What happened in South Ossetia? The war may be over but questions linger. Who started the war? Was there ethnic cleansing of Georgians? What role did South Ossetian militas play in the conflict. BBC has made available the first part of Tim Whewell audio documentary on South Ossetia where he uncover more pieces of the puzzle. Here’s BBC’s program description:
This summer’s war in Georgia sparked the biggest crisis in east-west relations for 30 years. When Russia sent its tanks across the border, its intervention was denounced around the world.
Reporting from Moscow and Georgia, and with rare independent access to the disputed territory of South Ossetia, Tim Whewell investigates allegations of ethnic cleansing of Georgian villages, and counter-claims that Georgia’s army was guilty of war-crimes against Ossetian civilians.
I recommend giving it a listen.
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By Sean — 10 years ago
The Russians say they’ve pulled out of Georgia. George Bush and Nicholas Sarkozy charge they didn’t pull out. All this talk of pulling out sounds like they’re arguing whether Russia knocked up Georgia.
Well something is certainly gestating in Georgia. And the Russia-Georgia love child appears to be occupation. Russia’s gradual pull out has left a string of posts along the border of South Ossetia as part of a plan to leave 2500 peacekeepers inside a security buffer zone. The zone, according to Deputy Commander Anatoly Nogovitsyn, will be 6 to 18 kilometers thick, and will effectively allow Russian troops to occupy Georgia. The Guardian reports that Russian troops were seen digging trenches 7 km. outside of the port city of Poti. Hundreds or thousands of Georgians (it depends on who you listen to) demonstrated against the presence of twenty Russian troops yesterday, shouting at them to go home. You gotta love the protest signs in English. What a publicity stunt.
The Russian security zone and beefed up peacekeeping force will certainly pour gasoline on the theories about how Russia planned all of this from the beginning. The main proponent of the master plan thesis is none other than Pavel Felgengauer. Felgengauer agues, first in Novaya gazeta and then in the Eurasian Daily Monitor, that Russia’s war against Georgia was concocted as far back as April. Why did the Russians “provoke” this war? Why Georgia’s aspirations to join Nato and geopolitical positioning, of course. Felgengauer writes,
It seems the main drive of the Russian invasion was Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO, while the separatist problem was only a pretext. Georgia occupies a key geopolitical position, and Moscow is afraid that if George joins NATO, Russia will be flushed out of Transcaucasia. The NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, last April, where Ukraine and Georgia did not get the so-called Membership Action Plan or MAP to join the Alliance but were promised eventual membership, seems to have prompted a decision to go to war.
According to Felgengauer, the goal of the Russian invasion was to knock out Georgia’s military and maintain a permanent military presence in Georgia. Medvedev and Putin must really love it when a plan comes together. It happens so rarely. Most of them time they can’t get anything right, let alone effectively rule their own country. Now the diarchy are master manipulators of not only the hotheaded Saakashvili, but the world. I can imagine Putin explaining to Medvedev his role in the whole plot like Ed Wood did to Bela Lugosi (played brilliantly by Martin Landau) in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994):
Bela/Medvedev: Eddie/Vanya, what kind of movie is this?
Ed/Putin: Well, It’s about how people have two personalities. The side they show to the world, and then the secret person they hide inside.
Bela/Medvedev: (delighted) Oh, like Jekyll and Hyde! Ah, I’ve always wanted to play Jekyll and Hyde! I’m looking forward to this production.
(Ed/Putin stops typing. He pours Bela/Medvedev a drink.)
Ed/Putin: Ehh, your part’s a little different. You’re like the God that looks down on all the characters, and oversees everything.
Bela/Medvedev: I don’t understand.
Ed/Putin: Well… you control everyone’s fate. You’re like the puppetmaster.
Bela/Medvedev: (getting it) Ah, so I pull the strings!
Ed/Putin: Yeah. You pull the strings — (he suddenly gets a look) “Pull the strings”… hey, that’s pretty good!
(Ed/Putin quickly starts typing again.)
That is the real beauty the Russians. When we need them to be incompetent bunglers who are mired in perpetual backwardness, they’re there to play the part. When we need them as conniving, master plotters with their evil claws ready to “pull the strings,” they play that role too. You gotta love their dramaturgical range.Post Views: 967
By Sean — 4 years ago
Thus far I’ve been silent on the Russian military occupation of Crimea. I’ve found the deluge of media on the crisis quite overwhelming. I do have a stance: Russia has violated Ukrainian sovereignty, an irony considering Moscow’s often paeans to sovereign integrity. I agree with Mark Adomanis that Russia has made a grave mistake that will cost their economy and international standing. And like him, I don’t support invasions of countries on principle so there’s no reason why I would support Russia on this. I’m not sure if taking Crimea amounts to “a blunder of historic proportions,” however. It’s too soon to assess the final fallout. It’s clear to me that Putin has the upper hand here. The West has little leverage—targeted economic sanctions and visa bans just don’t rattle Putin very much. Ending trade talks, G8 preparations, and other agreements under negotiation will do little. The US and EU just have nothing Putin wants or cares enough about. The Russian president clearly believes he can weather any storm western powers conjure over him. The only measure I think that will put pressure on Putin is if Russia’s elite is targeted. By one calculation 20 of Russia’s richest lost $9.5 billion when the Russian market crashed last Monday. Continued economic dips could mobilize Russia’s elite against their president. The question is when Russia’s elite have enough collective wherewithal, strength and gumption to challenge him.
Putin is going to take Crimea. The question is in what form: as part of Russia or as a protectorate. And to do it, he’s going use the next week’s referendum as the excuse. Basically, he’s going to claim that the Crimeans voted to join Russia. He will assert to no end that it was done “democratically” and “by the law.” Both houses of Russia’s Duma are ready to accept Crimea. Few outside of Russia will recognize the vote, of course. It’s not even legal under the Ukrainian constitution which stipulates any attempt at succession must be put to a national referendum. Whatever happens, Crimea will become a contested sovereign space like other “frozen conflicts” in the region.
This move could also open up a can of worms for Putin. If he’s ready to accept Crimea’s referendum on leaving Ukraine, will he welcome other republics in the Russian Federation to hold votes on succession? Probably not. Still, it’s a potentially dangerous precedent.
Crimea joining Russia is inevitable if only because the referendum ballot is rigged. The ballot asks voters two questions. 1) Do you support joining Crimea with the Russian Federation as a subject of Russian Federation? and 2) Do you support restoration of 1992 Crimean Constitution and Crimea’s status as a part of Ukraine? There’s a box next to each question indicating a “Yes” vote. There isn’t a place to mark “No.” Further the ballot states, “Ballots left unmarked or marked with both answers will be disqualified.” As Volodymyr Yavorkiy, a member of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, told the Kyiv Post, “There is no option for ‘no,’ they are not counting the number of votes, but rather which one of the options gets more votes. Moreover, the first question is about Crimea joining Russia, the second – about it declaring independence and joining Russia. In other words, there is no difference.” Indeed, as Halya Coynash put it: “There is no possibility of voting for the status quo.”
This vote will be a farce for many reasons. There is little time to properly organize or propagate it let alone educate voters on its implications. Plus monitors have to quickly organize and make sure the vote is run without machinations. Schemes might already be in the works. As the Kyiv Post noted, 2.5 million votes have been printed even though there are only 1.5 million voters. The situation is ripe for ballot stuffing. Crimean Tatar leaders are calling for a boycott. But it won’t matter. It’s likely that a small minority of Crimeans will decide the majority’s fate since there’s no minimum hurtle for passage. So on March 16 Crimeans are left with a non-choice: Russia or a protectorate of Russia. There just isn’t any room for no.
Image: BBCPost Views: 1,134
By Sean — 10 years ago
The Democratic and Republican conventions are over. Thank god. All the political pomp, demigod worship, endless biographical tales, self-congratulation, repetitions of God Bless America, convention protesters and chants of U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A have reduced to a low simmer. Now the pundits and campaign gurus are weighing in. To my surprise McCain beat Obama in the preliminary TV ratings:
Across all broadcast networks Thursday, Sen. McCain’s speech ended the night with a 4.8 rating/7 share, compared to Sen. Obama’s 4.3/7 average, according to overnight numbers from metered households in 55 U.S. markets measured by Nielsen. These ratings are preliminary, however, and are subject to change.
I have lots of thoughts on the both party’s performances which I won’t belabor here. Suffice to say I think Obama gave a good speech until he began to promise the world. At that point I promptly turned him off. McCain’s speech was just boring. As everyone knows, they man doesn’t fare well behind a podium.
I do have to say that McCain’s response to the attempts to disrupt his speech was brilliant. “My friends, my dear friends,” McCain said moving off script, “please, please don’t be diverted by the ground noise and the static.” This gave his speech a jolt in the arm. Unfortunately, it faded rather quickly as he became mired in teleprompter morass. I gave him the axe after 20 minutes and tuned into the new 90210 (which I loved).
While McCain doesn’t stay on message when he speaks off the cuff, part of me thinks it would have been quite entertaining to see him wonder around the stage, microphone in hand, talking “small town meeting” style. Alas, there just isn’t much room for spontaneity in managed democracy.
Speaking of managed democracy, what role did Russia play in the words of the candidates. Very little actually. Obama only mentioned Russia once with his promise to “curb” its agression. Here’s is what Obama said:
I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
McCain mention of Russia was a little more substantial. He put oil and empire at the center of Russia’s “invasion.” Though he said that he would work to establish good relations. Here’s what the Maverick had to say:
“We have dealt a serious blow to al-Qaeda in recent years. But they are not defeated, and they’ll strike us again if they can. Iran remains the chief state sponsor of terrorism and on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons. Russia’s leaders, rich with oil wealth and corrupt with power, have rejected democratic ideals and the obligations of a responsible power. They invaded a small, democratic neighbor to gain more control over the world’s oil supply, intimidate other neighbors, and further their ambitions of reassembling the Russian empire. And the brave people of Georgia need our solidarity and prayers. As President I will work to establish good relations with Russia so we need not fear a return of the Cold War. But we can’t turn a blind eye to aggression and international lawlessness that threatens the peace and stability of the world and the security of the American people.”
Both are rather bland statements that are more to say that they know Russia exists rather than how to deal with it. What really strikes me about both these excerpts is how similar they are. If you slice out the rhetoric and hyperbole, Obama and McCain are basically saying the same thing.
It’s hard to say who will be better to Russia. Both candidates have their firm face on, looking all manly and foreign policy-like. Plus so much of that they say is for domestic consumption. As banal it may sound, Russia, as well as us all, will just have to wait to see what either will do once they’re in office. For campaign time it’s much safer to speak loudly and carry a small stick.Post Views: 782