Friday, 8 August 2008

If war is breaking out in Georgia, the link to Kosovo is clear


The breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia has become a crucible for dispute between the Russian and Georgian governments. The region has retained de facto independence from Georgia since the early 90s. Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and its acceptance by NATO, Russia has strengthened ties with South Ossetia and its status is underpinned by the presence of Russian ‘peacekeepers’.

It would appear today that the situation has escalated and war between Georgia and Russia is close. According to some reports it is already underway. Georgia has launched a full scale assault on the republic in an attempt to wrest control back from the separatists. 15 civilians and 3 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in these actions. In response it appears that Russian warplanes have struck targets in Georgia.

Although Georgia has de jure claims to sovereignty over South Ossetia, to launch such an attack in the present climate was an act of extreme foolhardiness. After all the majority of South Ossetians reject Georgia’s sovereignty, a high percentage hold Russian passports and the cultural ties between Russian North Ossetia and the south are particularly strong. It was always unlikely that Russia would not take action in the circumstances which pertain.

Georgia’s sovereignty has been illegally curtailed, but justly Russia and South Ossetia can point to similar circumstances in Kosovo. There is a direct correlation between western countries recognising the Albanian ethnic republic in Serbia and the violence which is breaking out in South Ossetia today. Georgia accuses Russia of propping up the separatist republic. It considers that Russian troops' presence in South Ossetia constitutes an occupying army on its territory. The NATO presence in Kosovo was openly acknowledged, but Serbs viewed it in a similar fashion.

The situation in Georgia is a graphic representation of competing nationalisms in action. Georgia claimed its right to self-determination from the USSR. The Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia wished to retain links to Russia and certainly did not want to be part of Georgia. Accordingly they exercised their right to self-determination (as they perceived it). And so it goes on. If a war really is breaking out in Georgia it is a direct result of the current trend to disregard sovereign nation states and indulge those who would dismember them.

15 comments:

yourcousin said...

Chekov,
The link between South Ossetia and Kosovo is quite clear. It is being used as a fig leaf to cover Russian aggression and expansionist tendencies. While the recognition of Kosovo has more than a little whiff of "the great game" about it it is in no way comprable to what Russia is trying to do in South Ossetia.

For starters the Serbs contributed greatly to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia not only physically but almost more importantly through their intentional use of Serbian chauvinism in undermining the multi-ethnic, multi-confessional nature of the Yugoslavian state. The fact that the Kosovars got sick of this when kind of behavior and called it a day is not in disregard to "sovereign nations". Serbia gave up that claim by engaging whole heartedly in the pursuit of an ethnically pure "greater Serbia". Secondly, Russia was supporting the seperatists and giving out Russian citizenship well before Kosovo became an issue.So trying to say one was a direct result of the other would be false logic at best and down right bullshit at worst.

Also NATO being likened to Russian troops in SO is being fairly disingenuous. NATO was not giving out NATO citizenship to the ethnic Albanians the way that Russia has done in SO. And again, NATO was involved due to ethnic cleansing and unrest of which Serbia must bear the lions share of responsibility for. Eventually NATO will leave Kosovo, can you say the same about the Russian troops in SO?

The fact that the seperatists caved so quickly and now Russian regulars are doing the fighting shows the South Ossetian project for what it really is. A cynical ploy by Russia who has taken advantage of political difficulties in Georgia to gain control of more territory and to flex their political and military muscle. Not only in the Caucuses but also as a warning to Western powers.

yourcousin said...

Sorry about the typos. Should read,

"The fact that the Kosovars got sick of this kind of behavior and called it a day is not in disregard to 'sovereign nations'" in the second paragraph and,

"A cynical ploy by Russia who have taken advantage of political difficulties in Georgia to gain control of more territory and to flex their political and military muscle"

CW said...

Or if Stalin had never divided the 2 parts of Ossetia between Russia and Georgia in the first place we might never have this situation. But then the Caucusus region has traditionally been a meltiong pot of diverse ethnic groups anyway. Who knows?

Brian Crowe said...

Chekov - somebody had to say it, so thanks. We cannot lecture Russia after Kosovo.

Like yourself I am something of a Slavophile. And I am from the Chamberlain tradition of British foreign when it comes to far off peoples of whom we know little. In this instance, however, I am not so sure. Georgia is an ancient nation and I find it hard to reconcile myself to throwing that nation to the Bear.

But it does come back to Kosovo. All the Bear is doing is copying our play-book.

Chekov said...

CW, you are quite right of course that arbitrary Soviet decisions on borders have contributed greatly to ethnic disputes in the former USSR. Brian, Georgia certainly is an ancient nation and it is entitled to its own sovereignty. It isn’t entitled to provoke its neighbours or show such immense disregard for the lives of people in South Ossetia. The people of South Ossetia are after all viewed as Georgian citizens by the authorities in Tbilisi, who then sanctioned an assault which accounted for 1,600 Ossetian lives.

Yourcousin

“The fact that the Kosovars got sick of this when kind of behavior and called it a day is not in disregard to "sovereign nations".

Serbia may well have contributed to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia with their behaviour in Bosnia. Albanian separatism in Kosovo predates Milosevic. When NATO took action against Serbia over Kosovo, many more Serbs had been killed by the KLA than Albanians by Serb troops. The ‘ethnic cleansing’ which took place in Kosovo was actually precipitated by NATO attacks on Serbia. Up to that point Albanian cleansing had been more vicious and that cleansing was to continue after NATO had propped up Kosovo as a protectorate.

“Russia was supporting the seperatists and giving out Russian citizenship well before Kosovo became an issue.”

And there were a raft of reasons for Russia to do so, not least because the citizens of South Ossetia were caught in a citizenship ‘vacuum’. We don’t have to look to far from home to find a state that isn’t shy of conferring extra-territorial citizenship. The break-up of the Soviet Union and the presence of large groups of Russians and those who consider themselves Russian in former republics, and the often discriminatory citizenship requirements of those countries, actually puts a moral obligation on Russia to protect the rights of such people. South Ossetia has been functionally independent since 1993.

“NATO was not giving out NATO citizenship to the ethnic Albanians the way that Russia has done in SO.”

NATO hasn’t the ability to confer citizenship on anyone. Nato is not a sovereign nation state.

“And again, NATO was involved due to ethnic cleansing and unrest of which Serbia must bear the lions share of responsibility for.”

Serbia does not bear the lion’s share of responsibility for what happened in Kosovo.

“Eventually NATO will leave Kosovo, can you say the same about the Russian troops in SO?”

I’d love to hear your evidence for the first contention. No doubt Russian troops will remain in SO until such times as its citizens need protection against Georgia. Certainly by attacking SO Georgia has more or less guaranteed the presence of Russian troops for the foreseeable future.

Russia is not blameless in this situation, but Georgia has played its hand astonishingly badly. Whether Russian troops should be in SO or not, they have now been given reason to do so. Nato / US does not have a shred of moral justification to wade in on Georgia’s side. Your entire post oozes with the double standards which make Russians so angry about the west. Russian troops can’t be likened to Nato troops etc. It is exactly this type of disrespect and denial of its interests which makes Russia so dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Sooner or later the Russians will have to be dealt with properly.

I always thought the western nations were to lenient with the russians after the cold war was won.

Russia only understands physical force and this is a blatant atempt by russia to extend its borders against a weaker country.

Anonymous said...

Russia dangerous yeah im truly scared of rusty T 34`s

Anonymous said...

That's gotta be the cllr ;-)

To say that Georgia has played its hand badly is quite correct however Russia's response has been one of brutal aggression against a much weaker neighbour. Where is the justification in attacking a residential area in the town of Gori (outside the SO region) resulting in many civilian deaths, including pregnant women? Putin has done himself no favours at all in the eyes of the world - does he really want to be seen to share the same bloodthirsty credentials as Bush? Not that Putin cares too much about global opinion, his only concern is teaching those naughty Georgians a lesson or two for daring to join NATO. Really don't know the finer details of the region's geo-politics but I'm assuming that a pro-Russian political party/grouping will emerge in Tbilisi (remote controlled from Moscow and capitalising on Georgians' exasperation at their government's failures). The Putin strategy of regime change before Georgia's full acceptance into NATO seems fairly clear cut? With US operations in Poland and Czech Rep and the strategic importance of the Caucasus, the stakes are rising and it's small sovereign nations like Georgia which stand to lose most.
kenny

Anonymous said...

I have no time for Russia barely civilised and lacking in decorum.

If the west doesnt stand upto Russia under the leadership of Putin I have real fears of what this could lead to.

This action proves why Russia should be circled by nato countries.

Chekov said...

Kenny, you do appreciate that Georgia attacked S Ossetia first killing approximately 2,000 people and displacing something approaching 45,000? The much weaker neighbour was attempting to ethnically cleanse a troublesome region which so happens to contain 60% Russian citizens! Not to respond aggressively would have been untenable for Russia. Whether it checks its progress now I don't know, but to seek regime change, whilst it wouldn't be right, is quite understandable.

yourcousin said...

Chekov,
NATO intervened March 24, through June 10, 1999. I am including a link from Human Rights Watch that details human rights abuses by both sides in Kosovo. You will note that the abuses chronicled predate NATO intervention by a year. You may also find this small disclaimer of interest, "the vast majority of the violations...are attributable to the Serbian police or Yugoslav Army". And since we're asking for evidence. May I ask where you are getting your numbers that it was mainly Serbs who were displaced prior to NATO intervention or that it was the NATO bombing that caused the ethnic cleansing?

As for Albanian seperatism. You will have to enlighten me. I'm familiar with Kosovo being granted de facto Republic status in '74. The Serbian claims of genocide in '86 and Milosevic's stripping away of Kosovo's and Vojvodina's autonomy in '89 and many of the protests that accompanied them but it would be appreciated if you could point out a viable movement that sought to wrest Kosovo away from Yugoslavia.

Having members of ones ethnic grouping located in another country is not grounds for conferring citizenship upon them and supplying them with military aid. After Trianon, over three million ethnic Magyars found themselves outside of the new Hungary in places such as Transylvania and the Vojvodina region. This fact did not give Hungary any moral or legal right to meddle in the affairs of either Romania or Yugoslavia. Especially in terms of supporting seperatists movements in either of those two countries. I would say the same applies to Russia. Secondly, South Ossetia has not been "functionally independent" since '93. It has functionally been a Russian protectorate since '93, there is a large difference. You seem to be hinting that it is reasonable and justifiable that Russia seeks to reassert influence over countries and regions that once were part of the USSR, but I will leave that one alone for right now. Suffice to say that while Russian minorities need to have their rights protected in former Soviet Republics. The integrity of those nations must be respected by Russia, which has not happened.

I realize that NATO is indeed not a sovereign nation state. It is an acronym. That sentence placed my tongue firmly in my cheek. I should have been clearer.

My contention that NATO will one day leave Kosovo is based upon the fact that NATO does not make any territorial claim to Kosovo and that member states will eventually want to bring their troop contingents home. And there in lies what I see as one of the key differences between NATO troops and Russian troops. Multinational force vs. National force. That is not a value judgement, but a fact. That you try to conflate the two is more telling of your standards than mine.

Call me cynical but I don't think that on August 7, the Russians were planning on packing it up. I would agree that the Georgians fucked up royally and that the US will not be coming to their aid, nor nessecarily should they. I am not in favor of US/Western hegemony. But to me it is interesting from a rhetorical point that there has been largely silence from both seperatist camps and that it has been Russia proper doing the fighting and the talking.

But to end it on a positive and civil note. I have enjoyed your pictures from Patriarch's Pond as I'm currently reading The Master and Margarita.

Chekov said...

“NATO intervened March 24, through June 10, 1999. I am including a link from Human Rights Watch that details human rights abuses by both sides in Kosovo. You will note that the abuses chronicled predate NATO intervention by a year. You may also find this small disclaimer of interest, "the vast majority of the violations...are attributable to the Serbian police or Yugoslav Army". And since we're asking for evidence. May I ask where you are getting your numbers that it was mainly Serbs who were displaced prior to NATO intervention or that it was the NATO bombing that caused the ethnic cleansing?”

From ‘Ethics of Humanitarian Interventions’ by Georg Megel – ‘there is no evidence advanced so far that, prior to the attack, Milosevic’s government carried out any mass killing of innocents’. Material detailing the KLA insurgency prior to intervention is detailed here http://www.justiceyugoslavia.org/ethnicls.html and here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_War. Tim Judah’s book ‘The Serbs’ provides a break down in figures. A German foreign ministry report conceded at the time.

"Even in Kosovo an explicit political persecution linked to Albanian ethnicity is not verifiable. The East of Kosovo is still not involved in armed conflict. Public life in cities like Pristina, Urosevac, Gnjilan, etc. has, in the entire conflict period, continued on a relatively normal basis. The actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent [KLA] and its actual or alleged supporters.( Status Report of the German Foreign Office, November 18, 1998 to the Upper Administrative Court at Mnster, February 24, 1999.)"...Roland Keith, a former field office director of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM), who left Kosovo on March 20th reported that most of the violence in Kosovo was instigated by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

"Upon my arrival the war increasingly evolved into a mid intensity conflict as ambushes, the encroachment of critical lines of communication and the [KLA] kidnapping of security forces resulted in a significant increase in government casualties which in turn led to major Yugoslavian reprisal security operations... By the beginning of March these terror and counter-terror operations led to the inhabitants of numerous villages fleeing, or being dispersed to either other villages, cities or the hills to seek refuge... The situation was clearly that KLA provocations, as personally witnessed in ambushes of security patrols which inflicted fatal and other casualties, were clear violations of the previous October's agreement [and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1199]. The security forces responded and the consequent security harassment and counter-operations led to an intensified insurrectionary war, but as I have stated elsewhere, I did not witness, nor did I have knowledge of any incidents of so-called "ethnic cleansing" and there certainly were no occurrences of "genocidal policies" while I was with the KVM in Kosovo. What has transpired since the OSCE monitors were evacuated on March 20, in order to deliver the penultimate warning to force Yugoslavian compliance with the Rambouillet and subsequent Paris documents and the commencement of the NATO air bombardment of March 24, obviously has resulted in human rights abuses and a very significant humanitarian disaster as some 600,000 Albanian Kosovars have fled or been expelled from the province. This did not occur, though, before March 20, so I would attribute the humanitarian disaster directly or indirectly to the NATO air bombardment and resulting anti-terrorist campaign."( Roland Keith, "Failure of Diplomacy, Returning OSCE Human Rights Monitor Offers A View From the Ground in Kosovo", The Democrat, May 1999)

And so on, more or less ad infinitum when you investigate the NATO intervention.

“As for Albanian seperatism. You will have to enlighten me. I'm familiar with Kosovo being granted de facto Republic status in '74. The Serbian claims of genocide in '86 and Milosevic's stripping away of Kosovo's and Vojvodina's autonomy in '89 and many of the protests that accompanied them but it would be appreciated if you could point out a viable movement that sought to wrest Kosovo away from Yugoslavia.”

The Popular Movement for the Republic of Kosova was formed in the early 80s. Whether it was in your opinion ‘viable’ or not really is neither here nor there. From 1974 Serbs began to perceive themselves as suffering discrimination within Kosovo and both Albanian separatism and Greater Albanian nationalism were extant prior to Milosevic.

“Having members of ones ethnic grouping located in another country is not grounds for conferring citizenship upon them and supplying them with military aid.”

Not in itself. But when those people are left in a citizrnshipless limbo then the moral argument becomes more complicated. Particularly when those people after undergone a chauvinist ethnic nationalist campaign.

“Secondly, South Ossetia has not been "functionally independent" since '93. It has functionally been a Russian protectorate since '93, there is a large difference.”

Yes it has. It has had its own administration and its own borders. That makes it functionally independent.

“You seem to be hinting that it is reasonable and justifiable that Russia seeks to reassert influence over countries and regions that once were part of the USSR, but I will leave that one alone for right now. Suffice to say that while Russian minorities need to have their rights protected in former Soviet Republics. The integrity of those nations must be respected by Russia, which has not happened.”

Largely Russia has shown immense restraint as a hostile military alliance contravenes post Cold War assurances and encircles its territory. The integrity of these nations has most often been respected in the teeth of provocation. Russia certainly has interests and a sphere of influence and is entitled to be respected on that basis. Whilst Moscow should not expect to dictate the composition of regimes in the ‘near abroad’ it certainly should not have to worry about American bases and missiles moving ever closer to its borders.


“My contention that NATO will one day leave Kosovo is based upon the fact that NATO does not make any territorial claim to Kosovo and that member states will eventually want to bring their troop contingents home. And there in lies what I see as one of the key differences between NATO troops and Russian troops. Multinational force vs. National force. That is not a value judgement, but a fact. That you try to conflate the two is more telling of your standards than mine.”

A multinational force which was assembled primarily to counter Russian interests! A multinational force with just as monolithic an agenda as Russia’s! FYI Russia makes no territorial claim on South Ossetia.

“But to me it is interesting from a rhetorical point that there has been largely silence from both seperatist camps and that it has been Russia proper doing the fighting and the talking.”

See the post quoting Sean's blog.

“But to end it on a positive and civil note. I have enjoyed your pictures from Patriarch's Pond as I'm currently reading The Master and Margarita”

Great book. I’m glad you liked the photies.

yourcousin said...

Chekov,
Apologies on the delayed response. Union meeting this last week and other real life demands which to date (unfortunately) do not include debating the relative merits Eastern European politics. Since the post on South Ossetian has had comments disabled shutdown I'll have to jam it all in here. I'll try to keep it in some sort of sense.

"[B]oth Albanian separatism and Greater Albanian nationalism were extant prior to Milosevic."

I would not disagree with this. I would also point out that mistreatment of Albanians did not start with Milosevic either, but the issue is how they respond to issues that exist, not just ones they create. Milosevic exasperated the issue through his stripping away of their autonomy (amongst other actions). Again it is important that this was not done in order to preserve Yugoslavian integrity, but as a prelude to Serbian expansionism and plans for a greater Serbia, which Kosovo was to be the heart (regardless of the fact that the majority of Kosovars were to be discriminated against in this greater Serbia).

And so on, more or less ad infinitum when you investigate the NATO intervention

Alot of information there, so I'll try to just hit some points. Since you cite Sean's use of Human Rights Watch material in the South Ossetian post I am going to assume that we can at least use them as a commonly accepted (caveats allowed of course) source because quite frankly sites such "Justice for Yugoslavia" seem biased enough for me to question them just as you would quite rightly question anything I used from the State Department (which I considered doing, but decided against).

As for Justice for Yugoslavia. Their core beliefs are written as,

"respect for human beings, respect for human life, honesty in government and respect for international law, conventions, and treaties, and the United Nations."

They attack NATO due to illegality of their actions yet say nothing (or at least what I read said nothing) of the fact that Serbia is to date the only state that has ever been charged in violation of the Genocide convention of the UN and also note that,

"During the period of bombing, hundreds of thousands of Albanians left Kosovo, most probably forced out by Serb troops."

This also ties into your other quote which reads which lays the humanitarian disaster at the feet (directly or indirectly) at the feet of NATO. IE trying to state that the somehow it's NATO's responsibility for the Serbs deciding to launch a massive offensive on a civilian population.

I would cite Human rights Watch again to state,

"Many observers mark the date of the NATO air war as the beginning of the Serbian and Yugoslav campaign. While March 24 saw a marked intensification of the campaign, the start of the operation actually came four days earlier, on March 20, when the monitors of the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) withdrew en masse from Kosovo. Most of the remaining international nongovernmental organizations evacuated their personnel at the same time. The departure of the KVM, together with international aid workers, deprived Kosovo not only of some of its most important witnesses, but also ended any deterrence that the presence of the OSCE verifiers might have provided. According to the OSCE report on its work in Kosovo from October 1998 to June 1999, based in part on interviews with refugees during the NATO bombing, 'the level of incidents of summary and arbitrary killing escalated dramatically immediately after the OSCE-KVM withdrew on March 20.'"

I would also draw your attention to the link from my last comment. which cites a number of abuses prior to the intervention of NATO. As to the points which your other quotes make such as stating that it was not ethincally motivated,

"The actions of the security forces [were] not directed against the Kosovo-Albanians as an ethnically defined group, but against the military opponent [KLA] and its actual or alleged supporters"

I find this to be another fig leaf to hide behind. "alleged supporters" is a very nice code word for any ethnic Albanian. Such as the 25 men summarily executed outside of Pec in May '98. I will happily admit the attacks on civilians in Kosovo differed from those that took place in Bosnia. Though I feel that this had more to do with the fact that Kosovo was 90% Albanian thereby rendering many of the tactics used by Serbs in Bosnia more difficult. And that there were international monitors on the ground. But once the attacks commenced they did indeed seem go full bore so far as expulsions, looting and what not. Also worth noting is that while Bosnia and Kosovo are not one and the same, it was the Serbian army fighting and Belgrade calling the shots in both of them. So in regards to claims of atrocities it would not be beyond the pale for forces which ran rape camps, sniped/shelled innocent civilians in Sarajevo, or carried out multiple massacres, indeed being cited for,

“90 percent of the crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina were the responsibility of Serb extremists.”

That from a report given to the UN by special team of commissioners chaired by Cherif Bassiouni of DePaul University of Chicago. That number also roughly correlates to numbers compiled by the CIA. So if you like, we can call it 1 1/2 sources that I at least am willing to abide by. But I digress.

That being the case it is not hard to see why many thought that Kosovo could/would turn into another Bosnia. Which is why I feel that NATO acted as it did. Because they had been caught with their pants down in Bosnia and were attmepting to pull them back up in Kosovo.

You know what, there's far too much to go over to try to put it into one post so I'll break it up into two. This being on the rhetorical link to Kosovo and the other (yet to be written) on S. Ossetia, Russia and NATO in post Cold War Europe.

yourcousin said...

post cont.
What about the South Ossetians indeed. I loved the quote from a Russian general in regards to the Ossetian militias ransacking around Gori.

"Gen. Borisov denied a request by reporters to visit Gori after the Russian takeover, saying that this would disturb sleeping residents. He also dismissed the reports of atrocities perpetrated by Ossetian irregulars. 'There were only two or three cars of Ossetians that came down. I personally confiscated their assault rifles, kicked them in their behinds, and told them that I will have them executed if they come again,' he said. 'There are hooligans anywhere -- we cannot control everything.'"

from the WSJ

I think that also speaks to your claim of S. Ossetia being functionally independent. Now admittedly I have heard other stories on National Public Radio in which the Russian government admitted that there was looting going on but that they could do nothing about it as it was the South Ossetians who were doing it, even as the Russians looked on. But I find the first story funnier.

"Largely Russia has shown immense restraint as a hostile military alliance contravenes post Cold War assurances and encircles its territory"

Grozny part I and part II were not restraint. Far from it. The fact that the West was complicit in this crime is telling of everyone's moral decay. Russia has been restrained when it has had to be. That is all. Otherwise it has been petty
and vindictive.

Sean makes the point about S. Ossetians gleefully taking Russian citizenship, but again this points more to S. Ossetia being a Russian protectorate, not an independent entity. I will admit that the S. Ossetians may have some very valid reasons for not wanting to be part of Georgia and under different circumstances I would be rooting for them. As it is I'm fairly indifferent as I don't see them as an independent country, but as a expansion of Russia. Like Sean said,

"Ossetians gleefully take those passports, use Russian currency, and are running not into Georgia but into Russia to escape the violence"

This coupled with the total lack of S. Ossetian military on the ground (other than as irregulars/looters) and having the Russians do all the negotiating without even making the pretense of having a civilian leader "representing" S. Ossetia. I also seem to remember a story awhile ago where the Russians tried to send in some military engineer units to do work on S. Ossetian infastructure but had to withdraw after international outcry due to the fact that usually countries don't just send in their military to other countries to spruce up the place. That is unless the Russians don't view S. Ossetia as another country. And before you repeat the line again, I am aware that you've stated that Russia has made no territorial claim to S. Ossetia (yet).

As for NATO bases surrounding Russia. For the record I am not in favor of the missile shield. Money badly spent on a system that may or may not work and has most definitely raised tensions in that area. But as you have so happily pointed out that the someone needs to explain why S. Ossetians prefer Russia to Georgia maybe you could explain the same about why former Soviet bloc countries are turning West intead of to Russia? could it be that the likes of the Ukraine and Poland don't feel that Russia has their best interest at heart?

The fact that Germany vetoed Georgia's entry into NATO shows that NATO is not monolithic as you would suggest and that while I acknowledge its original formation was from the cold war I would suggest that it has found new missions in this post cold war era that are not in opposition to Russian interests as missions such as Afghanistan demonstrate.

Also maybe you could explain what Putin was doing representing Russia at the Olympics? As well as his taking lead in the fighting such as his briefings with generals and visiting the troops in the hospitals. I mean seriously, doesn't this undermine the idea of Russia as a functioning democracy. I mean we just send Cheney to shoot lawyers, not represent us to the world.

I liked the ending of the WSJ article, so I'll repeat it here,

"As Gen. Borisov assured that Russian soldiers have no intention of staying in Georgia beyond a day or two, the signal of the Georgian mobile phone network disappeared in the Gori vicinity. Instead, cell phones lit up with a message highlighting new realities on the ground. 'Welcome to Russian network MegaFon,' the message said. 'Enjoy your stay!'"

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