On Friday, Tbilisi broke diplomatic ties with Moscow in protest to statements that Russia plans to absorb South Ossetia and Abkhazia in “several years.” Moscow responded by closing its embassy in Tbilisi.
The EU also stepped up warnings against Russia by announcing it would suspend talks for a long term partnership agreement as long as there are Russian troops inside Georgia. The Russians, using something called “salami tactics,” looks to divide Europe from itself and from the US. And who are the targets of Russia’s culinary karate chop? Germany and France.
American Vice President Dick Cheney has left the building for Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. Too bad. I as looking forward to his speech at the RNC. In Azerbaijan, Cheney looks to secure energy agreements to prevent Baku oil from going to Russia. “The U.S. is afraid that Azerbaijan will begin sending its energy resources through Russia instead of Georgia, and this question will be one of the main points of the visit,” says Vafa Guluzade, a Baku-based political analyst and former presidential adviser.
Cheney’s trip to Georgia and Ukraine are to let both nations know that the US has got their back. Or, in the words of Mark Parris, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, “Cheney’s mission is to stiffen [their] spine.” The Wall Street Journal sees Cheney’s trip to the region as a possible signal of a tougher American policy toward Russia. One wonders how traction said policy would get in an Administration that has four months left in power. Perhaps the $1 billion economic aid package to Georgia is a sign of commitment. Cha-ching! It just goes to show that it pays to be a proxy.
The Christian Science Monitor is looking for cracks in “Putin’s kingdom.” The CSM article is really quite a silly. First, forget the fact that Putin isn’t President anymore, yet he keeps being treated as he is. Who is really in charge can be debated to the end of time. But a few Russian policy experts disagreeing with Putin somehow means that there are “cracks in his kingdom”? Please. “The strong man has started to show his weaknesses,” writes Paul Quinn-Judge. I thought serious analysts would understand the difference between reality and the cult of personality.
If you really want some laughs see Ed Lucas babbling about the Britain’s politicos kowtowing to the “oil-fueled fascist kleptocracy ruled by secret police goons and their cronies.” Ed, keep pushing those book sales up, up, and up.
The real President of Russia, Dmitri Medvedev, however, is just getting started. Perhaps people should be paying more attention to him rather than Prime Minister Putin. As the interview above shows, Dima has a vision. In this vision Russia defines its own destiny, and presumably the destinies of its “near abroad.” This so-called the “Medvedev Doctrine” is predicated on five points:
“Russia recognises the primacy of the basic principles of international law, which define relations between civilised nations. It is in the framework of these principles, of this concept of international law, that we will develop our relations with other states.”
“The world should be multi-polar. Unipolarity is unacceptable, domination is impermissible. We cannot accept a world order in which all decisions are taken by one country, even such a serious and authoritative country as the United States of America. This kind of world is unstable and fraught with conflict.”
“Russia does not want confrontation with any country; Russia has no intention of isolating itself. We will develop, as far as possible, friendly relations both with Europe and with the United State of America, as well as with other countries of the world.”
“Our unquestionable priority is to protect the life and dignity of our citizens, wherever they are. We will also proceed from this in pursuing our foreign policy. We will also protect the interest of our business community abroad. And it should be clear to everyone that if someone makes aggressive forays, he will get a response.”
Spheres of influence
“Russia, just like other countries in the world, has regions where it has its privileged interests. In these regions, there are countries with which we have traditionally had friendly cordial relations, historically special relations. We will work very attentively in these regions and develop these friendly relations with these states, with our close neighbors.”
There are a few new develops concerning the aftermath of the war. Georgia has admitted using cluster bombs in a letter to Human Rights Watch. The letter emphasized that the bombs “were never used against civilians, civilian targets and civilian populated or nearby areas.” But they whole thing with cluster bombs is not when they were used. The problem is with the unexploded bomblets left after their use.
HRW’s allegations that Russia used cluster bombs has yet to be independently confirmed. For an excellent breakdown of HRW’s allegations see Moon of Alabama. Here’s the main thesis:
The ammunition in question is of Israeli origin and was used by the Georgian military. The Georgian Ministry of Defense has now admitted as much. HRW now also acknowledges this in a new press statement. But it continues to claim Russian use of such weapons. It does so by pointing to its own older reports which clearly misidentified Georgian cluster ammunition as Russian made. HRW has still to show any proof for its continuing accusations against the Russian Federation.
Georgia has released casualty figures for the war. There were 169 soldiers and 69 civilians killed. And what of the figures deaths at the hands of marauding Ossetian militiamen? After all, cleansing is messy business.
Finally, I direct your attention to Tony Wood’s “What Condoleezza Said” in the London Review of Books. The article is for subscribers only but I know that JRL carried it today. I found this passage about the rapid increase of Georgia’s military budget deserving of more discussion.
The arrival of Saakashvili changed the picture considerably. His push for Nato membership, and the funds and equipment supplied by Washington, gave military substance to his determination to regain control of the two territories. Georgia’s military spending went from $84m in 2004 to $339m in 2006; in July 2008, the Georgian parliament approved a budget which raised it to $1bn. Since 2004, Saakashvili has alternated between conciliatory offers of autonomy within Georgia and implicit threats to resolve the situation by force. The Ossetians were offered autonomy in 2005, but rejected it, and in 2006 voted for independence in a referendum Tbilisi did not recognise. Instead, in spring 2007 Saakashvili set up a parallel pro-Georgian government in South Ossetia – copying the Kremlin’s policy in Chechnya in 1995 and 1999. Retaking either territory by force, however, was still militarily unfeasible.