Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia Wants it Over

So says the Post.

No surprise. Georgia can't stand up to Russia, and they know it. They want this over.

Hasn't seemed to make a difference, though:

Russia ignored calls for a truce and continued to bomb targets deep in Georgia, with little apparent opposition, drawing new condemnation from the United States and other Western countries. President Bush spoke of his "grave concern about the disproportionate response," and the White House warned of serious setbacks in relations with Russia if the onslaught against a close U.S. ally did not end.

Russian airstrikes Sunday evening hit the international airport and a military factory in the capital, Tbilisi, as well as Georgian-held positions in Abkhazia, another breakaway region on the Black Sea. Russian warships were reported to be blockading a Georgian Black Sea port and to have sunk a Georgian gunboat.

It remained unclear Sunday how far Russian troops intended to advance. Georgian villages just outside South Ossetia were shelled Sunday, clouds of smoke and burning fields visible on the horizon as artillery barrages echoed loudly. Georgians fled the villages, bedding loaded into the backs of their cars. Residents of one village outside South Ossetia, Kekhvi, said advancing Russian troops had entered their homes.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told CNN in an interview that the people of his country "are not crazy" and "have no interest whatsoever in pursuing hostilities."

Russia is doing this to send a message, and the message is "we control this region, no matter what you may think, and never ever forget it." It's gunboat diplomacy, except more so.

Western reporters entering South Ossetia with Russian troops, meanwhile, saw Georgian soldiers' bodies lying uncollected in the streets of Tskhinvali, the region's capital, and heavy damage to the city. Georgian troops launched an offensive to take control of the breakaway region early Friday. Civilians told the reporters that Georgian tanks had fired indiscriminately during the two-day seizure of the city, killing and wounding many city residents.

Georgia's retreat is translating into popular anger among Georgians against the United States and the European Union, and a widespread sentiment that this small, pro-Western country has been abandoned to face Russia alone. Georgian officials said that the West's credibility is on the line and that failure to stop the continuing attacks could embolden Russia to threaten other countries in the region.

"Russia has applied unprecedented military power . . . and it is of such amplitude that it would have scared much bigger states," Alexander Lomaia, secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, said in an interview. "This war has changed the whole system of values of pro-Western, liberal-minded people. I don't want to be a bad prophet, but why would Russia stop here? There are other countries where Russia thinks it has a claim to territory."

The West was never going to enter into Russia's backyard. Certainly the United States wasn't going to antagonize a nuclear power that's also a major oil exporter, and the Europeans don't have the muscle to do so even if they wanted to, either.

So, yes, that message has been heard loud and clear. The Russians once again have satellite states, and will not brook interference or disobedience, no matter how friendly they are with the West. If the United States doesn't like it, they are free to intervene... but the Russians are clearly confident that the United States won't do anything, for the reasons I just mentioned.

It's also a clear rebuke for advocates of democracy and the rule of law in the region, too. Never mind the fact that Russia has interfered in a fellow sovereign state's internal affairs based on dubious claims of genocide, or the challenge to the democratic "system of values".

Let's just count down the contradicted core democratic principles here:

But such statements appeared to be having little impact on Russia. In a conversation with Georgia's foreign minister, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov replied, "What bombings?" when asked to halt raids on the military factory in the capital, which was struck twice Sunday, in the morning and evening. The conversation was described by a Georgian source who heard the exchange.
Governmental honesty and transparency? None.

In Russia, where public opinion is inflamed against Georgia, state television has aired almost no reports that military action and airstrikes on Georgia proper continue.
A free, fair, and honest press? Nope.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who cut short a visit to China to meet with military commanders near the Russian border with Georgia this weekend, appears to be driving Russian policy even though the constitution specifies that the country's new president, Medvedev, is the commander in chief.
A transparent chain of command and rule of law, as embodied by someone like Putin actually, um, giving up the reins to the "president"? Yeah, not so much.

Like I said, nobody wins here. Not the Georgians getting the holy hell bombed out of them, not Western advocates of democracy, and certainly not the Russians, who look like two-bit thugs. Nobody's won. It's just a question of who's lost the most.

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