On Friday (August 8, 2008 ) Russia invaded Georgia. The Russians have been using strategic bombers and missiles in their attacks, thus showing that they are rather serious.
The general consensus is that Russia is taking this action primarily because Georgia intends to join NATO and the Russian leadership is opposed to this. This most recent invasion is consistent with one of Russia’s main goals: to create a buffer between itself and Western Europe. This desire, which is historic in character, is understandable. After all, Russia has been invaded numerous times. While these invasions cost invaders such as Napoleon and Hitler a great deal, they also did immense damage to Russia and seem to have clearly shaped her national character and goals.
In light of their history and psychology, it is clear that the Russians would consider a NATO country on their border to be a serious threat. Hence, they did exactly what the United States did when Iraq was presented as a threat: invade. While Georgia is obviously not the same sort of state as Iraq was, the justification is quite similar. From a practical and moral standpoint, the Russians could easily draw a parallel between the American invasion of Iraq with their own invasion of Georgia. Naturally enough, those who regard the invasion of Iraq as morally questionable will also clearly regard the invasion of Georgia as questionable as well.
Laying aside ethics, there are practial matters to consider.
As I have argued in other posts, Russia is showing clear signs that she wants to get back to being a significant world power. This means that she feels the need to establish her security (which is understandable) and to act in a belligerent manner (which is dangerous). The invasion of Georgia is simply a return to the sort of behavior Russia exhibited in the Cold War. This is just another such act in a string of Cold War reruns: Russia has been testing American airspace near Alaska and also threatening to re-target Europe with her nuclear weapons.
The obvious question for Americans is this: what should we do about Russia? They seem to really miss being our main enemy and perhaps they wish to step back into that role. That should concern us. After all, our military is bogged down on the seemingly endless war on terror. Perhaps this time around, the Russians will wreck our economy (with our help).
Thanks to the rising price of oil, Russia can spend much more on its military. However, it remains to be seen if they can sustain their military machine for very long. The Cold War largely devastated the Russian economy and it would be a poor choice on their part to leap back into ruin once more.Of course, perhaps they have seen the state of our economy and think they can bring us down.
I do hope that the Cold War taught us the price of such conflict. When the Cold War ended, I immediately began asking when Russia would be back to her old ways. It seems that my question has been answered.
Too bad our media doesn’t show the video of Georgians killing civilians in the streets, but I guess that would undermine our propaganda. Speaking of OLD ways… the US never ended the Cold War even after the Soviet Union collapsed. We reneged on the ABM treaty, started research on battlefield nukes, we’re trying to put a missile shield in eastern europe, we’ve expanded NATO to their front door and built half a dozen new military bases around their perimeter, wrested Iraq from their economic sphere, we’re trying to kick them out of the G8, plus we try to tell them what to do ALWAYS. AS IF we have any friggin credibility in the world. War is a horrible thing under any circumstance, but at least when Russians go to war its a punitive thing to their opponent. They won’t be conscripting their grandchildren into debt to rebuild Georgia.
Well, there is at least one simple way East Coast residents can boycott Russia – STOP FILLING UP AT LUKOIL GAS STATIONS!!!!!
Interesting post, Jennifer, here’s a rebuttal.
1) Yeah, it’s our fault Russia likes to be a bully.
1) We opted out of the ABM treaty, as was our right to do so, so we could defend against terrorist attacks. Although MAD was and is a peculiar concept, it does work, and we never have planned to try to set up a defense against a mass attack (because it would never work)
2) We DEPLOYED battlefield nukes, along with the Soviets, during the Cold War; they are nothing new.
3) NATO is at their front door? Hardly. Ukraine is not a member, Belarus is neither, China isn’t, nor is any of the Asian republics that used to be part of the USSR.
4) Iraq was in their economic “sphere”? Who else, exactly, is in their sphere? That’s a good one.
5) If you know anything about Russia, you don’t tell a Russian to do ANYTHING, because it’s in their nature to do the opposite. Our “advice” was more in the interest of seeing Russia become a stable democracy, not what they’ve been their entire history (fascist-communist, fascist-autocracy). Unfortunately, you cannot export ideas like that, they have to come from more folks than Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn.
I DO agree with the credibility argument. It’s time for us to back off somewhat, let the world resume its normal evolution of a major war every 20 years, and deal with the problem after millions are killed.
By the way, can you think of a better advertisement to join NATO for Ukraine and anyone else threatened by Russia?
“at least when Russians go to war its a punitive thing to their opponent”…are you kidding? Tell that to Finland in 1939, or Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia, countries the Soviet Union invaded and conquered before Hitler invaded.
Frankly, although the civilian loss on any side of this confict saddens me, I can’t help but notice the irony behind all this.
Two years ago, 2 Israeli soldiers were kidnapped in Lebanon. The result was an all out offensive against Lebanon, which killed more than 900 civilians. The American governement, however, gave full support to Israel’s offensive, using the good old “any country is entitled to defend itself ” excuse.
However, now that Georgia killed (not kidnapped, killed) 10-15 Russian peacekeepers, and many more South-Ossethian civilians (many of which have Russian citizenship), it’s somehow wrong for Russia to retaliate.
Lesson learned. Peace, war, freedom, democracy, life and death, none of it matters really. It’s all a matter of political interests.
hi people! where all of you being when Rassia was making waves about Georgian military action – every body was quiet. (i ment governments of western civilization)
please visit my page to, i am russian so it takes a while to translate posts on russian web sights.
there is link to radio station hwos people trying to provide truth infirmation about South Ossetian conflict:
with respect yashka.
South Ossetia has been separate from Georgia since 1992. South Ossetia is ethnically different from the rest of Georgia, and related to the people of North Ossetia in Russia. Georgia attacked South Ossetia on the opening day of the olympics, wreaked widespread damage to the capital, and killed hundreds of civilians and some Russian personnel. Russia is responding in defense of South Ossetia as a result of Georgian aggression.
US interest in Geogia is related to the oil pipline that runs to Batum in Georgia on the Black Sea. Georgia is otherwise an isolated outpost in Russia’s backyard, and US influence there can reasonably be seen as a threat to Russian interestes.
The use of Russian military assets such as strategic bombers and missiles should not surprise the US, since they have used such weapons against small countries many, many times. For US officials to complain is extremely hypocritical.
This is also related to Kosovo, an ethnically separatist region that the US has been instrumental in separating from Serbia, contray to the UN Security Council and Russian historical interests. If creating new countries is the US policy, as in Kosovo far from the USA, it has nothing to complain about if Russia does the same with South Ossetia right in its own backyard.
A Russian drive on the oil center of Batum and the Georgian capital, along with the destruction of the Georgian navy and air force would also emulate US actions in such circumstances. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Wow… reading CNN and some blogs it looks like Russia just all of a sudden decided to invade Georgia… Somehow the fact that Georgia leveled Tshinvali and several small towns in Osetia with heavy artillery became completely irrelevant. If its not too much trouble – read some comments and posts on the net from the people who managed to escape from Osetia on the 8th of August. And explain to me why UN and the others were so slow to interfere when the civilians were butchered on the streets of Tshinvali? Are you guys ok with ethnic cleansing? Russian interference saved thousands there. And still saving people right now. Georgia was asked to stop military operations in Osetia several times PRIOR to moving Russian troops into the region. So get your facts straight people.
Red of Shame says
Ossetia, Abhazia become independed states in early 1990’s, just in time with Geogia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazahstan and other fomer Soviet Union repablics, the only difference is that world community do not “recognize” Abhazia and Ossetia. Ossetia become geogian territory just according to the wish of Saakashvili… US “recognize” wish of Saakashvili and form a new country… Just US democracy and nothing more…
Western press do not say about georgian fascism and genocide of ossetia and abhazia people, do not say about dozens thousands of civilians crossing Russia border seeking for life-saving. But CNN CRYING about Russian invasion to Georgia, accuse Russia in trying to defend ossetian people… Russia keep peace in the region fot 17 years from the first war Georgia with Ossetia and Abhazia and now in western press it bacame agressor – shameless hypocrisy. People, try to get truth for your making your opinions, do not read US and Britain press…
Interesting analogy; I was thinking of it myself when I read how the UN Security Council had met, but failed to condemn Russia’s actions. In the case of Israel, the UN, consistently and without hesitation, wastes no time in unilaterally condemning almost all Israeli acts of legitimate self-defense – the 2006 war was no exception (yet you failed to mention this). I am astounded that anyone would claim that Israel wields some weighty political influence that shields it from global condemnation. Indeed, Israel is disproportionately singled out for reprobation; to wit, your comments in the context of a totally unrelated subject. Oh and, in case you haven’t heard, the Israeli soldiers kidnapped were murdered WHILE THEY WERE HELD CAPTIVE; their remains were recently exchanged for several, very much alive, monsters. Moreover, three Israeli soldiers were killed during the raid itself.
1) Russia is merely testing the waters, seeing how much of the old Soviet regime she can grab back without Western intervention. My guess is that she could grab back quite a bit.
2) Russia will never have a great economy, regardless of her recources if it does not understand that rule of law comes before Democracy and capitalism. There are no signs of this occuring.
3) There has been available intelligence for several years, that states that there was the threat of a Russian invasion of Georgia. This is only a surprise to CNN, not miulitary intelligence.
4) Russia would be devestated by a war with the West. While she has made significant attempots up upgrading her weapons, such as the intorduction of the SU-35, the advanced versions of the T-90 etc. , she simply can’t keep up witht the high pace of American warfare. In addition, the differences in culture translate to sub-standard fighting ability for Russia. As Ralph Peters says, “I don’t think there is a Russian word for maintenance.” There stuff falls apart for lack of it. Not to mention thier best and newest equipment has not faired well in recent events, such as the Israeli invasion of Syrian airspace with F-15s, destruction of nuclear facilities, without any loss of aircraft, despite Syria having just purchased the most advanced anti-air equipment available Russia.
5) The only area that the West would need fear, would be from advanced Russian anti-armor missiles, in particular, the new Kornet system, which carries a dual shape charge capable of penetrating Western composite armor. The M-1 is no longer an invulnerable tank.
6) All in all, while the war wopuld no doubt give the West a hard reminder of how bloody a REAL war is, (not a glorified pillow fight, like Iraq) Russia in the end, would be devestated on every front.
Michael LaBossiere says
Russia obviously has reasons for invading Georgia and no doubt regards them as legitimate justifications for this action. Naturally, Georgia has its own sins-as do all countries.
While I can see the situation from the Russian perspective (all part of being a philosopher) I must also see it from an American perspective. As an American, I have to consider Russia a potential threat to my well being. I have to admit that my worry is shaped by the fact that I grew up during the Cold War and watched the Vietnam war unfold on TV. I vividly remember discussing in college the effects of a nuclear exchange and the horrors that would bring to all the world. As such, when the tanks start rolling, I start thinking about megatons, radiation levels and nuclear winter.
Yes, it is (hopefully) a long way from a conventional and limited war to a nuclear exchange. But the tanks are rolling on a road that can take them to that destination. Not today, not tomorrow but perhaps someday.
It is unfortunate (to say the least), that we cannot resolve our conflicts without so much death and bloodshed. My optimistic nature feels that there is a way out of this. However, reason does seem to lead to pessimism.
In any case, the wealth of comments is a good sign that people are thinking about this matter and where there is thought, there can be hope. I hope.