Archive for Georgia

On That Midnight Train to Russia

Has kind of a gulag-y feeling to it:

President Obama mistakenly referred to the nation of Georgia as “Russia” after a bilateral meeting with the Georgian president — an unfortunate slip-up, given that the president was celebrating 20 years of Georgian independence from Soviet rule.

“[O]ne of the first things that I did was express my appreciation for the institution-building that’s been taking place in Russia — in Georgia,” Obama told reporters following a meeting with Georgia’s President Saakashvili. Moments earlier, Obama had noted that it was “a wonderful occasion to have him here as we’ll be celebrating this year 20 years of independence for Georgia and the eighth anniversary of the Rose Revolution.”

Maybe this Georgia was one of the 57 states he meant.

This is about as stupid as Gerald Ford saying there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. That gaffe helped bring in Jimmy Carter; maybe this gaffe (if it’s reported—imagine if Bush had said it) will help get rid of Jimmy Carter II.


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Learning Through Experience

Georgians support Israel

Do you think that the only way for people to learn about what it feels like to experience terror is to experience terror? Or is it possible to have enough empathy to imagine it without being victimized by it?

Demonstration in Tbilisi. In its own recent war, the world initially stood with Georgia, but for many, opposing Russia for too long was inconvenient.

Two days before Christmas, Israeli flags fluttered against Tbilisi’s gray sky. Some 150 Georgian students gathered to support Israel’s antiterrorist battle in Gaza. One waved a sign that read “Israel has the right to defense.” Like Israel, Georgia is an ancient but tiny country that must fight for freedom. Like Israelis, Georgians understand war and they know the global dimension of the threat to freedom.

Since our modern independence in 1991, Russia bullied Georgia with separatism, terrorism, subversion, provocation and economic embargoes. After NATO refused us a Membership Action Plan last April, the Kremlin prepared for war – logistics prepared, forces marshalled and exercised, air targets listed, naval infantry provisioned. In August, they attacked.

The world initially stood with Georgia, but for many, opposing Russia for too long was inconvenient. Focus shifted from Russian tanks and burning apartments to the decisions our president made at the outset of the war.

“Georgia,” wrote Barry Rubin of the GLORIA Center in Herzliya, “a country which knows what it is like to be attacked by a neighbor and then blamed for defending itself, understands the situation which Israel faces. The world turned away when Russia attacked Georgia and, for all practical purposes, annexed some of its territory.”

I suppose I will never understand the lack of curiosity or imagination that causes people not to get what Israel has experienced at the hands of Palestinian terrorists or what Georgia has experienced at the hands of the Russians. We are a dull bunch.

- Aggie


Lenin, Stalin, Putin

You can take Russia out of the Soviet Union, but you can’t take the Soviet Union out of Russia:

More than 1,000 angry mourners turned the funeral for a journalist critical of Russia’s government into a demonstration Monday, accusing police of lying when they said he was accidentally shot by an officer.

Magomed Yevloyev died Sunday after a police car picked him up from an airport in Ingushetia province in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus and then dumped him on the road with a gunshot wound in his head.

Up to 1,200 people turned out for his funeral, said rights activist Magomed Mutsolgov, who was among the crowd. They lined up to pay their last respects to Yevloyev. The journalist’s shrouded body was laid out on a large carpet, a blue headband hiding his wound.

Yevloyev’s lawyer Kaloi Akhilgov told Interfax Yevloyev was shot in the head point-blank.

Mutsolgov said he believes Yevloyev was “deliberately and cynically” killed by Ingush authorities as retribution for running an online publication that reported on widespread allegations of abuses, abductions and killings in Ingushetia.

“This was no accidental shot,” Mutsolgov told The Associated Press by phone.

Meanwhile, in Georgia:

Russia on Monday accused “foreign navy ships” of delivering weapons to Georgia as the European Union met to discuss possible sanctions against Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said the West would be making a mistake of “historic scope” if it continued to support Georgia.

And more:

Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, dared Europe to make the first move, telling Russian television: “If any of the European countries wants to serve someone’s narrow political interests, then go ahead. We cannot stop them. But we think, as they say in such cases, ‘You have to look out for number one’.”

I have no doubt that Governor Palin could handle this guy. Barack Obama? Not so much.

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Things to Do in Tblisi When You’re Dead

Have you seen anyone in Denver who looks even remotely prepared to handle North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq—and now Georgia?

Besides Hillary Clinton, that is?

A U.S. Coast Guard ship carrying humanitarian aid docked in the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi Wednesday, as Georgia’s Western allies renewed their criticism of Russia amid escalating tensions.

The cutter Dallas bypassed its original destination, the Georgian port of Poti, which is controlled by Russian troops still in the country despite a cease-fire deal to end conflict between the two countries.

The arrival of the Dallas cames as Western leaders renewed criticism of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s move Tuesday to recognize the independence of two Georgian breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia — over which Georgia and Russia have been fighting.

The move, which controvened a French-brokered cease-fire deal to end the conflict, was condemned as illegal by European leaders.

The 26 countires of NATO — which Georgia is seeking to join — greed on a joint statement urging Moscow to reconsider its decision, AP reported.

Russia has, in turn, criticized the U.S. program to deliver $20 million of aid to Georgia. One general labeled the move “devilish,” according to The Associated Press.

“The heightened activity of NATO ships in the Black Sea perplexes us,” AP quoted Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn as saying in Moscow.

I can understand your perplexity, General: Russia is completely unfamiliar with coming to the defense of the little guy against the bully—since more often than not Russia is the bully in question.

But “devilish”? Feeding people is devilish? I certainly agree that feeding people is not “Stalinish”—starving yes, feeding no—but I can’t agree that putting food in the bellies of scared and deprived people is the mark of the devil.

See, General, this is why many of us came to be proud of our country before Michelle Obama did—former Democrats who voted for George Bush in 2004. Because in spite of his manifest faults, amply elaborated on here and elsewhere, he understands the broad role the US plays in the world today, too often alone: defender of freedom, proliferator of liberty. I know this sounds trite and embarrassing to some of you, but the record speaks for itself.

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It’s Only a Cold Sore

Promising to withdraw is one of the biggest lies out there, as any college frat boy under sodium pentathol would confess:

Russian troops are in the final phase of their withdrawal from Georgian territory, which should be completed by late Friday, a Russian military spokesman says.

“Russian troops are in full compliance with international agreements,” Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn told reporters at his daily briefing Friday.

The general also displayed two Georgian flags captured by Russian troops, which he called trophies.

The commander of Russia’s land forces, Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, told Russia’s Interfax news agency on Thursday that his troops would be back on Russian soil in 10 days. Boldyrev said that Russian peacekeeping troops would be stationed at posts troops had been constructing since the invasion, some of them inside Georgian territory. Russia argues that it is allowed to expand its security zone under a 1992 agreement.

For Russia, this wasn’t a war; it was a hunting trip. Hop in the tank, get drunk, drive into the country, fire off a few rounds, come back with some trophies (and several hundred square miles of territory). Even Putin couldn’t have imagined it would go so smoothly. Today, Georgia; tomorrow Poland, Ukraine, the Baltics—the only difficulty will be in choosing. And you can bet China’s ears pricked up.

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RIP 1989

Meant to link to this earlier in the day, but better late than never. Paul Berman watches the tanks rolling through Georgia, and remembers the good times not so long ago.

Seven nail-biting thoughts as the Russian tanks roll by:

1) The damage has already been done. It is vast, and it is irreversible, at least for a long time to come. We have been living in the age of 1989–an age of democratic revolution. The damage is to those revolutions and their legacy.

The democratic revolutions came in three waves, each new wave weaker than the last. The earliest of revolutions, the velvet revolutions of 1989 itself, were a mighty tide, but the second wave needed a push. This turned out to be U.S. military action in the Balkans, which led to the Serbian overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, followed by, after a while, the color revolutions: Georgia’s “Rose” in 2003, Ukraine’s “Orange” in 2004, and a variety of smaller, failed upsurges, and even fiascos, in what used to be the Soviet zone.

The third wave, in the Middle East in 2005, proved to be feebler yet–set off once again by U.S. military action, though also by inspirations from the Rose and Orange revolutions. The so-called “Arab Spring,” viewed on a regional scale, was easily contained. Its biggest event was the Iraqi election of 2005, which succeeded in returning the sectarian and extremist parties to power. A disastrous result. And yet the Iraqi election, in its contradictory fashion, also expressed something of a democratic aspiration on the part of millions of very brave voters. An ambiguity. And the Arab Spring produced the Cedar Revolution of March 2005 in Lebanon, inspired directly by the joint example of the Orange revolution and the Iraqi election.

The Cedar Revolution has undergone any number of setbacks since 2005, but one of the worst took place earlier this month. Hezbollah’s militia won an official recognition within Lebanon, accepted as legitimate even by the semi-defeated champions of the Cedar Revolution. August 2008 therefore marks a simultaneous setback to both the Rose and Cedar Revolutions, central events of the second wave and the third.

And the tide rolls out.

There are six more of these, all thought-provoking.

It occurs to me the 1989 is nearly as long ago as 1968 was to 1989. What does that mean? Just that 1989 was a repudiation of the Russian tanks in Czechoslovakia, the defenestrations, the rest of it—once and for all, we hoped. But 2008 turns out to be just as categorical a repudiation of 1989.

The media recently hailed the fortieth anniversary of the “summer of love” nonsense (summer of getting wasted and not bathing, more like). What we actually got this summer was Prague II.


Imagining John McCain If You’re Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev

Or Ahmadinejad. Or a Chinese leader.

I had a visual thought today. Remember when George Bush looked inside Putin’s eyes and saw the soul of a good man? Well, I sort of looked inside Medvedev’s brain as he sat in his office in Moscow contemplating the new President of the United States – John McCain. I have a great imagination; I can do stuff like that. You know what I saw? I saw a guy who doesn’t much want to pick a fight. Not with McCain. I think he’ll put his plans to re-build the Soviet Union on hold for the duration of the McCain term.

I studied the faces of the various aides, mullahs, and generals in Moscow, Tehran and Beijing – little sour pusses staring at pictures of McCain’s Inauguration Ball. Not a happy face in the bunch.

I also saw (but turned away quickly) the image of President Obama in the mind of Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev. “Wus,” he is chuckling to himself in Russian. Then he opens a menu-map of eastern Europe and points to the places he wants for lunch.

- Aggie


Russia Signs Truce, Still Moving Into Georgia?

Not sure when this was written or if things have changed for the better

A group of Russian troops have moved further into Georgia from positions in the Georgian city of Gori, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported Saturday.

According to the report, five tanks and 4 personnel carriers moved into the town of Igueti, about 35 kilometres outside the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

The activities of the group of Russian soldiers indicated that they were setting up a position in the area, the report said.

On Friday, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he signed a cease-fire accord that orders Russian troops to withdraw from his country, calling the Russians barbarians who had been plotting for months to invade and occupy his country’s sovereign soil.

I guess we’ll figure it out later today.

- Aggie


Choose: Russia Or Georgia

Russia demanded that we choose and Condi Rice says we choose Georgia

Not sure what that means though, other that words of encouragement:

Russia pressed the United States on Wednesday to choose between “a real partnership” with Moscow or an “illusory” relationship with U.S. ally Georgia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday says the United States should choose sides.

Washington said it’s sticking with Georgia.

“As to choosing, the United States has made very clear that it is standing by the democratically elected government of Georgia,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday.

She spelled out the Bush administration’s stance after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Georgia’s government “a special project for the United States.”

“And we are aware that the U.S. is uptight about this project,” Lavrov said in remarks broadcast on Russian television. “But a choice will have to be made someday between considerations of prestige related to an illusory project and a real partnership in matters which indeed require collective efforts.”

Rice, amid reports that Russian troops remained on the move Wednesday, pushed Russia to abide by a cease-fire signed Tuesday by the Russian and Georgian presidents.

This is so interesting. Russia states that she is engaged in a ceasefire and just keeps on fighting. The rest of us watch and cluck our tongues. I’m not sure that we should do any more than that, but it is painful to see the bully beat up the little guy and admit that you’re just going to watch it happen.

- Aggie


Ceasfire, Russian Style

Like a bad movie or bad reality, they’re rampaging through town, terrorizing helpless civilians.

Georgia’s president accused Russia on Wednesday of violating the terms of a cease-fire deal by attacking and “rampaging” through the Georgian town of Gori.
A elderly woman in Gori outside her apartment after it was bombed during the conflict.

A elderly woman in Gori outside her apartment after it was bombed during the conflict.

“As I speak, the Russian tanks are attacking the town of Gori and are rampaging through the town,” President Mikheil Saakashvili told a news conference. “There is marauding. There is destruction of buildings.”

However journalists in Gori, 15 miles (24km) over the South Ossetian border into Georgia, said they had seen no Russian tanks. Residents there told the journalists they had earlier seen “some” Russian tanks, but not in large numbers.

Russia said its tanks were not in the city.

Or maybe not.

Or maybe so:

The Associated Press earlier quoted Alexander Lomia, the head of Georgia’s national security council, as saying 50 Russian tanks had entered Gori — the birth place of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

Who you gonna believe… the headlines or your lying eyes?

- Aggie

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