Q: Вы говорите по-русски?*
No? Better learn!
So advised the jokesters over the last few days of our annual training down at Ft. Hunter Ligget.
The conflict in Georgia is in its fifth day now. Russia seems to have stopped their advance, and have begun to make demands from a position of indisputable military power.
My family has a treasured Finnish history, and I see echoes of those old stories in the present conflict.
Finland had rich ores and an arctic port in the north, and in the south there was territory directly north of Leningrad that the Soviets saw as defensive terrain. The Soviets made their demands, and on Finland's refusal proceeded to shell a Russian village on the border, accuse the Finns of an unprovoked attack and restate their demands. When Finland categorically refused the Soviet demands, the Red Army invaded.
Stalin's purges had seriously weakened the Red Army, and that, combined with the most bitter winter in memory and a miracle or two for Finland, resulting in a crushing initial defeat. Hitler looked on at Stalin's blunder and saw a giant with feet of clay- a key factor in his later decision to invade in Operation Barbarossa. Stalin, meanwhile, had learned a hard lesson from the ignominious defeat, and a hardened Red Army, complete with a rebuilt officer corps, saw frozen farmland become the Wehrmacht's grave.
The current situation in Georgia is considerably different, of course- most notably in military performance, and the lack of any regional power to oppose Russia. The basics, however, are the same- a former Russian territory sited on key terrain and resources with a government growing less and less receptive to socialism suffers provocation after provocation as Russia builds a tissue-thin rationale for war. Georgia made the mistake of rising to the bait (and failing to hold the south end of the Roti Tunnel when they did, but that's another matter), and now both we and they will have to deal with the consequences.
The outcomes are fairly obvious and very bad at this point:
Russia will end in de facto control of South Ossetia and the western breakaway province of Abkhazia.
The current government of Georgia is done. Russia will call for "regime change", although they will not use that word. If they get a new government outright, Georgia will become the newest old Russian puppet state. If the current government survives Russian demands for replacement, they will not last long at home and the end state may well be the same.
Other western-friendly former bloc countries have to be sweating buckets right now. Looking at you, Ukraine.
Lastly- we didn't cause the current situation, but we sure as hell stoked the fire with troop training, the push for Georgia's inclusion in NATO, public and glowing support for Georgia's government, and a general "we got your back" attitude. Now that everything has exploded, we're issuing strongly worded statements, and France is heading up a diplomatic effort.
Other "Coalition of the Willing" members are probably re-examining their willingness to play on the GWOT stage, knowing what they now know about America and the world's willingness to back them up in case of trouble at home.
*Do you speak Russian?