Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our New Running Joke

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?


  1. Anonymous13/8/08 02:08

    Bad situation.

  2. You're right; the current government in Georgia is done. However I never held out much hope for their survival. From the start there was civil war until that old Soviet apparatchik, Eduard Shevardnadze, gained control finally to be disposed in the Red Revolution by Mikheil Saakashvili, later elected president.

    IF it's true that Saakashvili ordered troops into South Ossetia you have to wonder what he was thinking. (Or drinking.)

    You're right in saying this is primarily a message to Ukraine. What a mess.

  3. I'm away from the internet for a week and Russia invades Georgia? Seriously, wtf?

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. Well, updated, the day prior to Saashkavili's move, the Russians had already made theirs. The Georgians were trying to get thru the city to oppose them.
    "Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war."

    Further, Saashkavili is now more popular than ever. If he hangs on, Russia loses. "A tunnel too far."

    Do you believe [anything said by a] Russian? Better stop.

  6. Anonymous16/1/09 01:34

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.