The Old Russia Is Back

Duly Noted: The Old Russia Is Back

Created 2008-08-16 10:55
George Handlery about the week that was. The Ossetes and the Abkhaz are saved: who will now save them from Russia? Order in the Caucasus not by kicking ass but by crushing skulls. Excuses regarding sanctions: we are prepared do anything to be able to do nothing. A brilliant insight: some terrorist trainees might become Quakers. The „Dictator‘s tantrum #3.
 
1. It is understandable that Russia wishes to be as powerful as her weight-class demands and allows. However, her leaders are not content to keep national power as a deterrent in “reserve.” The policy for the use of the fist seems to be to a reversion to past practices. It is to assert might offensively and therefore, not for the sake of securing the defensively interpreted national interest. Foreign Offices will not fail to take notice of this.
 
2. Russia’s reaction to Georgia’s attempt to retake its province of South Ossetia demands that several factors be considered. The selection is without the pretense of all inclusiveness. The Ossetes obviously do not wish to be Georgians. Their independence, also the will to assert it, would not have been materialized without Russian instigation and protection. Georgia’s move to solve the problem has been a mistake – and an action against which US cautioned the country’s US educated President. Russia’s military operations, the timing and the speed of force-deployment suggest that, this response has been prepared and the crisis anticipated. Issuing Russian passports to the independence-minded Ossetes and the large number of Russians there gives substance to the claim of acting defensively to protect Russian citizens. The same fact also supports claims of pre-meditated transgression. Russia might claim otherwise but her military moves suggests the pursuit of goals that go beyond what is stated by the “peace enforcers.” To secure South Ossetia it is not necessary to occupy Georgia, to bomb unrelated civilian targets and industrial installations far away from the front. Russia’s SecCouncil attempt to draw an analogy between bombardments’ fall-out effect in Iraq and Afghanistan on civilians and the smashing Georgian  housing areas sound good. Provided they are viewed through the optics of anti-Americanism. There is a difference between hitting military targets placed in civilian areas and “total war” type attacks that have the destruction of non-military installations as their objective.
 
3. The conduct of the war in Georgia suggests that, as in Chechnya, the Russians have still not learned much about the tricks of asymmetric warfare. Being only able – or willing? – to proceed in their WW2-style might be a significant disadvantage in a future crisis. Perhaps because her systems allows it and the deterrent value is not lost on her, Russia’s instinct is not to “kick ass” but to “crush skulls.”
 
4. Even if you live far away from Georgia and know as little about it as you care to, the subtle effects are greater than meets the eye. Russia’s neighboring small countries are additionally alarmed by the threat that Georgia might be overran by Russian troops that only “defend Ossetia.” By Sunday (August 10), the official political objective of military operations had been achieved. Not stopping at that red line indicates more is wanted than the security of Ossetia. Russia also exhibited some reluctance to talk in order to pursue her suspected goal of subjugating Georgia. Refusing to talk to Saakashvili on the phone (if true) reveals that unstated goals are pursued. (This applies to Georgia but also to others.) The outbreak of an early peace then would have been too soon for Moscow. The, for the Kremlin’s modus operandi typical, continuation of military operations after the armistice, support the foregoing.  Meanwhile, the reaction of the West and of NATO reveals that the alliance is weak. Threatening the impact of continued lack of restraint on EU-Russian relations – as Sarkozy implied – is less than impressive. Europe’s dependence on Russian energy makes serious consequences as far fetched.
 
5. Even now (August 11) it is clear: the old Russia with a Tsarist-Soviet imperial appetite and a determination to use all its military, political and economic means, is back. Those of us who thought that it is otherwise were wrong.
 
6. Thanks to Russia, Ossetia and Abkhazia will be saved from Georgian supremacy. Ironically, fearing Tbilisi, the advocates of independence resorted to Moscow’s help. Through this they will become Russian and not Georgian subjects. Their next problem will be Russia’s domination. No one will be willing or able to rescue them from this self-inflicted condition. Russian occupations, regardless of the circumstances have led to them, have a distinguishing feature. Even if officially called “temporary” – as in central Europe 1945-89 – they are a condition whose duration is, at best, measured in decades.
 
7. French “mediation” that coincided with the moment Russia intended to cease major operations brings us a Moscow-dictated settlement in Georgia. The discussion about what to do next is on. It is pointed out that measures such as disinviting Russia from the G8 or canceling joint military exercises are symbolic and unlikely to harm Russia. This is so. Nevertheless, if such measures would cause material damage the same people would warn us that this is not desirable to injure Russia. If symbolic measures expressing strong disapproval are excluded then a conclusion will emerge. It will be that the democracies are unwilling to use whatever means they have against aggression by a major and determined power. Anybody can guess the long-term consequences.
 
8. Soviet-Communist dictatorship had accomplished the repression of its outstanding opponents. Whether we consider the merits of the woks (in literature, art, the social sciences) or the qualities of the persons producing these, the term “outstanding” is properly used. Now that the road to democratization is open, we find that the leaders with stature needed for the completion of the process are missing. Why is this so? Nowadays we have to do with a more skilled and supple dictatorship than the openly Stalinist one had been. Today’s system understands and exploit’s the weaknesses of old (ageing?) democracies. Accordingly, the abuses have grown in quality and the presentation of their show-window elements have improved. Most significantly, the rewards for cooperating with the “system” have become more bountiful. This latter point is true for those living “inside” and those located “outside” of the new, re-baptized, system.
 
9. The causes of conservatives and the greens appear to show limited convergence in the area of energy supplies. Yet the appearances hide enormous substantial divergences. Both are concerned with energy supplies and the alternative sources from which the need can be covered. While alternatives are to be explored, conservatives wish to tap available conventional supplies. In doing so, their concern is energy independence as a component of political independence. The greens think it realistic to exhaust available supplies to force the switch over to wind, geothermal and solar generated power. To accomplish this, the curtailment of economic activities that supported the way of life of industrialized countries is a welcome side effect. Moreover, the strategic implication of energy shortages and dependence on politically unreliable suppliers are of little concern.
 
10. The “Dictator’s Tantrum,” Sequel 3. Hours after the posting of “Sequel 2” Libya has obliged her skeptics by a new move. It lays bare that tyranny’s substance. The newest is that the brother of the Moroccan servant Hannibal and his spouse have beaten has been arrested in Libya. The charge must be “criminal inclination to choose the wrong relatives.” The mother of another servant is also in jail. Some signs suggest that the servants who are now in Switzerland, might trade their relatives’ release for the withdrawal of the complaint. To complicate matters Geneva’s DA persists in pressing formal charges against the Gadhafis. He makes no political deals he tells. (By the time of this posting one of the relatives was allowed to leave Libya.)
 
11. An accidental correlation with non-accidental consequences. Libya and Russia are coming closer. Russia will modernize Libya’s military (U-boot, Planes, rockets, tanks). Cooperation in exploiting oil and gas fields is also envisaged. 

 


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