station whose reporter was shot in the face in Georgia:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a press conference on Wednesday that the question of Georgia’s territorial integrity was a "dead issue."
Turkey is situated in the middle of the most critical three regions of the world. These are the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East. These are the regions where ethnic problems are very intense.
by Cheryl Rofer
The news coverage of the situation in Georgia has ranged from inadequate to execrable the last few days. Transparent propaganda on all sides, stuff left out and stuff very likely made up.
Today’s Washington Post, however, begins to track back to providing useful and reasonably accurate information on its op-ed page. I don’t totally endorse any of the op-eds, but at least they are beginning to look more like news than copying someone’s party line.
Negotiators have finally hammered out a deal to base U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland. After a deal was reached to base a radar system in the Czech Republic in July, the Poles were the final holdout for America’s controversial missile shield, but the agreement was delayed by the Polish demands for Patriot missiles. According to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, that demand has been met.
Following the New York Times article a few days ago outlining Sarkozy’s negotiations in Tbilsi comes an excellent article in the UK’s Sunday Times on the build-up to the crisis and the Western response. It starts in Beijing:
At the Olympic opening ceremony on August 8, Sarkozy bumped into Putin soon after news of Georgia’s offensive in South Ossetia started coming in. “Sarko” was with 11-year-old Louis, his youngest son, and the Russian prime minister wrapped the boy in a bear hug.
Sarkozy broke precedent by taking his official presidential portrait standing next to the EU flag. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is giving an interview on CNN…with the EU flag behind him. Here’s an interesting take on it.
The biggest threat to European progress is the mindset that nothing can be achieved unless sweeping reforms take place first, writes Leif Pagrotsky