Saturday, August 23, 2008

Georgia on my Mind

Anyone who hasn’t been glued to the Olympics these past two weeks will have noticed the news has been full of Russia’s invasion of Georgia*. The Abkhazians and South Ossetians, supported by Russia, have been poking sticks at the Georgian dog for some time now, which finally snapped and unwisely bit back. Russia has now declared the dog vicious and has in effect shot it. It is quite funny to hear the Russians imitate American rationale for invading and beating up on small relatively defenseless countries. They do not do it nearly as well.

Everyone is quite angry at Russia, of course, but you have to see their point, too. All the former Soviet countries in Eastern Europe are already in or desperately want into NATO to save their butts from just what happened in Georgia. NATO being All for One and One for All in defense against USSR/Russia. How would the Americans react if Central and South American countries had started signing onto the Warsaw Pact back in the Cold War days to save their behinds from the USA?

Hah, that’s a no brainer. We almost had a nuclear war when the Russians tried to put missiles in Cuba, though the USA had them in Turkey. Fair is not fair, depending on who you are. Yet I am sure that if Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador etc. thought it would have worked they would have tried. Any time they tried to install a government (by fair election or overthrow of a dictator) that cared more about its people than American business interests, they got slapped upside the head for being “Communists”.

Georgia, too, was all about business, though the Russian invasion played well with the crowds back home, who are feeling quite nationalistic. Russia doesn’t need nukes these days. They have gas and oil and Europe needs it. Badly. Russia has already demonstrated a willingness to let Western European bastards freeze in the dark, to coin a phrase, if they mess with the Bear. They have muscled in on distribution channels (pipelines). “You want our oil and gas? Then you will sell us a (controlling) interest in your pipelines”.

But pipelines from the Caspian Sea oil patch, controlled by Central Asian countries and Azerbaijan can pass through Georgia and avoid Russian control. So Russia has to protect her interests. It will be interesting to see what happens next to rescue Georgia but my guess is nothing. If I were president of Georgia, I’d be looking for the back way out in a hurry.
My real fear is Ukraine will be next. There is a fair Russian population mostly east of the Dnieper River and then there is Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Crimea has been Russian since the 18th century and before that it was ruled by the Crimean Tatars and the Ottoman Empire and before that… It NEVER was part of Ukraine. Until 1954.

On the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav (under which Bogdan Khmelnitsky traded Polish overlordship for Russian overlordship, though he didn’t realize it at the time) an allegedly drunken Khrushchev “gave” Crimea to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine. In those days it didn’t matter as borders were merely administrative anyhow. Now it matters.

Crimeans are, by and large, Russians, though they are currently citizens of Ukraine. The Russian Black Sea Fleet is HQ’d in Sevastopol, now a Ukrainian sea port. Yushchenko, in a show of solidarity with Georgia, just told Putin that he wants 72 hours notice before any ships are moved out again and that Ukraine may not renew the Sevastopol port contract with Russia when it comes up.

Don’t go ‘way folks and don’t change that dial.

*For the geographically and historically challenged, I referenced Wikipedia. You know who you are. I could name a large country full of them but will save that for another blog.

4 comments:

  1. No, if it were for you or your Auntie Evelyn, I would have named you.
    I'm surprised that no foaming-at-the-mouth types have responded. Articles on the Economist website attract 100's of comments and they fight with each other. Much of what I learned about the issue came from the more calm and highly informed comments.

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  2. I very carefully clicked on the comments section because I assumed it would be someone foaming at the mouth too.

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  3. If I were the president of Georgia I would seek to drive a wedge between the seperatists of Abkhazia (the vast majority of whom genuinely seek true independence) and the South Ossetian and Russian governments. I would do this by opening talks with the Abkhazians and offering to recognise their independence if in return they agree to be a neutral state with no Russian or Georgian troops in their territory. Abkhazia could demonstrate its independence by demanding Russian troops leave. Once Georgia recognised Abkhazia's independence then other countries (and the UN) would too. In time the interests of Abkhazia and Georgia (in remaining free from Russia) would re-align and I suspect the two states would eventually become allies and friends as they were in the past.

    The situation in "south ossetia" is far graver and intractable. "South ossetia" is not the homeland of the Ossetians and was formed by the relatively recent arrival of relatively small numbers of ethnic Ossetian refugees south of the Caucasus mountain range fleeing Russian persecution in the 18th Century (their movement south was greatly encouraged when former Georgain president Eduard Schevardnadze oversaw the construction of a road tunnel through the mountains from Russia). Here Georgia should maintain it's position of non-recognition and hopefully, in time, Russia - weary of political isolation on the matter - will allow this small but strategically important piece of land to return to Georgian control. Without Russian support certainly "south ossetia" could not survive a week.

    I am surprised also by the lack of venom from patriotic self interest groups!

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