Remember that little war between Russia and Georgia last year? You know the one that sparked the endless playground debate of who started it? Which ramped the rhetoric of a New Cold War to an all time high? Well, that little war could have become a very big one according to Ronald D. Asmus in A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West. In his review of the book for Bloomberg, James Neuger reports:
“Several senior White House staffers” urged “at least some consideration of limited military options,” such as bombing the mountain tunnel that served as Russia’s main supply line.
Luckily, cooler heads in the Oval Office prevailed. Namely, George W. Bush, of all people, who put the kibosh on the idea.
Four days after the war started on Aug. 7, 2008, Bush cut off the discussion. A top-level White House meeting produced “a clear sense around the table that almost any military steps could lead to a confrontation with Moscow,” Asmus writes.
“Confrontation with Moscow”? They wish. How about a WAR with Moscow. I can’t believe that anyone in the White House actually thought the Russians would accept American bombing like so many other countries around the world. That is to say, complain but do nothing because there isn’t really much you can do. Given that the Russian’s already see Saakashvili as an American puppet, military interference in Russia’s “near abroad” would have caused Putin, not to say the Russian people, to pop a gasket.
The fact that there was some consideration to bomb the Gori Tunnel gives further proof to what many have speculated: Saakashvili received some kind of “green light” from inside the White House to provoke Moscow, possibly with a promise of military support. In the end, Putin’s warning to Saakashvili was more to the point. Putin told Saak: “You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you? Nobody can be trusted! Except me.” Well, I don’t know about the “except me” part, but even Sarkozy was with Putin on the first part. To pressure Saak into signing a cease fire, the French President barked at the tie-eater, who many European officials considered “an American-backed hothead who spelled trouble,”:
“Where is Bush? Where are the Americans?” Sarkozy is quoted as snarling at the Georgians. “They are not coming to save you. No Europeans are coming, either. You are alone. If you don’t sign, the Russian tanks will be here soon.”
Realizing he was the loneliest number, Saak reluctantly signed. Sarkozy was hailed in the streets of Tbilisi. And the Americans? So much for all of us being Georgians. Thank God for empty gestures.
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- By Sean — 10 years ago
As I noted the other day, Teimuraz Khugaev, head prosecutor for the Ossetian government, announced that 1692 Ossetians were killed in the Georgian assault last month. Now the Public Commission on the Investigation of War Crimes in South Ossetia has published a list of the names, birth date, cause of death, place of burial of 311 victims. So far this is far below initial claims. However, the press release states that the list is still incomplete. One can assume that more names will added to the list in the coming days, if not weeks. Here is a translation of some of the entries (kindly provided by frequent SRB commenter Chrisius Courtappointedrussiafriendlius, formally known as Chrisius Maximus)
1. Ataev Alan Muratovich. b. 1971. Died in the course of military action. Buried in the yard of his home.
2. Kelekhsaev Murzaba V. b. 1944. Shot by Georgian sniper. Buried in Tbet village.
3. Petoev Albert S. b. 1943. Killed by explosion of BM 21 Grad shell. Buried in Vladikavkaz.
9. Tadtaev Sergei Lvovich. b. 1972. Burned to death in automobile hit by Georgian tank. Buried in school no. 5.
10. Kozaev Sukiko A. b. 1940. Died from wounds obtained during bombardment of city. Buried in Itrapis village.
30. Kharaszishvili Angelina Dmitrievna. b. 1974. Died during bombardment of city. Buried in Tbet village.
31. Chekhoev Abesalom V. b. 1967. Died during bombardment of city. Place of burial unknown.
32. Elbakieva Dina. b. 2005. Died during bombardment of city. Buried in Tbet village.
49. Maldzigov Sevastii Stepanovich. b. 1965. Killed by exploding BM 21 Grad shell. Buried in Vladikavkaz.
57. Bitarov Uruszmag. b. 1950. Died during bombardment. Buried in Zguderskii cemetary.
59. Dzhussoev Mair Zaurovich. b. 1971. Burned to death in automobile that had been covered in gasoline and ignited. Buried in Nagutin cemetery.
60. Dzhussoev Aslan Mairovich. 15 years old. Burned to death in automobile that had been covered in gasoline and ignited. Buried in Nagutin cemetery.
61. Dzhussoeva Dina. 14 years old. Burned to death in automobile that had been covered in gasoline and ignited. Buried in Nagutin cemetery.
85. Shanazarova Albina Chorshanbievna. 14 years old. Killed by Georgian sniper. Buried in Zguderskii cemetery.
98. Kisiev Ibragim Feliksovich. Killed during bombardment of Khetagurova village.
99. Doguzov Leonid Nikolaevich. Killed during bombardment of Satikar village.
122. Maldzigova Evgenia Nikolaevna. b. 1927. Killed by explosion of BM 21 Grad shell. Buried in Vladikavkaz.
128. Tedeev Vladimir Romanovich. b. 1948. Died from wounds obtained during bombardment of city. Buried in Kornis village.
129. Dzhioev Radion Zurabovich. b. 1984. Died from wounds obtained during bombardment of city. Buried in yard of his home.
152. Dzhabieva Zemfira Chermenovna. b. 1952. Died in course of military action. Place of burial unknown.
177. Ikaev Valerii Vladimirovich. b. 1958. Killed by sniper during the evacuation of Zarskoi Road.
182. Lalievna Valentina Sergeevna. b. 1940. Killed by sniper during the evacuation of Zarskoi Road.
209. Kadzhaeva Elina Kazbekovna. b. 1986. Wounded during shelling of her home. Burned to death. Buried in Vladikavkaz.
214. Galoeva Larisa Valikoevna. b. 1974. Killed by explosion of BM 21 Grad shell. Buried in Vladikazkaz.
238. Ikoeva Roza Viktorovna. b. 1936. Killed during bombardment of city. Buried in Tbet village.
257. Bekoev Alan Tuzarovich. b. 1974. Killed by explosion of BM 21 Grad shell. Buried in yard of his home.
270. Bagaeva Svetlana Georgievna. b. 1975. Killed when her automobile was fired upon. Buried in yard of her home.
290. Tskhovrebov Sebastian B. b. 1937. Killed during bombardment of Tbet village.
311. Dzakhov Valerii Borisovich. b. 1987. Killed by Georgian sniper during military action. Buried in Tbet village.
The Commission is also collecting evidence on the destruction of Ossetian historical monuments and culture that was destroyed by the Georgian attack. “The annihilation of a people’s culture,” says Commission member Zalina Medoeva, “means to go further that the physical annihilation of a people. After destroying Ossetian culture, the Georgian leadership aspired to destroy the memory of the people, to wipe them off the face of the land is proof of the Ossetian historical right in taking the territory for themselves.”
Sounds as if the Ossetian government is really going to run with this genocide claim.
The Georgians aren’t going to sit idle and not make their own charges of genocidal acts. In his joint press conference with US Vise President Dick Cheney, Mikheil Saakashvili called on the world to not accept the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from South Ossetia. He claimed that more than over the years 80% of Abkhazia and in the last few weeks two-thirds of Ossetia have been cleansed of Georgians. He added:
“If anybody would try to legalize it, or would accept what has happened, basically, it will be accepting of human tragedies of hundreds of thousands of people. Ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia took place not only against ethnic Georgians, but also against ethnic Ossetians, who were considered to be disloyal.”
“So I call on all the responsible nations of the world not only to [not] accept this, but to continue condemn[ing] it and to continue uphold[ing] international law and justice. On our part, we are [a] peace-loving nation; we’ll do our best to avoid violence and we are committed to [a] peaceful resolution of all the issues, as we are committee to dialogue with everybody internally and with all the nations in [the] neighborhood and worldwide.”
As for his commitment to a peaceful resolution of all the issues, isn’t it just a bit too late for that?
- By Sean — 4 years ago
Translation and introduction by William Risch.
A friend of the Facebook group, Euromaidan News in English, sent this report from Sloviansk, Ukraine, the scene of fierce fighting between pro-Ukrainian and pro-separatist forces. As with this person’s previous report, posted in May, I have withheld the names of the author and translator. I have changed transliterations of place names from Russian to Ukrainian.
“This is Not My War”
We had to get out of Sloviansk. It’s too dangerous. We were spending the nights in the basement of our apartment building, it was too damp. It’s just terrible. War is war, what can I say? We fled the city to save our lives. As for our possessions—we left them behind and what will be will be. At least our family is together. When people flee Sloviansk, their apartments are occupied by the so-called separatists/“home guard,” and then probably the National Guard will come in, and…who knows what will happen. Now both sides—the separatists and the National Guard—are just grabbing men, giving them guns, and telling them, “Go, fight!” Who are they supposed to shoot—their own people? The home guard (separatists) are our people, and the National Guardsmen are our people. It’s a civil war, and it is awful.
The Ukrainian National Guard isn’t “storming” Sloviansk, they are bombing it—from airplanes, helicopters. They say they are targeting checkpoints and the like, but in actuality they are bombing the entire city. The terrorists take shelter, and the ones who suffer in the bombings are the elderly, women, and children. There have been a rash of premature births.
The Ukrainian National Guard is firing on the city with high caliber cannons, as well as from helicopters. A shell landed in a 9-story apartment building in the city last week. Four people died and many were injured, and every single window in the building was shattered. Lots of buildings in the city have been damaged like this from the bombings. For example, another 14-story residential building was damaged. Shells hit the 7th, 11th and 12th floors. A shell also fell on the roof of the central polyclinic, but didn’t explode. Shells landed in the pedagogical university and the dormitory, causing deaths and injuries. A janitor was killed and one student had her arm ripped off from shrapnel. Shells also landed in the children’s hospital but thank God no one was injured. It seems like they are just bombing indiscriminately.
Yesterday Krasnyi Liman was bombed. A guy I know had a shell land right in his living room, and his apartment was obliterated. In a residential apartment building. Krasnyi Liman has a really important railway station—the hospital at the railway station was bombed and a machinist was killed, a bunch of bystanders, the head doctor, and others. The National Guard tried to blame the separatists for it, but there have never been any separatist-terrorists in Krasnyi Liman—they are all in Sloviansk. I know a guy who works at the hospital—he said the Guard came into the hospital, searched for patients who had battle wounds, and shot them. Without any arrests, investigations, or anything. The National Guard did that. In Sviatohirsk there are cannons—those kind that can fire 15-20 kilometers—positioned on top of a hill pointing in the direction of Krasnyi Liman. They’ve been firing on Krasnyi Liman, and everybody there is living in basements, just like everyone in Sloviansk has been. Why did they do this to Krasnyi Liman? It’s a tourist town of 50,000 people where no terrorists have been stationed.
If they can do this to Krasnyi Liman, God only knows what they will do to Sloviansk. They aren’t storming the city. Battles are carried out on the outskirts of the city. Otherwise, it is bombing, bombing, bombing. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The government announced that the “active phase” of anti-terrorist operations was starting, and then they just started bombing. They haven’t stormed the city yet. Maybe a peaceful solution will be found. But think about it—if the military enters the city, and captures it, a lot of innocent civilians are going to be killed in the process. Snipers have been killing civilians already. A little girl was shot. There are a lot of guys from Pravyi Sektor in the National Guard. They caught one sniper and asked him why he was shooting at children in the city. He answered, “You all only have five days left anyway.” People have decided they have nothing more to lose, so their attitude to the war is changing accordingly. Like the father of that little girl who was shot by a sniper—if earlier this wasn’t his war, now he has something to fight for. He won’t fight for the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR)—who is that? What is that? Dear DNR, what are your programs, what are your political views? These are just some armed guys who took power, there is no loyalty to them among the populace. And the other side is throwing bombs at us.
We are worried that they will impose the draft. It would be okay if the National Guard was reliable. But there are a lot of new recruits who joined up just recently after there was a big amnesty of 26,000 prison inmates—a bunch of those former inmates have joined the Guard. Including those who were imprisoned for hard crimes—they’ve been given guns and enlisted in the Guard. We are worried there will be more looting in the city—there’s already looting and it might get worse.
It is really a shame that our own military is doing this. Of course they don’t want to admit it, and they blame the separatists. The separatists say it is the National Guard, and the National Guard says it is the separatists. How do you know what’s true? But as for those bombings I described, I saw them with my own eyes, across the street. I could see who was bombing, and it was the National Guard. Sloviansk is surrounded by 15,000 national troops. Things have reached the boiling point. I see that both sides are lying. Both sides are lying about the number of casualties. The morgue in Sloviansk is overflowing. They are burying bodies in swamps, wrapping them up and throwing them in the lake—it’s awful.
Sloviansk is now without running water. The waterlines were damaged in the bombing. Where we are staying now, in a nearby town, the water was also cut off. We’re getting water from another house’s well. I guess we’ll bathe in the river, at least its summertime. And there is no food left in the stores. There’s been no bread for a long time, and now the stores are out of almost everything else. There are no shipments in, because the Donetsk Region has been completely cut off and isolated from the Kharkiv Region and all others.
Right now Sloviansk is totally closed—you can’t get in or out. Those who stayed there are stuck now. It is the same in nearby towns—you are stuck wherever you are now. People can’t get in or out of Donetsk, either. (By the way, the other day the burned bodies of two Arab university students were found in Donetsk—we don’t know who did that or why.) They say the Ukrainian borders are closed now, too—women and children can cross the border but men are turned back. Maybe it’s because they are getting ready to impose the draft, I don’t know. Who are we supposed to fight? Who? This is not my war. I’m for a united Ukraine. My children were born in Ukraine. Sure, I was born in the USSR, but my children were born here, in Ukraine. Everything I have is here, in Ukraine.
The kids are suffering, of course. There were no graduation ceremonies or parties this year, nothing like that. Final exams were suspended.
There are some programs helping evacuees, and helping people evacuate from Sloviansk—the International Renaissance Foundation, for example. A few weeks ago, when the first attempts to evacuate people were made, women and children boarded the busses to evacuate, and they were attacked by gunfire. People have become cannon fodder. It doesn’t benefit the home guard for people to evacuate. And the only ones who can evacuate are those who have money. The trains from Sloviansk aren’t running. Because of the war the prices have risen 1.5 times. The banks are working, but only informally—if you know somebody you can call them up and get service through the back door of the bank. We’ll see how long we can afford to rent this little house we are staying in now. People’s pensions and salaries have been frozen, and all social payments. We got our April paychecks but nothing after that. We’re just living on what we had put away.
I thought I would go back to the city—I wanted to relocate my family here and go back. But the checkpoints were under fire; the outer ring is controlled by the National Guard, and the inner ring is controlled by the “terrorists-separatists-home guard,” however you want to call them. The National Guard let me through fine, but the separatists started shooting warning shots in the air and turned me back. I’m a local! It is really too dangerous to travel anywhere.
It’s hard to get to sleep at night, not knowing what the next day holds in store. I never could have imagined these horrors could happen here.
- By Sean — 5 years ago
News that the State Department didn’t allocate funding for Title VIII, which provides funding for research and language programs related to the study of Eastern Europe and Eurasia, is just the latest example that our government sees little value in knowledge about foreign countries. “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it,” a US State Department official told RIA Novosti. Knowledge has always been a cornerstone of foreign policy and international relations. The primary mission of State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, which administers the Title VIII program, after all, is “to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy.” Once again, fiscal myopia has taken another step in undermining that truism.
Yet, despite the importance of Russia, and the “dangers” of its hetman, Vladimir Putin, the geopolitical importance of Central Asia, not to mention the abundant oil and the natural gas, the State Department just doesn’t think that financially supporting knowledge about this region isn’t worth the $3.5 million in grant money it allocated last year
From the foreign policy standpoint, this move just boggles the mind.
As an academic, it’s just mind numbing.
As an American, the news of defunding is, unfortunately, not all that surprising.
Granted, this isn’t the first salvo on Russia related funding programs. In 2011, Fulbright-Hays, which funds doctoral dissertations to Russia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia, had to cancel its competition because of Congressional cuts. Earlier this year, Congress defunded political science grants from the National Science Foundation. This is part of a general pattern.
Many of us in the Eastern European and Eurasian knowledge community whether they be professors, policy makers, and students will be affected by this as Title VIII programs provide a a good chunk of money to conduct in-country research and learn Eastern European and Eurasian languages. Here’s a list of programs the Association for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) has compiled so far:
- The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) will suspend all competitions in its East Europe Studies Program for 2013-14. For further information, please contact Elisabeth Pop at email@example.com
- The Arizona State University Critical Languages Institute has suspended competition for its Title VIII fellowships for domestic or overseas summer language study. Other student support competitions are NOT affected, in particular, the Melikian Scholar Award competition (open to all students, graduate and undergraduate), the Project GO Scholarship competition (open to ROTC students only), and the International Distinguished Engagement Award competition (open to all students). For further information, please see http://cli.asu.edu/fellowships or contact CLI at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Indiana University has suspended competitions for Title VIII fellowships for domestic and portable intensive summer language study. FLAS and Project GO funding are still available for students studying in the Summer Language Workshop (SWSEEL). For more information, please see our website http://www.indiana.edu/~swseel/ or contact Olia Bueva at email@example.com
- NCEEER will suspend any new Title VIII programming for Fiscal Year 2013 (October 1 2013 – September 30 2014). This suspension includes the National Research Competition, the Short-Term Travel Research Grant, the Hewett Fellowship, and the Indigenous Peoples Research Fellowship. At this point, current NCEEER Title VIII grant holders will not be affected. Questions may be directed to Dana Ponte, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The SSRC Eurasia Program has suspended the competitions for its Title VIII fellowships in 2013-2014. For further information, please contact the Eurasia Program at email@example.com.
- The Woodrow Wilson Center Kennan Institute has suspended competition for its Title VIII Research Scholarship grant (3-9 months) for 2013-14. For additional information, please contact Liz Malinkin at Liz.Malinkin@wilsoncenter.org
This list will certainly grow in the coming weeks.
I strongly urge anyone who cares about this issue to write their Congressperson to put whatever pressure they can on the State Department to restore funding. You can find their contact information here.
For more information about the defunding, read the excellent Carl Schreck’s article US Defunds Venerable Russian Studies Program in RIA Novosti. Carl has been the only journalist to report on this so far. And take note, he works for Russian not American media.
Besides RIA Novosti, Inside Higher Ed has a short piece on it here.
I know many journalists covering Russia read this blog. I humbly ask that they turn their attention to this matter.