Tag: Georgia (Page 1 of 4)

Notes on Hegemony and Symbolic Capital

This is of interest only to international-relations theorists and fellow travelers.

A long-standing claims about hegemonic orders is that they are normative ones: that a dominant power uses a wide variety of power resources to create a set of international rules and regimes conducive to its ideological and material interests. After World War II the United States worked actively to promote norms and institutions consistent with a broadly “liberal internationalist” environment, albeit ones refracted through the prism of Cold War competition. After the Cold War the United States enlarged the order, however unevenly, and during the Bush Administration it sought, but generally failed, to recast that order along neoconservative lines.

The two most importnat “mainstream” pieces to focus on the normative dimensions of hegemonic orders are probably John Ruggie’s “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic Order” and G. John Ikenberry’s and Charles Kupchan’s “Socialization and Hegemonic Power.”

Continue reading


EU Russia-Georgia Report Redux

I have a commentary at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website today on the EU’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia. It expands on my earlier remarks about the gap between the report’s findings and the political spin:

“Those who read the entire report will find it is a masterpiece of legal and evidentiary analysis. The authors have painstakingly synthesized multiple branches of international law with scores of interviews, reams of source material, and numerous reports from NGOs. The report itself is nearly 500 pages ‘applying principles to facts.’ Despite a few inconsistencies, it is generally fair-minded, objective and apolitical. It should have done the job.

But in putting together the detailed legal analysis too little thought appears to have been given to the political impact or how to frame the report so that its key findings are intelligible to a public and press corps not intimately familiar with the details of international law. In failing to deliver the key findings up front with savvy and punch, the EU Mission allowed the report to be hijacked by interested parties for a continuation of the very political argument it should have put to rest.

For example, after reading the whole thing I must qualify my earlier suggestion that the report doesn’t distinguish between the interstate and intrastate dimensions of the conflict. It does at several places. But the title and executive summary do not – which probably explains why journalists and politicians have been able to spin it as they have.

More importantly, the authors’ conclusions about Georgia’s guilt in “starting” the war with S. Ossetia do rely on what I find to be an unconvincing application of the UN Charter regime to an intra-state war, essentially blurring the distinction between the two.

More on this – and the other “few inconsistencies” I wasn’t able to cover in the space limit given me by RFE/RL – are at Current Intelligence, where I’ll be posting periodically on war law issues for the foreseeable future.


Whodunnit: The Five-Day War

The EU released its report on the August war between Georgia and Russia on Wednesday, and for the last two days the press has reported that it proves “Georgia started the war with Russia.” Even Joshua Keating, who offers a more even-handed round-up at Foreign Policy, says the claim that AP’s claim that “Georgia Started the War with Russia” is “basically correct.”

I’ve only finished the first volume of the report so far, but this is not how I read it at all. Actually, it says exactly the opposite on pg. 31 and 32:

“Any explanation of the origins of the conflict cannot focus solely on the artillery attack on Tskinvali in the night of 7/8 August… overall, the conflict is rooted in a profusion of causes comprising different layers in time and actions combined.”

The “Georgia started it!” frame appears to be grounded in two findings. The report acknowledges Georgia’s armed attack on Tskhinvali was in violation of international law, and also argued that this attack constituted “the first shot” in what became a larger conflict.

But I don’t see how that’s an argument that Georgia “started” the war with Russia. Georgia committed an illegal attack on an population center within its own territory – escalating what was already a low-intensity war within Georgian borders. Russia internationalized this “war” by sending troops across the border in violation of the territorial integrity norm. And given that the report also casts doubt on Russia’s claim to have done so to protect civilians, it’s hard to see how one illegal act within one’s territory can be construed as blame for an international war. At any rate, the report itself nowhere claims as much.

What’s most interesting about Volume I of the report, though, and what may explain the way its findings have been misinterpreted, is that it appears to conflate the civil and interstate wars of which the “August war” was composed. This is particularly ironic given that the report’s authors “notice with regret an erosion of the respect of established principles of international law such as territorial integrity” (p. 31) but then, ironically, blur those very principles in failing to distinguish the civil and interstate elements of the conflict. It is not until p. 36 that the 45-page report summary even acknowledges that there were these two different components to the war; the fact that the authors do not disaggregate these aspects in assigning blame muddles the legal analysis completely.

No wonder both sides can claim the report is a victory for them.


The Georgia “Mutiny”

A quick note on events in Georgia: be very suspicious whenever the government accuses any opposition group or movement of being linked to Russia. Tbilisi has mounted a concerted effort to paint it opponents as Russian stooges, and to shore up Saakashvili’s regime by raising fears of a Russian plot against the country itself.

Of course, the Russians could be involved. But under no circumstances should readers take Tblisi’s word for it.

The Guardian has a good rundown as of about 9:00 am Eastern:

Sikharulidze said the commanders of the military base, 12 miles from Tbilisi, had been dismissed and the soldiers confined to barracks.

President Mikhail Saakashvili said in a televised address that the government was taking the mutiny seriously but it was an isolated incident. He said the situation in the country was under control.

The interior ministry said one person had been arrested. “[The plotters] were receiving money from Russia,” a ministry spokesman, Shota Utiashvili, told a news conference. “It seems it was co-ordinated with Russia.”

However, Georgia’s former defence minister, Giya Karkarashvili, told reporters in Tbilisi he was sceptical of claims of a planned coup attempt, suggesting they were fabricated by the government to dampen opposition.

“Today Georgia is in the hands of sick people, who write the scenario themselves, play it themselves, then make a movie and show it to people for intimidation purposes,” Karkarashvili said.

Russia’s Nato envoy, Dmitri Rogozin, was quoted by the news agency as saying the allegations were “crazy”.

Utiashvili claimed the officers had been working in league with Russian special forces and had planned to launch the uprising tomorrow to coincide with the start of military exercises in Georgia co-ordinated with Nato.

Giya Gvaladze, former head of a special forces group called Delta, was named as leader of the plot and Utiashvili showed undercover video footage in which Gvaladze allegedly discussed his plans with co-conspirators, saying: “The Russians will come to help us, 5,000 people all together.”

The Russian forces would “liquidate” cabinet members such as the interior minister, Vano Merabishvili, Gvaladze was recorded as saying. He added that if the coup was successful, exiled opponents of President Mikhail Saakashvili, such as the former leader of the breakaway region of Adzharia, Aslan Abashidze, would return to the country.

Utiashvili said negotiations were being held with servicemen from a Georgian tank battalion, based in Mukhrovani, who had announced a “mutiny” this morning. He indicated the men were connected to the coup plot, but their commander issued a statement saying the unit was only disobeying command in protest at the standoff between the government and the opposition, and did not intend to launch “aggressive actions”.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow, but the Kremlin has frequently rubbished claims of agreements between its special forces and Georgian elements hostile to Saakashvili’s government.

In tomorrow’s exercises, around 1,000 soldiers from more than a dozen Nato member states and partners will practise “crisis response” at a Georgian army base east of Tbilisi, around 44 miles from the nearest Russian troop positions in South Ossetia.

The exercises at a former Russian air force base in Vaziani are seen as a signal from the 28-member alliance that, despite doubts over the promise of eventual membership, Georgia has not been forgotten.

Georgia has been plagued by unrest since last summer’s disastrous war with Russia, with thousands of citizens taking part in mass protests demanding the resignation of Saakashvili.

The president has been under pressure from the protests for several weeks, and the government’s release of audio and video recordings alleging violent plots to seize power by his opponents have become part of the country’s daily political struggle.


Erosi Kitsmarishvili points the finger at Tbilisi

The New York Times reports:

A parliamentary hearing on the origins of the war between Georgia and Russia in August ended in a furor on Tuesday after a former Georgian diplomat testified that Georgian authorities were responsible for starting the conflict.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, Tbilisi’s former ambassador to Moscow, testified for three hours before he was shouted down by members of Parliament.

A former confidant of President Mikheil Saakashvili, Mr. Kitsmarishvili said Georgian officials told him in April that they planned to start a war in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions at issue in the war, and had received a green light from the United States government to do so. He said the Georgian government later decided to start the war in South Ossetia, the other region, and continue into Abkhazia.

He would not name the officials who he said had told him about planned actions in Abkhazia, saying that identifying them would endanger their lives.

American officials have consistently said that they had warned Mr. Saakashvili against taking action in the two enclaves, where Russian peacekeepers were stationed.

Mr. Kitsmarishvili’s testimony in front of a parliamentary commission, shown live on Georgian television, met with forceful and immediate denials. One commission member, Givi Targamadze, threw a pen and then lunged toward Mr. Kitsmarishvili, but was restrained by his colleagues.

The chairman of the commission, Paata Davitaia, said he would initiate a criminal case against Mr. Kitsmarishvili for “professional negligence.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, who appeared on short notice to comment on Mr. Kitsmarishvili’s testimony, called the allegations “irresponsible and shameless fabrication,” and said they were “either the result of a lack of information or the personal resentment of a man who has lost his job and wants to get involved in politics.” Mr. Kitsmarishvili was fired in September by the president.

Mr. Kitsmarishvili walked out amid the furor on Tuesday. “They don’t want to listen to the truth,” he told reporters.

Of course, none of this should surprise dispassionate observers. I wonder what the various stenographers and their enablers will say.


Before they disappear into the ether

I’ve been fairly prolific lately. This state of affairs stems, in part, from what I’ve been working on for the last couple days: copy editing page proofs, which amounts to one of the dullest things I’ve done in furtherance of my career. Ever.

Moreover, as I’m sure is the case for at least some of our readers, my mind has been colonized by two pressing developments: the final innings of the 2008 US Presidential campaign and the potential collapse of the neoliberal economic order. Both are doing their part to tap into my “outrage” receptors, and blogging seems to be the only effective way to prevent total overload.

But all of this has not been without cost.

As I ramp up production of short posts of varrying quality, I push some excellent work by the rest of the Duck crew towards the internet ether’s edge. I’ve also neglected to mention some important developments related to my more usual topics. So, without further to do, here are just a few posts at the Duck that, if you’ve missed, you should check out. I’ll even throw in an article or so that I was going to blog about but didn’t (or, at least, haven’t yet).

1. Peter’s “Barak Obama and the Renewal of American Hegemony.”

2. Charli’s mind altering Measuring Linguistic Norms” and her traffic generating “Robot Soldiers v. Autonomous Weapons: Why It Matters.”

3. Rodger’s “al Qaeda’s electioneering.” I should note that Rodger scooped the blogsplosive Five Thirty Eight. Take that, Nate Silver.

Now, onto articles external to the Duck…

1. NATO will now target opium production in Afghanistan. On the one hand, they need to do something. The Taleban extract large rents from the trade. On the other hand, this kind of interdiction has a lousy track record. It might make more sense to just buy up the crop at market price, and thereby cut the Taleban out.

2. Joshua Foust has a great post on the Shindand Bombing. Go read it.

3. Fred Weir of The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece on the fallout of Russia’s military showing in Georgia. Although the Russians crushed the Georgians, they’re not particularly happy about their performance.

“Russia has changed a lot lately, and the spirit in the country is different from what it used to be,” says Lt. Gen. (Ret) Gennady Yevstasyev, a senior adviser to the PIR Center, an independent security think tank in Moscow. “The public will now support major military reform, even if it entails financial hardship. Many things that were stalemated for years will now move forward.”

Already, Russian defense budgets are set to leap next year to a post-Soviet record of over $50 billion. Similar jumps are projected for coming years as well.

The fresh increases, announced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in late September, are in addition to a special $200-billion procurement program aimed at restoring the country’s degraded strategic forces.

Mr. Arbatov argues that Russia’s military problems run deeper than just two decades of neglect. “There is no political leadership over military organization. Nor is there any democratic control. The system needs to be changed,” he says.

Russian forces entering South Ossetia lacked even basic intelligence regarding Georgian artillery positions and troop deployments, which led several of their leading units into costly ambushes. In one surprise attack, the 58th Army’s senior commander, Gen. Anatoly Khrulyev, was badly wounded and had to be evacuated.

In a desperate effort to get information, the Russians sent an electronic reconnaissance version of the Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire bomber over the battlefield and it got shot down. In all, Russia lost four planes, including three Sukhoi Su-25 attack fighters to unexpectedly effective Georgian air defenses. Some Russian commanders reported using cellphones to communicate with their units when their own radios failed.

Additionally, the tanks deployed by the Russian Army did not have night sights for their guns, and the reactive armor designed to protect them from Georgian antitank weapons proved unreliable.

But of particular interest to me were Andrei Klimov’s comments about NATO and NATO expansion.

Moscow does not feel any immediate threat from the West, say military analysts, despite increased tensions over US missile defense deployments in Eastern Europe and the projected expansion of NATO into the former Soviet Union.

“We regard NATO as a dangerous organization, but right now it’s not so strong,” says Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma’s international affairs committee. “The problem is that NATO will become more dangerous if it includes countries like Georgia and Ukraine. In the cold war, when only the US and Western countries were in NATO, it was stable and predictable. We have enough resources to defend ourselves at present, but in the future we will need to think about this.”

I suppose some of my colleagues would code Russian behavior as “not balancing.” But I think the case is getting more and more difficult to make that some of the world is not pushing back.


Georgia, Framing, and the Aftermath of the Conflict

A friend emails me to say:

I just watched video of Saakashvili’s press conference with Sarkozy. Still claiming outright that the Russians started it and that the Russians are the invaders. Speaking English, naturally. Russians are of course indignant about this claim. Georgia is like the younger sibling who constantly pokes and prods the older and then runs to mommy to complain when the older eventually hits back. Then when the older gets grounded for hitting, hides behind mommy’s legs and sticks his tongue out at the older. Russia’s reputation as a bully (plus the fact that mom likes the younger one better anyway) means that no one will believe their version of what happened. They stamp their feet at the injustice of it all, but they are still stuck with it.

But how much does this matter on the ground? E. Wayne Merry writes in RFE/RL:

Whether the Georgian president fell into a waiting Russian trap or rashly threw a wholly inadequate force into South Ossetia believing Moscow would not respond, the consequences were disastrous for Georgia, but very negative also for the United States.

The essence of a productive patron-client relationship (especially one involving a Great Power) is that it serve the interests of both parties. Shevardnadze well understood that his obligation in return for aid was not to compromise U.S. interests with Russia. Relations with Moscow were quite poor during his tenure, but Shevardnadze carefully avoided steps that might trigger larger armed conflict and thus present Washington with bad and costly policy choices. The youthful and romantic Saakashvili ran a more honest and progressive administration, but lacked the cynical older statesman’s understanding that a client state must protect its patron’s interests as well as its own.

How grim are the “realities” of US-Georgian relations?

First, the Georgian economy is in dire straits, with many new refugees, damaged national infrastructure, and frightened foreign investors. Only 16 years ago, Georgia verged on mass hunger. It could happen again. Aid (both U.S. and European) is needed, but Tbilisi must also create confidence that investments will be safe from further strife.

Second, the Georgian Army is in tatters, in a society with a vibrant warrior culture. Only 16 years ago, Georgia was ruled by warlords and private armies. It could happen again. The integrity of the Georgian state requires some kind of army, but with confidence that it will not again be used recklessly.

Third, no amount of Western political “pressure” will restore Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Georgian rule. Moscow’s recognition of the entities as independent is surely a prelude to their incorporation, sooner or later, into the Russian Federation. This step would likely receive overwhelming endorsement in free referendums by the Abkhaz and Ossetians, while the dispossessed Georgians will have no say. Wars have consequences, usually bad, that diplomacy cannot rectify.

Finally, the current Georgian leadership will pay the price at home for its failed venture. While the embattled Saakashvili has the titular support of all political factions at the moment, the jockeying is already under way to replace him. Georgia’s first and second presidents were forcibly removed from office. Politics are pitiless, and Georgian politics more so.

Georgia today needs its U.S. patron as never before, but any future U.S. administration will certainly impose tighter controls and more conditions on its help. The rhetoric from Washington will doubtless be supportive of Georgia, but no patron state enjoys the feeling that the tail has wagged the dog, especially against its own advice and interests.

At some level, this isn’t all that surprising. The basic dynamics here involve what I have termed the “balance of influence in patron-client relations.”

Despite many features of the relationship that should, at first glance, provide the US with more leverage over Georgia than Georiga ought to enjoy over the US, Saakashvili ultimately ignored US warnings. He then made appeals to the United States that it would have been very difficult for Washington to ignore, but that also required it to step beyond its ability to influence events on the ground. In doing so, he dragged Washington into a conflict with the Russians that has, in many respects, harmed US interests.

But for a variety of reasons–some ethical, some political, and others strategic–the Washington cannot, nor should it, abandon the Georgia. The obvious answer, then, is to seek more ways to control the policies that come out of Tbilisi. But how to accomplish this task? That’s the crucial, and as yet unanswered, question.


The market punished Russia

Dan previously reported that the European Union decided not to impose economic sanctions on Russia — at least for now. However, The New York Times had an interesting story on September 3 noting that the market was imposing its own penalty on Russia for its war versus Georgia.

…[I}nvestors are also unnerved by the aftermath of the five-day war in early August.

Russian shares have lost about a third of their value since hitting record highs in May. Russian and Western bank analysts polled by Reuters have cut forecasts for Russia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.

As much as $25 billion in foreign capital may have left Russia since the Georgia conflict started, they said: while their growth forecasts were little changed at 7.5 percent, the crisis sharply cut the liquidity of the banking system.

Apparently, the Russian “stock exchange’s benchmark RTS index…suffered its biggest decline since the financial crisis in 1998.”

A major investor from Hong Kong is quite pessimistic:

“I have assets in both Georgia and Russia and I’m going to get out. What seemed a great idea at that time has become a sort of disaster,” said a 31-year-old banker at one of the world’s top 10 investment banks, who — like most here — spoke on condition of anonymity.

A British investor who lost money in 1998 is anonymously quoted saying “we’ll soon see a downward spiral that will result in another crash — give it a few months.”

On the other hand, at least one investment advisor was willing to be quoted by name in the article. “Armine Guledjian, vice-president of Halcyon Power Investment Company and a native Californian” admittedly has a strong self interest at stake. Still, she says simply:

“This is a great time to invest, as markets are so low.”

Don’t view that as an official Duck of Minerva recommendation.


Russia mounts a counteroffiensive in the propaganda war

Via email:

You’ve seen the Georgian claims that they were just responding to a Russian attack when they invaded Tskhinvali.

The Russians are now citing amateur video taken on the first day of fighting to claim that there were no Russian forces in the city and that the Georgians were initially unopposed in the city and firing at random, civilian targets (including apartment buildings).

The video seems to have been taken by Georgian troops. You can hear them whooping (basically, yeehaw!) as they drive through the city and fire on various structures (which the Vesti.ru reporter visits and shows to be apartment buildings). The amateur clips seems fairly short and the most provocative bit is repeatedly looped during the report. The eyewitnesses discuss the attacks (tanks fired on us here, and made these holes in our walls, etc.) and talk at length about hiding with and comforting their

They also say that Georgian troops rattled their doors and demanded that they open them (though they left when the residents wouldn’t open up) and drove through the streets shouting things like: “This is our land! It will be ours!” and “Ossetia is ours! It is already our land!”



I don’t know how much effort they are putting in getting this narrative out to the English-language world media–I haven’t seen it anywhere I would expect it might appear.


United Ossetia?

Rob Farley points to a Times article reporting that Russia will soon annex South Ossetia. The source for the report? The South Ossetian president. So, as Rob notes, caveat emptor.

Indeed, I can’t find anything about this on an (admittedly quick) look through the English-language Russian press. I do see a word of a military cooperation agreement and mutual recognition between South Ossetia and Abkhazia. More griping about lack of adequate support (background) from Russia from the SCO. A report on South Ossetia’s decision to form a new government….

So, yeah, I tend to agree. Given the paucity of other states recognizing the two enclaves so far, and the lack of any clear gains for Moscow from annexing either of them–they can just continue to do it de facto–I wouldn’t hold my breath. But I also wouldn’t bet against it happening at some point.


The US to the left, China to the right….

Russia encircled by enemies plotting against it?

CNN’s summary of its interview with Putin, passed along without comment:

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Matthew Chance in the Black Sea city of Sochi Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin told CNN his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate — Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush — although he presented no evidence to back it up.

“U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict,” Putin said. “They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader.”

Medvedev, meanwhile, thanks the SCO for its support. But Kommersant’s analysis is less charitable:

The RF President Dmitry Medvedev has expressed gratitude to his colleagues in Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) for understanding and objective evaluation of peacekeeping efforts of Russia. Medvedev made the respective statement during the SCO summit in Dushanbe.

The common standing of SCO nations, Medvedev said, is a strong signal to those attempting to justify Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia.

Meanwhile, the experts didn’t miss that the response of the SCO nations to Russia was too cautious all understanding notwithstanding. Except Russia, none of them confronted the West and recognized independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Nowadays, the standing of China appears the most advantageous. In the new political environment, that state will endeavor to strengthen in Central Asia, aggressively promoting projects in ex-republics of the Soviet Union.


Totten and Georgia

A lot of people are buzzing about Michael Totten’s report on Georgia, in which he claims to have discovered the real truth about the outbreak of the war: Tblisi launched a preemptive attack in the face of a sudden escalation by the South Ossetians that presaged a Russian attack.

The report contains very interesting claims. But Totten’s narrative comprises, in essence, a transcription of a presentation given to him by a public-relations adviser for the Georgian government (Patrick Worms) and should be treated as such.

Totten brought along a regional expert named Thomas Goltz to see if anything seemed totally out of whack with Worms’ narrative.

But Goltz’s contribution mainly focused on background details, as he himself had no way of confirming or refuting Worms’ account.

Some describe Goltz as anti-Russian, and aspects of his own discussion certainly bear out that description. But it doesn’t really matter; Goltz’s expertise has no relevance to the credibility of Worms’ most important claims about “who started it.” Goltz’s presence doesn’t change a basic fact: Totten report amounts to a stenographic service for Georgian propaganda.

At the same time, however, none of this should obscure the increasing evidence of ethnic cleansing by South Ossetians and Abkhazians–aided and abetted by the Russians–and the diminishing evidence of widespread atrocities committed by the Georgians.

In other words, we need to distinguish between two different kinds of questions: jus ad bellum ones–such as “who started it” and “were they justified in doing so”–and jus in bello ones–concerning the morality of the way that the various parties conducted the war.

I think I’ve made this point a number of times over the last few weeks, but it bears repeating: just because some of us are very critical of Tblisi, of US policy towards Georgia, and of what we believe is hyperbolic sabre-rattling by opinion leaders in the United States, does not mean we believe the Russians are “good actors” or that we don’t think the United States and NATO need to make major adjustments in their policies towards Russia. In my view, the most important thing is for observers to avoid falling into a simplistic narrative that treats Tblisi as a lily-white victim and Russia as the Fourth Reich.

A final thought: It is entirely possible that Tblisi believed they were launching either a preemptive or preventive attack. This would make sense of a lot of things about the assault on Tskhinvali.


Russia recognizes Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence

That was quick. So much for the resolution simply serving as “leverage” for Putin and Medvedev in negotiations with the US and NATO.

As predicted, Moscow’s rationale borrows directly from the west’s argument in favor of Kosovo independence.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised broadcast Tuesday he had signed decrees to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“This is not an easy choice but this is the only way to save human lives,” he said.

Medvedev said he believed Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia earlier this month gave the breakaway republics a right to independence.

“(Georgian President Mikhail) Saakashvili chose genocide to achieve his political objectives,” Medvedev said. “Thus he dashed all hopes for peaceful coexistence of Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians in one state. The South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples have repeatedly voted for their republics’ independence in referendums. We understand that, after what happened in Tskhinvali (South Ossetia’s capital) and what was being planned for Abkhazia, they have a right to be in charge of their own destiny.”

Medvedev also accused Georgia of thwarting negotiations on the breakaway republics’ status, ignoring agreements and carrying out provocations.

This comes after a day of “tense standoffs” in Georgia and Moscow’s decision to halt the WTO-membership process.

One odd thing: this also comes not long after the Russians downgraded the number of civilian causalities among the South Ossetians by around ninety percent. Although “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” are matters of intent, not magnitude, that does take away some of the force behind their accusations against Georgia.

More Analysis to come.


Putin’s revenge

Because one good Kosovo deserves another (or two)?

Russia’s parliament has backed a motion urging the president to recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both houses voted unanimously in favour of the non-binding motion, which analysts say could help President Dmitry Medvedev in talks with the West.

The UK, Germany and Italy were among the nations expressing concern that the vote would further raise tensions.

The (rather unsurprising) move comes as the US and NATO “[step] up pressure” on Moscow to pull out of the territory it still holds in “Georgia proper.”

US destroyer carrying relief supplies arrived at a Black Sea port in Georgia, a sign of US support that provided a conspicuous display of NATO military might. The USS McFaul dropped anchor off Batumi, 50 kilometres south of the Russian-occupied port of Poti, the first of three ships carrying aid to help Georgia deal with about 100,000 displaced people.

A Russian general accused NATO countries at the weekend of using humanitarian aid as “cover” for a build-up of naval forces in the Black Sea, heightening tension. Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from their most advanced positions in Georgia on Friday, saying it had fulfilled all obligations.

But Russian troops still control access to Poti, south of the Moscow-backed rebel region of Abkhazia, and have set up other checkpoints around South Ossetia, where the conflict began. The peace plan negotiated by France has been interpreted differently by Russia and the West, with Russia saying it has the right to leave peacekeepers deep inside Georgia.

Indeed, a number of news services are reporting a “tense standoff” between Georgian and South Ossetian forces over the village of Mosabruni:

Georgian and South Ossetian forces were in a tense stand-off on Monday over control of a disputed village on the edge of the breakaway region, according to Georgian and separatist officials.

Georgian and Russian troops fought a brief war in the region earlier this month and are now observing a fragile ceasefire.

Georgian officials said the village of Mosabruni was not part of separatist-controlled territory and alleged the separatists were planning a provocation against Georgian special forces who had been deployed there.

The separatist administration said the village was within South Ossetia and the Georgian forces were there unlawfully. It accused Tbilisi of massing armed men in preparation for an attack.

“According to our information, South Ossetian militias want to take this village. Our forces got the order not to shoot, but if Ossetians start shooting they will have to return fire,” Kakha Lomaia, Secretary of Georgia’s National Security Council, told Reuters.

Lomaia said the atmosphere in the majority Georgian-populated village was “very tense”. He declined to say exactly when Georgian forces had returned there.

For good measure, the vice president’s coming to town.

… This has been your friendly reminder that it isn’t safe to go back to ignoring the Caucasuses, and that it certainly “isn’t over” when the fat Cheney sings.


Maybe we’ve got it all wrong… (updated)

No matter what their take on culpability for the Russo-Georgian War, almost all commentators in the west agree that Russia emerged the undisputed victor: Georgia lies prostrate at its feet, a divided NATO issues empty and inconsequential threats against it, and no one has any doubt that the Russian Bear is back. A number of observers note that Russia lost the “propaganda war,” but present that fact as more of a consolation prize than anything else.

But what if we’ve all got it wrong? After a brief conversation today, I can see a rather different interpretation. If events play out in their current trajectory, Mikheil Saakashvili might turn out to be the real winner.

The dominant narrative by pro-Georgian pundits has been that Russia provoked Georgia into attacking South Ossetia to provide a pretext for the kind of overwhelming Russian intervention we saw in the conflict. This, in theory, excuses the Georgians for their key act of escalation on August 7th.

But I’ve heard some chatter lately in support of a different theory: that the Georgians attacked South Ossetia to provoke the Russians into overreacting. The interesting thing about this theory, I think, is that it highlights the possible gains the conflict has brought to Saakashvili.

Let’s start with Saakashvili’s campaign promise to retake Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Saakashvili, as I’ve noted before, sunk an enormous amount of political capital into this pledge. But there’s really no way that Saakashvili could have made good on the promise. Abkhazia and South Ossetia weren’t going to voluntarily reintegrate into Georgia, and any attack on them would, as recent events conclusively demonstrate, lead to a massively unequal fight between Russia and Georgia.

For Saakashvili, then, the August War allowed him to demonstrate his nationalist credentials. He was, after all, willing to take on the Russians to seize back Georgian territory. But it also effectively removes the reintegration of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Georgian political table. No one in Georgia can reasonably expect Saakashvili to take back the two territories now.

At the same time, the Saakashvili convinced the west that is Georgia, in effect, the victim of Russian aggression. From the very start, Saakashvili framed the conflict in terms of a small, democratic regime under siege from the evil, authoritarian Russians. From John McCain to the editorial page of The New York Times, to the Bush Administration itself, most of the major voices in the United States–on both the left and the right–ate it up.

The Georgians, as the Times noted, might not be blameless, but that didn’t excuse the Russian’s aggressive defense of South Ossetia and their retaliation for attacks on their “peacekeepers” there. Many Europeans also eventually moved towards the same understanding of the conflict: even Germany’s Chancellor Merkel voiced support for Georgia, sidestepping the question of who started the conflict.

Saakashvili kept the drumbeat going on supposed Russian atrocities, war crimes, and increasing aggression. The bulk of the western press reported every accusation; although reporters often diligently put the accusations in quotations and noted that their sources were Georgian officials, the claims easily overwhelmed such nuance. Of course, it does look like both sides showed little restraint, and there is evidence of ethnic cleansing–with or without the aid of Russian troops–by South Ossetians and Abkhazians. But it wouldn’t be the first time nationalist leaders were willing to provoke such actions in order to gain international support.

What else has Saakashvili gained? A promise of massive assistance from the West and possibly better prospects for Georgian NATO membership.

What have the Russians lost? I’ve mocked the notion that NATO has significant leverage over Russia, but the fact is that Moscow now faces a much more hostile Europe and the United States, the chance that the Europeans will actually consider taking steps to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, a previously stalled US-Poland deal on ballistic missile defenses, and major complications in their relations with Ukraine.

Thus, while it is true that the US and NATO can do little to coerce Russia into doing whatever the west wants it to, none of these outcomes are particularly positive from Moscow’s perspective.

Seem far-fetched? Maybe. But, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve heard chatter from reliable sources to the effect that Saakashvili wanted, in the months before August, a military confrontation with Russia. And Saakashvili quickly put on a performance that reaped enormous dividends in Washington, London, and elsewhere.

Saakashvili might also have expected that things would’ve turned out much better for him: that the west would have provided more active support, that the Russians might have stopped their attacks sooner, and so on. If so, he clearly miscalculated.

Despite all of this, my central point still stands: we can make a strong case that, barring any major surprises, Saakashvili has emerged the real winner of the conflict. The Russians certainly achieved an overwhelming military victory, but we should recall Clausewitz’s adage that “war is politics by other means.” On those terms, discussion of a Russian “victory” may prove premature.

Clarification: I’m not saying that I endorse this view, nor that Saakashvili will even be in power a year from now. I’m also certainly not saying that the complete defeat of the Georgian military at the hands of the Russians was Saakashvili’s ideal outcome. My main goals are (1) to highlight that the gains and losses of the conflict are more complicated than the emerging “consensus” interpretation in the United States suggests and (2) to point out that, given Saakashvili’s apparent willingness to accept risks, it is not completely implausible that he viewed a “disproportionate” Russian reaction as something short of the worst possible outcome of the attack on South Ossetia.

One more thought: I can’t help wondering if one of the ironies of the Russians having effectively kicked out American oil companies is that the United States, unlike Germany, has no large domestic commercial lobby in favor of good relations with Russia. Contrast with a far more authoritarian country: the People’s Republic of China.


Georgia: The Reuters “Bullet Points” and some of my own (updated)

I knew that CNN did this, but so, apparently does Reuters. Who needs blog updates?

* Reuters reporter sees Russian tanks leave Georgian city
* Russia says additional “peacekeeping” posts needed
* NATO calls on Russia to respect ceasefire and pull out
* Moscow says Georgia planning attacks inside Russia

Anyway, there are growing signs of ethnic cleansing and targeted violence against Georgians, not only in South Ossetia but also in cities such as Gori.

NPR reported this morning that the Russians did eventually move to protect civilians against South Ossetian looters, but that Georgian villages in South Ossetia were being bulldozed as part of an effort to “erase” them from the landscape.

NATO issues another threat: no normal relations with Russia until its troops retreat from Georgia proper.

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said no co-operative programmes had been axed yet “but this issue will have to be taken into view”.

The Russian military has warned that the withdrawal process will be slow until the weekend at least, and that troops will remain in an undefined buffer zone around South Ossetia.

It says such a move is permitted under the ceasefire deal which allows Russia to take additional security measures until international peacekeepers are deployed.

But Georgia says Moscow is going much further and that Russian troops have seized control of a key commercial port in Poti in an attempt to cripple the Georgian economy.

… And NATO promises to strengthen connections with Georgia

I’m sure the Russians are quaking in their boots. Seriously, Rice apparently wants sanctions. But, as of 2007 (PDF):

… the EU relies on Russia for more than 30 percent of its oil imports and 50 percent of its natural gas imports. This dependence is not distributed evenly. As one heads eastward, Russia’s share of the energy supply grows ever larger. No fewer than seven eastern European countries receive at least 90 percent of their crude oil imports from Russia, and six EU nations are entirely dependent on Russia for their natural gas imports.

While Russian oil and gas pretty much has to flow into Europe, and the Europeans could, in theory, buy elsewhere, the impact on energy markets of a significant reduction in Russian supply would be devastating. And Russia has something like $597.5 billion in foreign reserves and $162 billion in its stabilization fund. So what, exactly, are the Europeans supposed to do that would have any meaningful bite?

Should be interesting.


When Worlds Collide

With all of the excellent almost-real-time analysis going on around here lately, I haven’t felt the need to chime in myself; my Duck colleagues are doing an excellent job, and they are more up-to-date on the specifics of Russian-Georgian relations and the various on-the-ground issues. So I’ve been a consumer like the rest of our readers, watching events unfold out of the corner of one eye as I struggle to get some book chapters cranked out before the academic year starts up again. I told myself that I’d only post if I had anything distinctive to add.

And now I think I do. Not about the interests or goals of any of the parties involved in the conflict, and certainly not about their relative war material and strategic effectiveness; others can do and have done that better than I could. And I think it’s perhaps too early for the blame game; we won’t know which counterfactual scenarios were plausible, and therefore which might have come to pass if certain things had been different, until analysts have a chance to work over the relevant material a bit more thoroughly. Rather, I want to highlight what the Georgian situation says about the relative strengths of two rather different logics for organizing world politics — two candidates for global order that seem to have collided, not so much in Georgia as in the responses offered to both Georgia and Russia by third parties, especially the United States.

What we are seeing here, I think, is a clash between universal claims and civilizational claims. And what’s most striking to me is that the United States seems incapable of making up its collective mind about which logic to follow.

First, some definitions. By “universal claims” I mean the appeal to transcendent, globally-binding principles that are supposed to set the standards for everyone> regardless of their particular histories or situations. Universal claims brook no compromises — one either adheres to them or one explains one’s deviation from them in apologetic tones, usually accompanying the apology with a promise to do better. The usual form a such an apology is “we know we ought to do X, but here are a set of idiosyncratic reasons why we can’t at the moment…and we’re working on alleviating them.” So the important thing about a universal claim is that it is in some sense non-negotiable, as there are no valid grounds on which to explain one’s permanent deviation from it. At least no grounds that would be considered valid by the claim-maker.

Not all claims are universal, however — not even all claims that are made on state action are made in universal terms. Indeed, many claims on a state are made in more particularist or even ethnocentric terms: we ought to do this because it’s right for us, irrespective of whether it’s right for anyone else. In fact, a particularist claim leaves open, at least implicitly if not explicitly, the possibility that what might be right for one state representing one community might not be right for another state. “Civilizational” claims are a subset of particularist claims, since they posit only that some course of action is right for members of a given civilization, and refrain from making a claim that is in principle binding on everyone, even those outside of a given civilization. “Democracy is the right form of government for Western countries” is a civilizational claim, not a universal one; “democracy is the right form of government” is a universal claim.

Note that we’re operating in the realm of political claims about identity here, and not in the realm of social-scientific propositions that can be evaluated empirically. There’s no way to empirically ascertain whether democracy is the “right” form of government, either in general or for a given civilization; the best one might hope to do is to demonstrate that given certain goals and values, democracy is the best means for reaching those goals. And while one might argue that democracy is or is not most congruent with some set of values, doing so would necessitate specifying that set of values — no problem if one is trying to make a normative argument, but empirically specifying a set of values shared either by everyone or by the supposed members of a given civilization is a considerably trickier endeavor. So let’s just save ourselves the trouble and ask, not about the truth or falsity of these claims, but about their practical political efficacy.

So with the distinction between universal and civilizational claims in mind, let’s think through a stylized sequence of events involving Russia, Georgia, and the United States. First of all, even though the United States has been making universal claims and placing its foreign policy on universal grounds for centuries, not all universalisms are the same — and the differences between them are significant. As I’ve said on this blog before, we have to be particularly careful to differentiate the kind of universalism in US foreign policy that comes from a celebration of American exceptionalism from the kind of universalism that comes from a subordination of the United States to transcendent standards: ‘civilization’, or its equivalent. The former is neoconservatism, and claims for the US the right to decide what counts as a universal value; the latter is the TR/Wilson/FDR (and arguably Bush I) commitment to a global order based on values that transcend the United States and therefore require the willing, multilateral participation of other countries and other voices. These two universalisms have very different policy prescriptions: ‘coalitions of the willing’ for neocons, broad-based global coalitions defending international law for the other universalism. Gulf War II and Gulf War I, respectively, exemplify these two alternatives.

So when the current Bush administration talks about “democracy” it does so in a neoconservative register — becoming a democracy means choosing light over darkness, salvation over sin. All of the praise heaped on the Rose Revolution by the Administration has that tone: congratulations for choosing the right path, now you’re on the side of the angels. But because this is a neoconservative perspective, becoming a democracy doesn’t carry any obligations for the US, but simply takes a country off of the list of places to be redeemed by force if necessary. Similarly, the Georgian contribution to US military operations carries no obligations for the US, because coalitions of the willing are by definition short-term hook-ups of mutual convenience, not marriages.

Shift the camera a bit, to the Georgian and Russian view. “Democracy” in that context doesn’t play as a universal value, but as a civilizational one, and in particular as one associated (for generations, going back to the old Slavophile/Westernizer debates) with ‘the West’. Hence becoming a democracy means moving closer not to some universal ideal, but to a concrete cultural community — and that does carry obligations for other community-members. A civilizational claim is in that sense more like a marriage, or maybe a courtship: we’re joining the club, we’re on the team, we’re joined to you in fundamental ways. Note that this is not just how Georgians see things, but it’s also how the Russians see these things, including NATO expansion, which of course Georgia has long been pressing for.

Set it in motion: Georgia and Russia get into a military confrontation on Georgian territory, Georgia appeals to ‘the West’ for assistance, and all of a sudden it becomes clear that ‘the West’ doesn’t seem to feel itself to be under any particular obligation to intervene. Sure, in part this is probably because not enough cultural and discursive work preceded that appeal, so that Georgia’s ‘Western’ identity didn’t resonate with enough domestic populations to enable any kind of rhetorical coercion — there was no public outcry of the sort that we might expect to see if Russian troops showed up in Warsaw or Prague, because those places are more securely ‘Western’ in the public imagination and the US and its ‘Western’ allies do have a civilizational obligation to defend them. Even if leaders didn’t want to for whatever instrumental reasons they might have, I think they could probably be rhetorically coerced pretty easily into having to intervene in Poland or the Czech Republic — but not in Georgia, apparently. But this is only part of the story, and I think that the other part is that what the Georgians and Russians understood as a set of civilizational claims was understood by the US as a set of universal claims, and neoconservative universal at that. They thus carried no particular obligation to saddle up a posse and ride into Georgia with guns blazing.

But it’s not quite that simple, because the US — in the form of its ambassador to the UN — also deployed a civilizational claim about its response to the conflict. To wit, Zalmay Khalizad declared that “the days of overthrowing leaders by military means in Europe — those days are gone.” “In Europe” is of course the key phrase here, but not so much because of its deft exclusion of the US actions in Iraq (which it certainly does do) as because of its exception-making for “Europe.” The logic here is a civilizational one: there are certain courses of action that are unacceptable in Europe or for Europeans, but that says nothing about the global status of the actions. And by implication, by the fact that it’s the US making that claim, a special connection between the US and Europe is also asserted, so ‘the West’ remains in evidence. In this light, the calls for a cease-fire and some kind of international monitoring are placed into a civilizational context: we should do these things not becuase they’re universally right or correct, but because they’re right for our civilization.

It seems that the US can’t decide which way to frame this. One the one hand, neoconservative universalism, carrying no obligations for the US beyond its own unilateral strategic calculations. On the other hand, ‘Western’ solidarity, and a return to the cultural logic of the Cold War, which is also the cultural logic of Samuel Huntington and civilizational balancing. What’s fascinating here is that the Georgians and the Russians are much less undecided about this, as both are pretty unambiguously invoking the civilizational strategy. It remains to be seen which world will ultimately prevail in US debates.


A Conflict of position and maneuver (updated … and updated again … with photoshop-esque graphic)

Russia, NATO, Georgia, the Abkhaians… everyone, sensing the final draw-down of the immediate crisis, is trying to, variously, make sense of what it all means, maximize their long-term position, or just stay afloat.

One can only imagine how this is playing out within the Russian military. By this point, just about everyone is saying the same thing: the Russian air force underperformed.

Early reports indicate that pipelines running through Tbilisi from the Caspian Sea oil fields were targeted unsuccessfully by the Russian air force, which employed front-line Tu-22M3 bombers in the conflict. The stout Georgian air defenses, one of the few effective elements of the country’s military, have shot down some Russian Su-25s with shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), say European-based U.S. officials. The heavier SA-11 Buk-1M also appears to have contributed to the Frogfoot strike-fighter losses and was certainly the cause of the Backfire bomber’s loss, say U.S.-based analysts.

These problems may increase the pressure on the Russian military establishment to move away from a highly autarkic defense industry. If I understand matters correctly, Russian procurement of foreign components remains limited, despite Russia’s available cash; buying more “foreign stuff”–to supplement what they already do well–would improve a host of Russian military capabilities.

Regardless, I find it interesting that the Russians utilized what their own revolution-in-military-affairs theorists used to call “remote-strike complex” tactics, and that these worked pretty well… even without the level of integrated capabilities enjoyed by the United States.

But, for our purposes, the more significant developments have less to do with bureaucratic politics and more to do with foreign and strategic policy.

The Russians have announced the their forces have begun pulling out of the “combat zone,” (but don’t appear to be packing their bags yet). Numerous sources report the movement of significant forces into South Ossetia, including SS-21 batteries of the type that the Russians apparently used against Georgia during the “short war.” In conjunction with Russian exercises simulating a cruise-missile attack on Georgia, it looks like a good bet that the Russians intend to continue to put heavy military pressure on Tblisi–and to ensure that they can move even more quickly against Georgia if they so choose.

It isn’t surprising that some commentators worry about the “Finlandization” of Georgia (an unlikely development so long as the current regime lasts… but that’s another matter).

Meanwhile, Rice is on her way to an emergency meeting of NATO. She’ll also swing by Warsaw for the signing of the new missile-defense basing agreement. Steven Erlinger provided a good discussion of NATO’s challenges in yesterday’s International Herald Tribue:

NATO foreign ministers are to gather Tuesday for an emergency meeting on the Russia-Georgia crisis, with the United States looking for more than symbolic gestures, Europe divided and arguments rampant over how to deal with Ukraine.

He continues:

The differences show how hard it is for NATO and Europe to find significant and concrete leverage on Moscow, with the Bush Administration on its last legs and many in Europe blaming the Georgian leadership – supposedly made unrealistic by overenthusiastic American support – as much for the crisis as they do Putin.

“The big Western debate is whether this is about Georgia or Russia,” said Ronald Asmus, director of the Brussels Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund. “Those who want to contain the damage say that Georgia is a little country, partly to blame, and not worth the confrontation with Moscow. Then there are those who say this is really about Russia and the rules of the game for Europe writ large, for the Caspian energy corridor and the right of small countries to choose their own path.”

The European dilemma is clear, said Clifford Kupchan, a director of the Eurasia Group in Washington. “How do they square their increasing energy dependence on Russia with their increasing political discomfort with Putin? It’s a very hard circle to square,” he said.

There are of course the divisions between “old and new Europe” – roughly Western and Eastern Europe, Kupchan said, with new Europe, backed by Britain and Scandinavia, taking a harder line toward Russia, while old Europe “will only be reinforced in its view that Georgia and Ukraine are not ready for NATO.”

After Russia’s behavior, said Jacques Rupnik, a political scientist and Eastern Europe expert at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, “there is little disagreement now in Europe about the nature of the new Russia.”

Those Europeans “who didn’t get it before are getting it now,” Rupnik said. But Europe is divided about what to do about Russia, taking comfort, as usual, “in the idea of mediating between Washington and Moscow.”

This is not Europe’s fight, said Stefan Kornelius, foreign editor and columnist for Süddeustche Zeitung. “Europe is torn between old and new Europe. But I don’t see Europe prepared to go to war with itself over Georgia. The European foreign ministers sense this is too big for them, and they will in the end align themselves with the United States, while trying to affect policy.”

The Americans are looking for concrete gestures to punish and warn Russia – perhaps suspending or even canceling the NATO-Russian Council, or as Asmus, formerly a senior State Department official in the Clinton Administration suggested, “fast-tracking NATO membership for Ukraine.”

NATO could also begin formal defense planning, including putting in military infrastructure, to defend new NATO members like the Baltic nations and Poland against even a hypothetical war with Russia.

As a gesture to the Russia of President Boris Yeltsin, who grudgingly accepted NATO expansion, Asmus said: “NATO never developed military plans to defend Central and Eastern Europeans, because we said, ‘Russia’s not an enemy and not a threat,’ and we never backed up the new members with exercises and infrastructure.”

During the 1990s, NATO repurposed itself as the military-alliance wing of a democratic security community, a kind of “advance man” for the European Union, and then spent a lot of time trying to figure out how–and under what conditions–it would act as peace-enforcement and intervention force rather than simply a defensive alliance.

Many wondered if, in the face of mixed performance in Afghanistan and an apparent wavering of commitment to that operation by some member states, NATO would not so much die as join the ranks of the undead: a kind of Zombie organization shambling forward without direction or purpose. Now, suddenly, NATO has to decide whether, and to what degree, it wants to take up its core mission again.

To state the obvious, NATO members need to somehow:

1. maintain cohesion;
2. decide what constitutes the unequivocal line in the sand for the alliance; and
3. start thinking about what kind of defense policy they need to effectuate the various gradients of their strategic interests.

As of now, the second and third tasks threaten the first. NATO members continue to disagree on what that line in the sand should be (the Ukraine?* the loss of Georgian independence? The boundaries of the current alliance?). They have different ideas about the tradeoff between, on the one hand, enhancing NATO’s defense and deterrence posture and, on the other hand, undermining the chance to rebuild Russia-NATO cooperation on the not insignificant issues of common interest between them. And, of special note, European energy interdependence with Russia–on both the supply and distribution front–complicate matters even further.

These differences require compromises and concessions. The US need to avoid attempting to ram its vision down NATO’s throat via a coalition with member states from the former Soviet bloc. Other members–and the Germans in particular–need to realize that Russia’s relations with the west require a new form of pragmatism that amounts to more than “don’t piss them off.”

[… and, in that vein, I can’t believe I missed the content of Merkel’s recent statements in Georgia:

“Georgia will never give up a square kilometer of its territory,” Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili told a news conference alongside Germany’s Angela Merkel, the latest Western leader to visit Tbilisi and offer support for the country he has led on a pro-Western path, seeking to shake off a history of domination by Moscow.

“I expect a very fast, very prompt withdrawal of Russian troops out of Georgia,” Merkel said in a courtyard at Saakashvili’s official residence. She reiterated a Western promise that Georgia will eventually join NATO, but said she could not say when that would happen.

Finally, a key part of NATOs “grand strategy” must include revitalizing and reopening forms for institutional cooperation with the Russians. NATO and the United States need to show that they can cooperate with the Russians, which means, I submit, not blocking Russian ascension into the WTO or even, for the time being, reverting the G8 back into the G7. Such measures, no matter how satisfying for some, do nothing to help–and may likely hinder–NATO’s ability to meet its key challenges.

Of course, if the Russians don’t leave Georgia proper relatively soon, then some of these options start to make sense.

*Things are getting very interesting in Ukraine. Kiev says it will participate in the US BMD system and President Victor Yushchenko has accused Prime Minister (and rival) Yulia Tymoshenko of collaborating with Russia.

… M K Bhadrakumar, a former Indian Diplomat, provides an interesting take on China’s position to the crisis in the Asia Times.

As of Monday night on the US east coast, a number of independent reports claim that the Russians remain very close to Tblisi. A number of opposition groups in Georgia are endorsing NATO membership for the country.

US rhetoric continues to heat up:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that Russia is playing a “very dangerous game” with the U.S. and its allies and warned that NATO would not allow Moscow to win in Georgia, destabilize Europe or draw a new Iron Curtain through the continent.

But with no sign of Russia withdrawing its troops from Georgia despite a pledge to do so and indications it has moved short-range ballistic missiles into the disputed area of South Ossetia, it was unclear how the alliance would make good on Rice’s vow.

On her way to an emergency NATO foreign ministers meeting on the crisis, Rice said the alliance would punish Russia for its invasion of Georgia and deny its ambitions by rebuilding and fully backing Georgia and other Eastern European democracies.

“We are determined to deny them their strategic objective,” Rice told reporters aboard her plane, adding that any attempt to re-create the Cold War by drawing a “new line” through Europe and intimidating former Soviet republics and ex-satellite states would fail.

“We are not going to allow Russia to draw a new line at those states that are not yet integrated into the trans-Atlantic structures,” she said, referring to Georgia and Ukraine, which have not yet joined NATO or the European Union but would like to.

Rice could not say what NATO would eventually decide to do to make its position clear but said the alliance would speak with one voice “to clearly indicate that we are not accepting a new line.”

Moscow, in what may be the international equivalent of a “you can’t fire me, I quit” move, says it will “review” its relationship to NATO.

Although I’m obviously not in favor of Russia undermining democratic governments, I do think it is always useful to consider how one side’s signals might be interpreted by the other side. In that spirit, I present the following illustration:


Recent analytic content on the Duck: a guide

I thought that it would be a good idea to provide a consolidated list of:

1. Older Duck posts on the conflict with significant “original” analytic content
2. Recent non-Georgia posts that might have gotten lost in all the updating.

So here it is:

Cold War III? The state of Russian-US relations (Email)
Speaking of Genocide (Charli)
Human Rights Watch Takes Aim at Russia and Pot-Shots at the U.S. Over Cluster Munitions (Charli)
International Justice: Miscarriages and Misconstruals (Chrarli)
Russia-Georgia conflict: what the current evidence suggests (Dan)
Georgia: Thoughts on what it might mean (Peter)
Lines in the sand (Dan)
A plea for sanity and perspective (Dan)
Casuality Counting (Charli)
Goliath smacks David: slingshot missing (Dan) [rather dated]

And some good non-Georgia posts that may have gotten lost in the mix:
Meanwhile, Outside of the Caucasus (Charli)
Global Strike Task Force (Rodger) [Our biggest source of non-Georgia traffic of late]
Olympic Observavations (Peter)
Dark Knights

There’s more stuff, obviously, but I’m going to cut off the list to when the deluge of Georgia-related blogging started.

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