« McCain speaks in slogans. | Main | Obama - Too smart for America? »

17 August 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Patrick Lang


You don't know how to spell my name? pl

William R. Cumming

Chalmers Johnson also published a book by the name "Blowback" in 2000. Yet to determine whether the Georgia "crisis" is representative of blowback but we do now know CIA balkan intrigues have typically failed long term US interests. Events in the South Caucaus region may be the same performance redue.

Clifford Kiracofe

Interview 16 August with Shevardnadze who says:

"I cannot say that Russia today initiates another cold war. But the fact that radars are being installed in the Czech Republic and Poland is a sign of a new cold war. Radars are similar to nuclear weapons. Russia is fully able to create similar weapons. Today we see all the symptoms of a new cold war,Americans now have started to put these radars on European territory. I cannot understand it.... I just cannot understand their motives. I'm not young and I am a very experienced politician and when I make analysis of their behavior, I cannot see any logical reason why they need this now...Russia is being forced to go back to soviet times. And we are one of those who’s forced them to do it. When we went with our forces to Tskhinvali, why was it necessary to do it now? I don t see any reason why we had to do it now. But what’s happened, you can’t change, and a mistake is a mistake...
Georgia is a civilised country, but in its history there were times when it had to sell its children on the Istanbul markets - they were then taken to Egypt. And it was not only boys, but girls too. Their mothers tried to convince them how sweet their lives would be there.

When the Russians came, they banned this slavery. And I can't but say this - that the Russians actually saved Georgia. Why is it, that today America is the only country who has influence on Georgian politics? Do they really need to put us at war with Ossetia? It's logically not right. It was our leaders' decision to do all this aggression. It was exclusively the decision of the Georgian state. And I believe we made a mistake, a very serious mistake." ...


My peace plan if I were a Georgian dictator ...

"The Las Vegas in Caucasus strategy" (or ... be glad I am not a ruler of any country. heh.)

1. Sign Peace Treaty with Russia. They can keep abkhazia and South Ossetia if they want. (big effing deal, get it back later)

2. Offer Russia alternate naval port to Ukraine. Lease on the cheap. (99 yrs?) (but they have to build a new one) Plus they can lease one air force base. (40 yrs? 60 yrs?)

3. Restore Georgia proper boundary. (In addition to treaty on immigration, open trade, citizenship, military protocols, etc)

4. Georgia will not seek NATO entry.

4. In exchange to all that
Russia must give Georgia absolute guarantee of peace and independence.


Treaty with the US

1. wanna free 99 yrs airforce base lease in Georgia?

2. In exchange: sign a 200yrs banking treaty. (with "no fucking around with our banking system clause". This is the money shot.)


With the two superpowers taken care by way of equilibrium, next task for Georgia would be fixing the economy.

Generally, Georgia geopolitical strategy will be a mix between Las Vegas and Swiss. (everybody is a whore and needs money, so let's make money out of it. All of their neighbors are tightwad dictatorships. No fun.)

The Attack everybody "Israel" model is dubious and will only lead to total destruction of Georgia. Endless fighting with Russia pushed by wimp of DC politics.

Georgia task:

1. Restore energy transit income

2. generate income from the two competing super power military bases

3. income from up keeping, supplying those bases

4. Make the entire country free trade zone. 0% tax on goods trade. (The Singapore model) Goods trading between Russia, Iran, Turkey with western finance? seriously. That should destroy abkhazia and south ossetia economy and reverse money flow.

5. income from property management, rental and running things. (see above)

6. The banking treaty. (Swiss in caucasus) Banking interface between US and Iran alone will drown Georgia with money in no time. (But Georgia would really need that banking treaty.)

7. The rest is Casinos and entertainment industry. (Macau model)

Since every super rich, corrupt, evil and most degenerate guys in the world need to transfer money freely. They will protect Georgia from any harm for decades to come.

They can buy Abkhazia and South Ossetia piece by piece later.

They should have learned from the best in the small country business: Switzerland, Singapore, HongKong, Monaco or Liechtenstein even...

Going to war with Russia is stupid, it doesn't even make money in the long run. Who advice those georgians anyway? jeebus...

David Habakkuk

Clifford Kiracofe,

There is an interesting article dealing in particular with Abhazia on the openDemocracy website -- the author, George Hewitt, is Professor of Caucasian Languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies here in London, and a Fellow of the British Academy.

It begins:

'On the second full day of the Georgia-Russia war of 8-12 August 2008, Russian patrol-boats operating off the Black Sea shore of Abkhazia sank four Georgian vessels apparently intent on landing in the territory. The identity of these vessels is not yet clear, but it is interesting to note that a published list of military equipment in the possession of the Georgian government - equipment largely supplied over many years by Tbilisi's western friends - includes a ship called the General Mazniashvili.

'Why interesting? Because General Mazniashvili (aka Mazniev) is best known for his role in spreading "fire and sword" through Abkhazia and South Ossetia on behalf of Georgia's Menshevik government of 1918-21. The naming of the ship is a revealing indicator of current official Georgian sentiment about a figure central to the pitiless effort ninety years ago to establish control over these two areas. It is also a reminder to Abkhazians and South Ossetians that their hard-won freedom from Georgian rule in the brutal wars of the early 1990s is part of a longer history of defence of their integrity that deserves the world's attention, understanding and respect.

'These peoples, and not just the Georgians - or Russians, or Americans, or anyone else involved in the latest war in the region - have their own history, many of whose artefacts have been deliberately pulverised in this generation (see Thomas de Waal, "Abkhazia's archive: fire of war, ashes of history" [20 October 2006]). The lesson of the short war of August 2008 is that their Abkhazian and South Ossetian voices must be heard and their own choices must be included in any decisions about their future if the cycle of conflict - of which 1918-21 and 1991-93 are but two episodes - is going to be broken rather than repeated.'

(See http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/abkhazia-and-south-ossetia-heart-of-conflict-key-to-solution.)

Clifford Kiracofe

David Habbakuk,

Thanks for the extremely interesting piece by Prof. Hewitt.

1. I did find a reference to the Harriman manganese mines in Georgia. The Harriman project failed. The Harriman interests were linked to London via Brown Bros Harriman and its relationship with Lazard Freres. Lazard, I believe it was, tried to buy up lead mines in Franco's Spain in the late 1930s...conveniently prior to WWII. This caused something of a scandal at the time. The Harriman family, like the Bush family, have been members of the elite Yale final club, Skull and Bones. And I seem to recall the Walker family (the "W") partnered with the Harriman interests on Wall Street. So W's Georgia policy isn't so out of line for certain interests perhaps:

"William Averell Harriman, U. S. financier who has been cruising about central and eastern Europe the last few years seeking opportunities for investing his money, last week clinched control of all manganese ore mined in the Soviet Union. Two years ago the Soviet gave him a concession to mine manganese, invaluable ore for toughening steel, in the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black and the Caspian Seas." TIME Magazine 1927

2. Note Condi the Neocon wannabee's most intemperate language:

""We have to deny Russian strategic objectives, which are clearly to undermine Georgia's democracy, to use its military capability to damage and in some cases destroy Georgian infrastructure and to try and weaken the Georgian state," she said.

"We are determined to deny them their strategic objective," Rice told reporters aboard her plane, adding that any attempt to recreate the Cold War by drawing a "new line" through Europe and intimidating former Soviet republics and ex-satellite states into submission would fail.

"We are not going to allow Russia to draw a new line at those states that are not yet integrated into the trans-Atlantic structures," she said, referring to Georgia and Ukraine, which have not yet joined NATO or the European Union but would like to."

Condi's language is consistent with Brzezinski's narcissistic geopolitical vision as expressed in his "Grand Chessboard" which vision was implemented by Madeleine Albright during the Clinton era and has persisted through Bush43. Condi was a student of Albright's father, Joseph Korbel a shady and opportunist Czech diplomat in the Benes entourage in London. As I recall, Condi's dissertation was on the Czech military and its relationship to the Soviet military. Thus her present simplistic and irrelevant analogies to 1968.

"Trans-Atlantic structures" sounds rather dated/Cold War and Bilderberg-ish. The delusional US foreign policy elite has not been able to bring itself to adjust to the emerging multipolar world and the new balance of power ("correlation of forces").



UNObserver & International Report
Andrei Fedorovski: Conflict in South Ossetia; Another Side of the Coin

2008-08-18 | Due to the fact that today’s major international press is prejudiced, there is a huge lack of information.

History of South Ossetian conflict, since 1990 *

September 20, 1990:
South Ossetia announces its independence and national sovereignty.

December 10, 1990:
South Ossetia’s democratic elections have been held, which the Georgian minority have boycotted. Subsequently, a Georgian invasion followed, along with the brutal shooting of civilians. South Ossetia eventually maintained its territorial integrity because of the civil war that broke out in Georgia.

January 19, 1992:
South Ossetians were questioned:
“1. Do you agree with South Ossetia’s independence?
“2. Do you agree with the announcement, that South Ossetia will become a member of the Russian Federation, as of September 20, 1991?”
This was voted democratically and more than 98 percent said Yes.

July 14, 1992:
Russian peacekeepers came into South Ossetia on a peacekeeping mission, on the grounds of the Dagomysskie Soglasheniya. However, ever since South Ossetia became an autonomic republic, its independence was not recognized by any member of the United Nations.

August 8, 2008:
With moral and material support from the West, Mikheil Saakashvili starts a war with the brutal invasion of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia.

Another Side of the Coin

The major international media remain suspiciously silent about the illegitimacy of Georgia’s invasion, just a day before the start of the Olympic games in China! We weren’t told how Georgia’s artillery rained destruction on South Ossetia. It is this horrifying act that was the onset to the whole conflict.

Instead, the BBC shows us Mikheil Saakashvili asking the West for support and accusing Russia as the aggressor, while he is in fact responsible for the whole escalation of this conflict; it was under his command that Russian peacekeepers and two thousand South Ossetian citizens were shot while defending themselves. Based on the right of self-defense, the Russian military response in both South Ossetia and Georgia seems very natural. As PM Mr. Vladimir Putin announced earlier, Russia’s invasion is legal and can be justified.

The brutal invasion by Georgia, shooting of civilians and completely vanishing Tskhinvali (the capital of South Ossetia) from the map are barbaric acts and may be considered as genocide, that will probably have devastating consequences for peace in the Caucasus. These crimes are a violation of International Law and should be prosecuted in The Hague.

Nevertheless, thanks to all the speculations in the media regarding Russia, she remains the bête noire of the West, as she has always been before. Therefore, I do not believe, according to the media view, that by negotiations, South Ossetia will easily reach peace with Georgia. Nor do I believe that they can somehow bring humiliated Russia Justice. We get to see only one side of the coin.

Starting a war with the brutal invasion of Tskhinvali gains Mikheil Saakashvili publicity and moral support from the West. In the meantime, all major international media are being reticent about the Georgian’s atrocity against the country, which they claim to be their own. It is more than obvious, now, that there is no support at all for Russia in this matter - even if there ever was. Nevertheless, hypocrisy is particularly wicked for the South Ossetian and Russian people, killed by this war - in fact for all the victims of Sakaashvili’s War.

Andrei Fedorovski


LINK to translated version:

Website in Russian:

Please also see:

US, Allies Contemplating Action Against Russia

Georgians Fired Russia’s Peacekeepers Point-Blank

Sky News lies: Tskhinvali ruins used to smear Russians

(Original Footage used above) “The crimes of georgian's army in S. Ossetia.”

UN seeking nearly $59 million to aid Georgian conflict victims

Hospitals inundated by South Ossetian victims

UNHCR launching emergency humanitarian airlift in response to South Ossetia displacement http://www.unobserver.com/index.php?pagina=layout4.php&id=5043&blz=1

South Ossetia: Saakashvili accepts ceasefire terms

South Ossetia: Politics, Diplomacy and War

Michael Torpey

Vlad "The Impaler" Putin (rhymes with Rasputin) is the Tzar of all the Russia's and he is the enemy of the United States. So is China and the President of the United States for the last seven years has been borrowing from both until the US is a debtor nation. No amount of bluster is going to shake up Vlad and his puppet Dimitri (Whatever, talk to the hand) Medvedev. Like China they are too big to bully and too cynical to be charmed. We have to work with them. My plan is simple. Our national policy should be to be the great manufacturing nation we are. 100% literacy and full employment in retooled 21st century factories. Factories are the only things that creates wealth (see China). War is bad for trade. Russia will have it's day in the sun until the oil runs out and then they will be again a hungry bear with nuclear claws.

Clifford Kiracofe

Query to ALL,

The Russian Foreign minister today seemed to indicate in a televised news conference that the Georgian side signed a DIFFERENT document than the one Russia signed with the original Sarkozy/EU mediation. Lavrov spoke in Russian and there was an English language overlay in the transmission I watched. I am not sure how accurate the translation was on this specific point.

Does this mean that the US side via Condi Rice provided the Georgian side with a different and ALTERED document to sign that substantively modified the ORIGINAL document signed by Russia in the Sarkozy/EU mediation?

Are there now TWO DOCUMENTS in circulation that are worded differently? Neither document apparently has been signed by BOTH sides.

The Russian side has repeatedly cited the "6 Points" of the ORIGINAL Sarkozy mediation.

Can anyone clarify this? Perhaps one of the European SST readers not subjected to the present intense US censorship/propaganda bubble could explain?


David, Clifford:

I see your points regarding how Georgia blundered and Bush and Condi are blundering still and etc. But I wonder what you guys would see as a smart U.S. and/or Western policy would be vis a vis Russia, especially as regards any revanchist moves on its part.


Clifford Kiracofe

For a discussion of Russian and Georgian "military art" see this interesting analysis:

...."While the limited value of the US military assistance did not seem to lower Georgian confidence, the second factor of under-estimating the Russian response was rooted in Georgia's mistaken threat perception. Specifically, Georgia's strategic assessment, reflected in its three guiding plans, the National Security Concept, National Threat Assessment and National Military Strategy, each disregarded any direct threat from Russia, stating that there was "little possibility of open military aggression against Georgia", and defining "the probability of direct aggression" against Georgia as "relatively low".

"And perhaps most importantly, the actual state of readiness of the Georgian armed forces suggests that although the Georgian offensive may have been more than adequate against local forces in South Ossetia, they faced insurmountable challenges when confronted by a much more combat-capable and over-powering Russian force.

Thus, Georgian deficiencies from not being able to wage or defend against large-scale combat operations involving a major armed force, lacking any combined-arms experience or training, and from having insufficient logistical support and inadequate air defenses, combined to doom Georgia's operational goals in South Ossetia from the very start." http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/JH20Ag01.html


The short answer is the United States should drop the neo-Mackinder geopolitical fantasies and the aping of 19th century British "Great Games" in Eurasia, as expressed, for instance, in Brzezinski's "Chessboard" book. As a realist, IMO this requires an adjustment to the emerging multipolar environment and dropping the Jacobin/Utopian/Neocon "unipolar"/imperial mindset and foreign policy.

We can endeavor to adjust our differences with Russia through diplomacy. We need what my old realist professor of US diplomatic history, Norman Graebner [see his Ideas and Diploamcy] called an "analytical policy" as opposed to an "ideological" policy.

The United States had excellent relations with Russia in the 19th century. I do not recall any US concern about Russia's policy in the Caucasus at that time.

As a Virginian, I note that our tobacco was shipped to Russia in the 1690s under an imperial ukase of Peter the Great. When I visited St. Petersburg and went up the Neva to see his Summer Palace, I recalled that there were more ships there from the US than from any other country trading with Russia in the years prior to 1812. Yes there were problems in the Soviet period but the FBI had the domestic situation well under control, we were allies in WWII, and we managed to keep the Cold War within reasonable limits of violence.

I have a technical article on national strategy entitled "Selective Engagement" Chapter 2 in James J. Henz,ed., The Obligation of Empire. United States' Grand Strategy for a New Century (Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2004), pp. 33-52.

Precisely what do you mean by the slogan "revanchism"? If you mean Russia taking Alaska back by force, well yes I would be concerned and oppose that. But what do you mean by the term "revanchist", what vital US national interests are you talking about, and what is your threat perception?

Patrick Lang


I would have to say that the Russian troops I saw on the TeeVee were a nasty collection of sad sacks.

Annnnd, the black smoke from the exhausts indicaes that the engines in their vehicles are as poor in quality as ever. pl

Clifford Kiracofe

The sad sacks have Condi in hysterics and possibly overcome by the black smoke.

Hard to find much technical and professional military analysis from authoritative sources online so far. Hopefully more will emerge, particularly with respect to the Israeli role.

Jane's Defense Weekly's initial take of 13 August which avoids the Israeli issue:

..."The Russian incursion into Georgian territory – and the air campaign against Georgian military targets -- show a confident Russian military. This is not the degraded Russian military of the 1994-1996 Chechen War, when Russian fighting units were plagued by corruption, poor leadership and lack of funding. Since launching a second war in the North Caucasus in 1999, the Russian military has gained significant combat experience, through an often brutal pacification campaign. The breakaway republic of Chechnya – just over the border from Georgia -- has now reached a level of relative stability.

Hodge concluded, “Clearly, the Russian military is still capable of launching complex, combined arms operations. Its leaders have apparently studied the NATO air campaign over Kosovo and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition to targeting Georgian military sites, Russia has struck civilian communications infrastructure and airports and has staged an effective media campaign. Russia has apparently unleashed cyber warfare on Georgia, although it is unclear whether this has government backing or not. ‘Denial of service’ attacks have been staged on Georgian servers, and Georgian government sites have been repeatedly hacked.”

Mark Logan

Ah, the cyber war..
That may have been all too
easy. An interesting tale

"How I became a soldier in the Georgia-Russia cyber war"



Clifford Kiracofe wrote:

"Precisely what do you mean by the slogan "revanchism"? If you mean Russia taking Alaska back by force, well yes I would be concerned and oppose that. But what do you mean by the term "revanchist", what vital US national interests are you talking about, and what is your threat perception?"

Well in posing my question to you and David I wasn't using the term in any perjorative sense at all and was instead just wondering what you saw as being a smart approach to Russia. Obviously if Russia were to now take Ossetia as its own again that would indeed be a revanchist act, which says nothing as to whether same would be justifiable, desirable, right, wrong, good, bad or etc.

As to my thoughts on the issue of Russia in general I guess my tendencies accord with yours in the ideal in that I don't see any great, immediate vital American interests at stake and indeed think that we've probably already participated in going at least a bit too far already in pressing Russia by pushing the NATO borders as far and fast as they have moved. And of course given what we did in Kosovo we must look hypocritical as hell to the Russians to be condemning them for riding to the aid of the Ossetians.

On the other hand though revanchism and territorial aggression in Europe does have some nasty pejorative history obviously, which the U.S. hasn't exactly been able to stay clear of despite trying. And that worries me. If, once again, Europe plunges into being a sandbox for map-redrawing thugs using force I don't know any reason guaranteeing why it would turn out any prettier than it has in the past, or why the U.S. would be able to stay out of it this time. Indeed I suspect the circumstances are such that it would be harder for us to do so now.

So yeah, not only would I be a bit worried if Russia tried to retake Alaska, but probably be a bit concerned if it tried to retake the Ukraine too.

So I don't know, and would just think we ought to proceed very, very carefully. Theoretically, the isolationists in the U.S. had a nice line of logic in the years before WWI and then in those before WWII too as to why we should be uncaring as to what was going on in Europe. But of course the theory failed to take into account lots of pragmatics.

Thus, again, I was just hoping to hear some thinking about those kinds of specific issues that seem to be at the crux of the present-day situation with Russia. Such as, say, whether NATO should indeed accept the Ukraine into the fold, or whether NATO has already gone too far in accepting so many others in so recently and etc., etc.


Clifford Kiracofe

1. Seems the "White House"'s big plans for a naval show in the Black Sea for Georgia have run into a hitch: Turkey (Montreux Convention and all that). So on top of our rerun of the "Great Game" are we now we are back to the "Eastern Question?"

"Moreover, to send the Comfort, a destroyer or any other major naval vessel, the Bush administration would need to obtain permission from Turkey under the Montreux Convention, an international treaty that regulates naval passage in the Black Sea. So far, Turkey, which controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles that link the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, has refused, the Pentagon officials told McClatchy."

2."CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - The White House Tuesday said if Russia has seized any U.S. military equipment in Georgia, Moscow must return it immediately."
Maybe condi can bat her eyelashes and ask "pretty please" at the next NATO meeting of sad sack diplos.

3. Russian general points out Israeli aid to Georgia, according to Israeli press. Of course, not a word about Israeli angle in the US media bubble over America.

"Top Russian general: Israel armed, trained Georgia forces

"Israel supplied Georgian military forces with elite training and arms, a top Russian general was quoted as saying on Tuesday, as Russia and Georgian forces exchanged prisoners of war in a goodwill gesture.

"Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Col.-Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Israel had supplied arms to Georgia, delivering weapons systems including eight types of unmanned aircraft and about 100 anti-tank mines, AFP reported on Tuesday.

"Israeli special forces also helped train Georgian military intelligence units, he said.

"In 2007, Israeli experts trained Georgian commandos in Georgia and there were plans to supply heavy weaponry, electronic weapons, tanks and other arms at a later date, but the deal didn't work out," Israeli media quoted Nogovitsyn as saying." http://haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1013100.html

4. Speaking of Ivan, OT but interesting article per Soviet era spy "Zephyr" (Mikhail Mukasei) who just died at 101.:

"Earlier, during World War Two, under the cover of the Soviet vice-consul in Los Angeles, Mukasei gathered "highly valued" information linked to Japan's wartime threat to the Soviet Union, the SVR said."

David Habakkuk


Map redrawing is to some degree inevitable. I very much hope that this does not come to include the Ukraine. If it did, however, the likely scenario is not one in which the Russians attempt to absorb the whole Ukraine. It is one in which the inhabitants of the Crimea (only part of the Ukraine because of Khrushchev's ukaz of 1954) decide they do not want to be in the same state as West Ukrainian nationalists who traditionally look to Germany and many of whom collaborated with the Germans in 1939-45.

At that point the Eastern and Central Ukraine might fragment extremely unpleasantly -- and the Russians get drawn in.

We really do need -- both in the U.S. and Britain -- to get away from the basic assumption to which Colonel Lang points: that it is a normal condition for the territorial boundaries of 'states' to be coterminous with those of 'nations', in the sense of groups sharing a common identify and common allegiances.

This was a central theme of the anguished complaint about American policy in the Caucasus made recently by the Canadian anthropologist John Colarusso, who has been involved as a back channel diplomat between Washington and Moscow on matters do to with the area. He accused American policymakers of endorsing 'the machinations of one of history's great tyrants and mass murderers,' as well as of repeating' the errors of the mid-twentieth century of recognizing the false detritus of the British and other empires that resulted in so much strife in Africa and elsewhere.'

(See http://circassianworld.blogspot.com/2008/08/some-thoughts-on-recent-fighting.html

One thing that is required is to accept that sometimes old borders need to be redrawn. The likelihood of Georgia escaping Russian pressure are greater, not less, if it surrenders South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- as also the prospect of Abkhazia avoiding simply becoming a Russian satellite.

What is also required is to accept that elements of 'dual loyalty' are unavoidable, and that this has to be lived with. In the Ukraine, this means avoiding situations -- such as the incorporation of the country into NATO -- which would be liable to put the 'Eastern' and 'Western' identifications of different parts of the population into acute tension.

Among other things, this means that the West should discourage the attempts of Ukrainian nationalists from the West Ukraine to build a national identity for the country by portraying the catastrophic famine which resulted from collectivisation as a genocide by Russians against Ukrainians. And no account should it give Ukrainian nationalists cause to be optimistic that if their rashness produces catastrophe, the West will bail them out.

A renewal of Cold War tensions, moreover, does not promise to benefit countries like the Ukraine or Georgia -- but to make life worse for them. It may be helpful to note that the long-running ethnic conflict in Northern Ireland has reached a reasonably satisfactory solution because Britain and Ireland were working together and the U.S. played a constructive role. Had Britain and Ireland been at daggers drawn, the whole place could by now very easily have been a total shambles.

Beyond that, I think that while the United States would be wise to maintain robust military capabilities -- without succumbing to fashions of one kind or another about what kinds of wars the future is likely to hold -- it should be highly chary about making specific commitments and guarantees. As the world is changing in so many ways, it is better to maintain as much flexibility as one can.

Clifford Kiracofe


Per Ukraine and Georgia and NATO, I agreed with Amb. George Kennan a decade and more ago when he argued against NATO expansion as unnecessary and provocative. I also was opposed at the time to the "out of area" operations push for NATO; that is, remaking NATO into a US-led global imperial police force. I also opposed Madeleine's splendid little Balkan War, it being a European matter to sort out.

As a realist, I am focused on what is to the advantage of the United States and our 300 some million citizens. How do we perpetuate this republic and our institutions and way of life through time and space? To me this involves analysis and calculation summed up no better than in Washington's Farewell Address. Our foreign policy elite has succumbed to Woodrow Wilsonism with more than a touch of Bonapartism. We need to get back to John Quincy Adams as Kennan said.

The issue anent intervention is not "isolationism" (another slogan) but a cold calculation of where and when our vital national interests are involved. I do not see any VITAL national interests involved either in the Caucasus or in Ukraine.

Back in the 1970s, Kissinger wrote of an emerging five power system: US, Europe, Russia, China, Japan. Other specialists had the same perspective. Today we can add India and Brazil as major regional powers. The game today is more complex than the simple bipolar world of the Cold War era. We need a comprehensive, systematic, and integrated national strategy combining diplomatic, economic, political, psychological, and military elements. Neo-Mackinder fantasies as expounded in Zbigs "Grand Chessboard" are not the way to go, IMO.

Yet, note the color revolutions, Polish missile defense agreement, Ukraine, Georgia, all spelled out in Zbig's playbook. Could this lead to another European war down the road? Who has the crystal ball?


One professional military analyst on the Caucasus is Major C.W. Blandy, UK Defence Academy, whom I have read with interest for several years. His latest on the Caucasus was July 2008 and is interesting. Go to the second study listed at the site "Georgia and Russia". If you have been wondering about Matt Bryza's hysteria per "Russian Railroad troops"...



your - I would have to say that the Russian troops I saw on the TeeVee were a nasty collection of sad sacks. -

russian soldiers are not accustomed to the level of comfort and lifestyle that nato and other military types enjoy. the russian style is more rustic. the kremlin on purpose has kept it to the - keep it as simple as possible - principle

Patrick Lang

J et al

Regular soldiers who are allowed to look like bums, act like bums. The more a military force approaches the model of "real troops" as opposed to guerrillas, the more need there is to impose a discipline that prevents the degeneration of the group into an uncontrollable mob.

Someone will raise the issues of USSF on Afghanistan and the IDF.

-SF soldiers have to work with guerrillas. Guerrillas are not soldiers in the sense that I was speaking of above. It is useful if you are working with armed villagers or other tribals to look and act like them to somo extent.

- The IDF? A militia army which has never fought a first rate opponent, except the Jordanians. The IDF has many disiplinary problems. pl

David Habakkuk

Clifford Kiracofe, TomB:

As well as Kennan's observations on NATO expansion, it is interesting to look back at what Reagan's ambassador to the Soviet Union, James Matlock, wrote in an exchange on Slate with Strobe Talbott back in 1998.

(See http://www.slate.com/id/3672/entry/24055/.)

Among Ambassador Matlock's observations:

'The political division of Europe ended with the fall of the Iron Curtain, the reunification of Germany, and the removal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe. It ended bloodlessly because we convinced the Soviet leaders it would be in their interest to go quietly and we would not take advantage of their departure. If you have any doubts on that point, I would suggest you ask your staff to show you the memorandum reporting Secretary Baker's conversation with Gorbachev in early February 1990. I am not suggesting that there was anything legally binding in that conversation, but Gorbachev says in his memoirs that Baker's argument, which included the statement that the jurisdiction of NATO would not move eastward, convinced him to agree that a united Germany could stay in NATO.'

Note that Gorbachev made no attempt whatsoever to get the informal assurance from James Baker turned into a formal commitment. That was a mark of the degree of trust which very many Russians, including leading figures in the leadership and indeed military, had in the United States at that time -- the moral authority, one might say, that the United States then had.

What I cannot see is any concrete way in which the United States has gained by going back on this informal understanding.


Are there now TWO DOCUMENTS in circulation that are worded differently? Neither document apparently has been signed by BOTH sides.

Posted by: Clifford Kiracofe | 19 August 2008 at 04:14 PM

I read somewhere that Georgia + Condi were insisting on "fine print" Russia must pull out of georgia proper immediately and only allowed to patrol 500 meters outside Abkhazia & south Ossetia. (lost that link. have to dig back)

at anyrate. from how european NATO react and how France does not insist Russia to get out on certain date ( they only mutter some vague term "immediately") I think it's quite clear that the peace documents are useless.

It's all up to Russia when to get out of Georgia. (And they are sticking around.)

On the bright side. There is nothing going on in Georgia militarily. The georgian army is completely subdued and resign to give up. All the Russian is doing is rolling their tank over highways and park it in random points.) That's it.

I give it a week till world press forget where Georgia is.


Next potential problem.

Remember those humvees? well The Russians got them. Pray there is no encryption keys in there. (probably not)

If there is one thing, the Russia is having a good time collecting whatever new weapons the Georgian bought in the past few years.

This bring to hard reality on defending Georgia.

Who wants to sell them weapons so they can fully defend themselves? (eg. GPS jammer, advance anti radar, high power weapons, smart bombs, advance electronic, etc)

Without those, a basic armored/mechanized army will not withstand Russian invasion ever.

unless somebody prepares to go Korean style standoff with Russia. (They have all the high ground and most coastal stip, btw)

From military point of view. Georgia is in fubar situation. Either it devices itself a geopolitical stand that balance Russia and west. Or it will be annihilated.


Annnnd, the black smoke from the exhausts indicaes that the engines in their vehicles are as poor in quality as ever. pl

Posted by: Patrick Lang | 19 August 2008 at 08:01 PM

I saw that. I think Russia won't attack Ukraine directly. But will use soft power instead. (Their domesitc politics is in total mess right now anyway)

Looking at various military industry output stat. Russia is still several years until they start producing engine at comparable level of German tanks. (They have near zero skill at electronic engine control)

They are nowhere near ready for serious land invasion against up to date army yet.

Clifford Kiracofe

<"What I cannot see is any concrete way in which the United States has gained by going back on this informal understanding.">

David Habbakuk,

I was at a dinner some months ago for Ambassador Matlock who gave some excellent remarks on US-Russia relations. He is a level-headed professional.

In past times, I have been to Moscow, been to Spaso House, been briefed by our Ambassador and country team, met Yeltsin when he came to the Senate of the United States, and have met Gorbachev. I also had the opportunity to meet the late Alexander Yakovlev in Moscow where he kindly received me at his office for a lengthy discussion.

Seems to me going back on NATO assurances has been a blow to the relationship between the two countries as Kennan warned.

We have most certainly lost and not gained and we continue to press ahead according to Zbig's playbook the "Grand Chessboard."

I cannot put too much emphasis on the dangerously superficial and reckless nature of the foreign policy elite of the US, most of all the elected politicians and political appointees. Yes, there are a few here and there with cooler heads and clearer vision but they are not dominant in terms of actual policy and its implementation. I wish the Belfer Commission well but...

Russia as well as every other country in the world can draw, and has drawn, conclusions.

Like Kennan, I see with foreboding the adjustments that are being made and will continue to be made by the major powers...to US disadvantage over the long term. The hegemonic narcissist with its counterproductive policy is going to be the odd man out with the blood and treasure meter running.

I agree with your points on Ukraine. The Crimea issues should be adjusted peacefully through diplomacy. This may well entail some reversion to pre-Khrushchev boundaries.

Will be using Prof. Hewitt's paper as a case study in my upcoming Global Politics class, thanks for the heads up.


David, Clifford:

Okay, I see where you guys are coming from generally, and here's the problem I have given that that's about where I always ideally came from too: As a friend who disagrees with me says, it isn't only that people like us are increasingly looking like cranks given that long long history now simply shows that the U.S. isn't going to chose to be less activist internationally, it's that after awhile when something just essentially stays the same for a long enough period of time there are likely deep deep structural and other reasons that make the present situation not really much of an option at all.

I.e., it isn't just that things *aren't* the way we'd like to see them, it's that things simply *can't* be that way anymore.

Thus the argument is that while the U.S. maybe still *could* have avoided getting involved in WWI, by the time of WWII it was made clear it simply and absolutely couldn't afford to not be very engaged in large-scale international doings anymore. Japan took it's cue from Hitler and Stalin and launched Pearl Harbor, and even before that the U.S. was getting sucked into the war in Europe just via this or that need to decide who we would continue to trade with, how the globe would look with Germany dominating Europe, what Hitler's longer-term goals were, and etc., etc.

And I think my friend might have a point here shown even by the experience of *other* countries besides the U.S.: Look at the expansion of NATO after the collapse of the Soviets. After all, the whole raison d'etre of NATO was essentially to keep same in check, right? (Granting, as per Lord Ismay's famous mot, that originally at least it was also to "keep Germany down.") But what happened after the Soviets went away? Oddly enough NATO grew like Topsy, and that was with the enthusiastic agreement not just of the U.S. but of Great Britain, Germany, France, and the other original NATO members too, with nary a peep of opposition from their citizenry, I don't recall. Amazing. And pretty obviously, it can be argued, when any country gets to be "big" enough/rich enough/sophisticated enough to have some certain level of international engagement, it simply can't help but to try to shape the international picture, to maintain the international stability that exists that it finds conducive, and to change what it doesn't. And this seems true even of the smaller original NATO countries.

So I wonder if a true "realism" doesn't by this point have to just, well ... give up on ideas like Washington's Farewell Address as simply outmoded and no longer even roughly feasible.

For instance, to take a point one of you mentioned which further took off from something the Colonel said about nations not being states: Seems to me that while this is obvious, history also shows there's a helluva problem with taking this too far trying to remedy it. After all, isn't that *exactly* what Wilson tried to remedy by calling for "self-determination" being the future standard of statehood? And wasn't that exactly what so motivated Hitler and the Germans—with considerable understanding from the rest of Europe and the U.S.—in taking back the Sudenten, and Austria, and then moving on Poland over Danzig? And Alsace/Lorraine? And then Italy taking Albania? And wasn't some racial/cultural impetus at least somewhat at the heart of Japan trying to create their "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" too?

So what happens if the international community stands idly by while all the "nation-enthused" map-changers start up again? Doesn't history show that sooner or later it all does "come home" to damn near every country that's "big enough/sophisticated enough/etc." to have a certain level of international engagement?

Again, I look not just at the U.S. and then not just at the enthusiasm of its foreign policy elites for an activist international U.S. policy, but then at the American public too which clearly has bought into this idea. And then I look at the Western Europeans too so blandly accepting a simply huge new international role in continuing and expanding NATO (even outside Europe) and participating in Afghanistan even, and now historically insular China showing a helluva lot more interest in global affairs than ever before as it gets "bigger" and more "sophisticated."

So, anyway, these kinds of arguments make me wonder if indeed the arguments that exist perceiving the solution to this or that international situation or crisis as lying in some grand, distant dispassion by all the countries not directly affected by same aren't just hopeless as a practical matter, but are indeed getting simply impossible now? Like rooting for a return to horses and buggys.


P.S. And as regards Gorbachov's statements about promises not to expand NATO, I think you guys are failing to do what Lang always says which is evaluate the source separately. Of *course* Gorby would say that *after* NATO started expanding, wouldn't he? (And I doubt he ever claimed it before.) After all, he's already blamed by enough Russians for giving up their stature in the world. And how in the world would Baker have thought he had the power to speak for Germany much less NATO? He's a smart lawyer, and after all promising that NATO would *not* expand to at least include East Germany would be tantamount to telling the Soviets that "oh yeah, of course you can re-invade it any time you want."

Gorby's being more than a tad self-interested in his recollections methinks.

Cheers again,

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad