Don't abandon Georgia to Moscow's 'sphere of influence'


From Friday's Globe and Mail

August 15, 2008 at 7:30 AM EDT

Foolish Georgians for baiting the Russian bear. Silly Americans for egging them on.

Armchair strategists are wagging fingers over the supposed naiveté of Georgia and its superpower ally over the conflict in the Caucasus. In this blame-the-victim analysis, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili started the whole thing by attacking separatists in South Ossetia, giving Russian leader Vladimir Putin the perfect excuse to respond in force. Washington encouraged the Georgian hothead by pumping him up with praise and making him think that it would gallop to his aid, while in fact it has no power at all to help.

The facts are somewhat different. While Mr. Saakashvili blundered at the start and Washington underestimated the Russians, it is wrong to place the blame on the Georgians and their American allies. That blame rests squarely with Moscow, which orchestrated the whole business with the skill of a Shostakovich.

It has been clear for months, even years, that Russia was determined to teach Georgia a lesson. Moscow was unhappy when the birthplace of Stalin broke away after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and furious when the enthusiastically pro-American Mr. Saakashvili came to power vowing to join the Western military alliance, NATO.

To undermine him, Moscow slapped sanctions on Georgia and upgraded ties with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As tensions rose, it sent tanks to the Georgian border, staged a sabre-rattling military exercise on the border with South Ossetia and started cyber-attacks against Georgia's Internet system. It was a classic squeeze play, straight out of the old Soviet manual.

Far from urging Mr. Saakashvili to lash back, Washington urgently and repeatedly urged him to show restraint. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice privately told him he should not get into a fight with Russia that tiny Georgia could never win. Only when Russian troops were rolling through the Roki tunnel linking Russia to South Ossetia, says Mr. Saakashvili, did he unleash his own forces.

That was a disastrous mistake, supplying the Russians with the pretext they needed to launch an all-out assault. But the idea that Georgian aggression forced Russia to intervene is as absurd as the Nazi claim that Polish aggression started the Second World War. Indeed, without drawing exaggerated parallels, the Russian claim to be defending minorities in Georgia has unsettling echoes of the Nazi claim to be protecting ethnic Germans when it invaded Czechoslovakia. The claim looks especially thin coming from a country that only recently laid waste to a minority nationality, the Chechens, who dared to seek independence from Russia. Death to Free Chechnya! Hail Free South Ossetia!

With Russian jets threatening Georgian skies and Russian armour trundling along Georgian roads, it should be clear to everyone who the aggressor is here. The conflict in Georgia was a deliberate, premeditated assault designed to punish the Saakashvili government and send a message to the West about who rules the roost in Russia's hinterland.

Yes, Washington's warm backing of Mr. Saakashvili and his bid to join NATO made Georgia an especially inviting target. But it's been the policy of all Western governments since the end of the Cold War nearly 20 years ago to encourage post-Soviet and former East Bloc countries to embrace the democratic ways and economic freedoms that have worked such wonders in the West.

When the Rose Revolution of 2003 brought Mr. Saakashvili to power, it was right and natural for the West to embrace him as an example of democratic evolution. It was equally right and natural for Washington to speak up for Georgia's territorial integrity when Russia began threatening it. Simply abandoning Georgia to Moscow's "sphere of influence," as those armchair realists suggest, would send a signal to democrats from Warsaw to Kiev to Tallinn that they are on their own against an increasingly aggressive Moscow.

True, Washington can't back Georgia with military might, any more than it could back Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968. But there are other ways to respond to Russia's aggression: downgrading political and military ties, revoking its status as a G8 country, barring it from the World Trade Organization. Georgia has been a setback, but it's wrong to think the West has no options for response. It has several, and it should use them.



Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre in the Globe and mail

Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada) wrote: Who paid Marcus Gee to write US Propaganda?
Marcus Gee just painted black, white and did a complete spin doctor job that would have done Gobbles proud, sorry, George Bush proud.
The Georgian invasion was predicted by a financial analyst, the Georgian president is well know to be as mad as a hatter and a liability. He knew that the next American administration might just cut him loose or worse still, provide Georgia with some good reasons as to why Georgia should send him back to the States.
The US has been pumping billions of dollars into Georgia, part in payment for their sending of 2,000 troops to Iraq and in part to protect their "investment" or "foreign interest" aka "oil interests".
Marcus Gee's article is so blatantly biased and fake it begs the question as to how much he was paid and by whom to write the story or that his political connections force him into the writing of propaganda for the White House. Ottawa Mens, from Ottawa, Canada wrote: Mr. Saakashvili blundered at the start? Marcus Gee refers to the premeditated genocide of thousands of South Osettians who also choose to hold Russian Passports as a "blunder"? Marcus Gee then calls Russia the devil incarnate and the madcap Georgian president as some kind of saintly gift to the west aka Washington's interests?
What kind of objectivity / journalism is that?
When I read the major newspapers, many Canadian newspapers have columns on the genocide in South Osettia that is written by Americans for the American propaganda machine.

Lets look at the facts, The mentally ill Georgian president chose five minutes before the opening of the Olympic Games to launch an barrage on civilians designed and aimed at residential homes not military targets, HOMES, he killed thousands of women and children, if children walked outside they got mowed down with machine guns, they threw grenades into the basements of already shelled homes.

The Russian response has been remarkably restrained. Even when the Arabs launched a similar preemptive strike against Israel, they did not specifically target civilians. Israel responded and spectacularly and seized a large amount of territory to limit Israels enemies from doing it again. Georgia has a long track record of breaking agreements. Now wonder Russia has sought out those military supplies and destroyed them.
If you look at the pictures, Georgians are not afraid of Russian troops, quite the opposite. Speak to real Georgians, with few exceptions, they will tell you they have a US puppet president who is very obviously hell bent on war and chose the Olympic games as a diversion for his American sponsored and funded genocidal invasion .
Gee, Marcus should apply for a job as a speech writer for the Republicans, only problem is, by the time the next administration gets into power, they will probably realize that Bush backed a mad murderer and lost.


Expect the political powers will have the above comments "pulled" as were several other comments. Amazing the power that Washington has over foreign newspapers.


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