Sunday, 17 August 2008

Mostly Georgia...

The rabbit has been very much out of the loop lately. It seems that while everybody else is on holiday, the rabbit is being run ragged workwise and has just returned from a week out of town hopping from criminal court to the next criminal court and back to the first. Hat Tip is due to Ron Knee for the above image, taken at a motorway service station. Ronald was less than impressed by the service as was apparently someone else who took the opportunity to arrange the pen holder display so as to send out a message.

To the main business: I go away for a few days and a new cold war starts! Like the enormous majority of westerners, I knew next to nothing about Georgia but was suspicious of the news spin that seemed to portray Georgia as a latter day 'gallant little Belgium' of World War I fame. Fortunately, a friend who is a university lecturer and Russia specialist came to dinner last night. This is mostly his take on recent events.

Russia: the Russians have a overwhelming sense of national humiliation as regards the post cold war settlement of the 1990s (echoes of Versailles). They have some grounds for complaint as regards broken treaty commitments etc. They also have a deeply held belief that they are being encircled, particularly by NATO. The very pro US Poland in particular drives them crazy, principally as regards the possibility of US missiles being located in Poland. There have even been mutterings about placing Russian missiles in Cuba if this is done. They are seriously pissed off and intend to put themselves about, in particular in former satellite countries. Many of these countries have sizeable Russian minorities.

Abkhazia/South Ossetia: Stalin 'gave' these regions to Georgia in one of those arbitrary imperial line drawing exercises that has caused so much trouble subsequently when mutually hostile peoples with different and incompatible cultures/languages/religions/aspirations find themselves within the same borders. The South Ossetians for example are a tribal Muslim mountain people. They have nothing in common with the Christian Georgians and hate their guts. The general consensus is that if these regions were given a fully free and fair vote on their constitutional arrangements, Abkhazia would vote for independence with some form of association with Russia and South Ossetia would vote to become a part of Russia (and thus be reunited with North Ossetia, which is in Russia). The ceasefire following the uprisings in these regions in the early 1990s (involving Russian peacekeepers) held pretty well until Thursday before last.

Georgia: The Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili is incompetent, unpopular and hardly the paragon of democratic virtue he has been portrayed as in the west. He decided to boost his popularity with a military adventure to reassert Georgian authority over the dissident provinces. This has backfired badly on him as the unsuing disaster has made him even more unpopular than before.

What happened goes something like this...

1. 7 August - Georgian troops enter South Ossetia. This is entirely gratuitous and disturbs a status quo that had kept the peace.They meet resistance from the Ossetians and trash the Ossetian capital with rocket fire. They also attack lightly armed Russian peacekeepers. The timing is clever - the eyes of the world are on Beijing.

2. The Russians are predictably enraged and Putin hot foots it back from Beijing. A successful counter invasion is mounted. My expert informant expresses the view that if the Russians had confined their activities to occupying South Ossetia, driving the Georgians out and restoring the status quo, then he wouldn't have criticised them. But they didn't...

3. The Russians set about teaching the Georgians a lesson. Russian troops penetrate deep into Georgia proper. the objective - apart from punishment - appears to be to disable the Georgian military. Atrocities follow.

4. The unreconstructed cold warriors in the west (and particularly the US) think Christmas has come early. Much huffing and puffing from the State Department. There is talk about fast tracking Georgia into NATO and even the EU. The EU is split as to how to respond between Atlanticists on the one hand and the very worried Germans and French (and Italians - a little surprisingly) on the other. Ceasefires are eventually cobbled together. At least for now...

My friend pronounces himself deeply worried. Incidentally, he is an American and an Obama supporter. He thinks these discontents may play into McCain's hands as he hangs tough and plays on his military background and experience. We shall see...

I use he phrase 'eyes of the world' above. So as a parting shot and to lighten the mood, here are the Dead with Eyes of the World...




7 comments:

Never Mind The Bollix said...

Welcome back to the 'real' world, Rabbit. In here you are safe from world wars, muggers, rapists and people who like to kill other people.
The only crime here in blog-land is the occasional spelling error and grammatical homicide.

white rabbit said...

Very kind, Mr Bastard - let crimes against spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax and everything else rip :D

Ron Knee said...

Georgie Bush is a dangerous man, he's recently been on a world tour of all his labradors telling them to keep in line and play tough. His wanting to site nukes so near to Russia can only bring a swift kick up the jacksy from the once communist state of Russia and I really don't know what he's playing at. Is it a Maggie Thatcher - like attempt to try to bail out his flagging popularity by starting a war so that he can look "Patriotic and heroic" just like Maggie did with the Falklands conflict?

These chaps only seem to go to another country's aid when there is a political agenda or oil at stake.

JoJo said...

Do you have to wear that white wig when you go to Court over there?

If you want a good Dead tune to go along with your post, try "Throwing Stones".

IMHO, "Eyes" is too a positive song to pair with possible WW3.

Ron - I really hope by "these chaps" you are only talking about the idiots in the White House and not the entire USA. I know we are thought of as Ugly Americans but we aren't all bad and we hate Bush as much as you do.

JoJo said...

Jeez, write much? "Eyes is too positive a song" is what that should read.

white rabbit said...

JoJo - yes I do wear that white wig.

'And the kids they dance and shake them bones' ;)

JoJo said...

And the politicians throwing stones....