What Does Russia Want?

by carol. Originally posted 2008-08-12 09:17:15 -0500

Even though Dmitry Medvedev is now the President of Russia its clear that Vladimir Putin is the real power in that country given the statements made by the Kremlin since the fighting began 5 days ago.

"They had to hang Saddam Hussein for destroying several Shia villages," he said. "But the current Georgian rulers who in one hour simply wiped 10 Ossetian villages from the face of the earth, the Georgian rulers which used tanks to run over children and the elderly, who threw civilians into cellars and burnt them - they are players that have to be protected."

Russia would continue its military operation until “its logical end”.

The Russian Prime Minister blasted the West for continuing to support President Saakashvili despite Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, which he said “wiped from the face of the earth ten Osettian villages”.

“The scale of cynicism is surprising and the skill to present white as black and black. The trick to present the aggressor as the victim of an aggression and to place the responsibly for the effects on the victims,” Mr Putin said.

What are Russia's and Vladimir Putin's real intentions?

Is it the restoration of the old Russian empire through economic and political pressure because it wants its status as a Super Power restored?

Does Putin believe that Russia has some how been slighted or diminished since the break-up of the old Soviet Union?

Has the expansion of NATO into the former Warsaw Pact countries caused Russian paranoia or to feel threatened by this expansion?

Given that Putin is the architect of the war in Chechnya why should anyone be surprised that Russia would intervene in South Ossetia given that they had given Russia passports to the citizens of South Ossetia and that Russia has pressuring Georgia to bend to its will.

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I don't understand the subtleties going on in the Georgia crisis. But it's very reminiscent of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Only in Gulf War I the US got involved. This time, it's the Russians.

Iraq = Georgia
Kuwait = Ossetia
US = Russia

from what I have been reading, it seems Russia has had peacekeeping forces in Ossetia for quite a while. This seems to be confirmed by the World Factbook:

Progress on market reforms and democratization has been made in the years since independence, but this progress has been complicated by two ethnic conflicts in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These two territories remain outside the control of the central government and are ruled by de facto, unrecognized governments, supported by Russia. Russian-led peacekeeping operations continue in both regions.

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I'm pretty sure that what Russia would want is what just about anyone else would want, a credible US government which can be a partner in successful negotiations, designed and intended to lead away from, and not towards military confrontation.

The US and Israel were and perhaps are backing Shakashivili. US organized manouvres were held there in Georgia July 14th-28th (with Ukraine, Azeris and others). Condolezza Rice gave an inspiring speech at the close of activities. Israel has trained and equipped the Georgian military for a number of years, at least seven. Shakasvilii seems to be trying to hang on by his finger nails in the hope that someone will find a chair to put under his feet.

I think it is quite clear that whatever was going on in Georgia is part of what US and Israel were, or are, cooking up for Iran.

Russia has "fought" in the same kind of way for many centuries (Ivan the Awesome, the false Dimitri and the Poles, Napoleon, Hitler. They are prepared to take defeats and retreat to suck an "invader" in by pulling back to a non pre-defined center (which they will also be prepared to give up), from which they will counter when the invader in their view is over-extended, and their own logistics and lines of communication are at their shortest and most secure. Compare the distances between Norfolk/Hampton Roads or San Diego and Moscow and Iranian Kuzihstan.

I think it is no longer debatable that the US is seriously over-extended as a result of the Bush family's follies since the days when the present old boys met in the Ford administration. How many wars has their Iraq war now morphed into (Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, Kurdistan, Afghanistan take 2, Waziristan, Baluchistan, western Pakistan, Iran(?)? To win wars you need to be able to make peace, and you also need troops on the ground (not on or under the seas, or up in the sky). The US has not given enough thought to peace-making, and has not enough troops to pacify the areas it is fighting in, given what this Bush has done to the Army and the Marine Corps, and the Veterans.

Whether this is the beginning of the Russian "counter" I have no way of knowing. But if you google 'Russia Israel' it is not hard to find that one day before the Georgians made their move the Russians made some kind of demarche vis-a-vis Israel which has produced a public discussion about that country's relation with Georgia, what it was, who was responsible, and what it should be. Putin and Perez discussed this in Beijing.

The Baku-Tiflis-Ceyhan oil pipeline is shut down, because of an explosion in Turkey on the 7th. BP declared "force majeure" and is back to shipping oil through the Russian port of Novorossisk on the Black Sea, and by alternative routes, including rail, to the Black Sea coast of Georgia. What was to be the route for oil exports out of Central Asia which avoided Russian and Iran seems to be moving into Russian control, or influence. BP shut down gas out of Azerbajian today. Turkey is looking at getting make up supplies from Iran. That is probably not an option for Israel at this point. Russia, with anti-Georgian friends in Armenia, seems to be moving into a position from which it can easily reach into Iran (which shares borders with Armenia and Azerbajian), but why would it want to?.

Russia has also undermined the US energy presence in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and is working to form a global gas cartel (meeting in Moscow November 17th). There are reports that Afghanistan is having difficulty getting oil and gas except through smuggling.

What has happened in Georgia seems to indicate the possibility that Bush and Cheney have endangered the whole investment in the Caucasus/Central Asia which the US has made since since 1990. There is a real possibility that with the reassertion of Russian power over former Soviet states that this commitment is in danger of being lost. I don't think further US military action will change that very much. Are the investments of Cheney's corporate friends reason for broader war? I don't think so, how about you?

Given these kinds of considerations I think the situation is quite dangerous for everyone.

Bush's use of, and continued commitment to military power has opened the door to others doing the same. Needed is thoughtful diplomacy on the issues which have been unaddressed since the administration of Bush's father, and before, debt, energy policy, alternative energy supplies, security policy and counter-terrorism and criminality/drug-running. These are issues which need to be addressed separately, but as part of a broader package, in which force and militaries are sequentially taken off the table to build confidence in the eventual success of the other discussions, in which the question of what peace would/should look like is seriously considered. If the world is to pull back from where these developments seem to be headed, there needs to be somewhere for everyone to pull back to, at least as a new sense of purpose and goal.

any thoughts of making it a commentary?

CJR’s study, I believe, provides strong support for the idea that sometime after 2003, as federal regulation folded like a cheap suitcase, the business press institutionally lost whatever taste it had for head-on investigations of core practices of powerful institutions.
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From a discussion list, I'm passing along the name of a suggested author and scholar for more information on Georgia: Thomas Goltz

Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus, by Thomas Goltz, 2006


Is it the restoration of the old Russian empire through economic and political pressure because it wants its status as a Super Power restored?

Does Putin believe that Russia has some how been slighted or diminished since the break-up of the old Soviet Union?