Archive for the 'Ossetia' Category



The Coming War in the Caucasus

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

In It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus we described a potential logistics route through the Caucasus region in lieu of the problematic and troublesome Pakistan routes (especially through Khyber).  The recommended route involved transit from the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus Strait in Turkey, and from there into the Black Sea.  From the Black Sea the supplies would go through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan.  From here the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.

In addition to this region being a potential viable alternative to Pakistan, we noted this region as being an up-and-coming economic power due in part to the massive quantities of energy buried beneath its soil.  The engagement of the Caucasus region would potentially lead not only to logistics routes, but political and energy partnership as well.  But the darker truth that accompanies this potential is that Russia is also interested.

Russia is interest for several reasons, including the fact that Russian bases in Armenia have no viable land resupply and logistics route except through Georgia.  Recent NATO exercises in Georgia infuriated the Russian administration, causing the Russian ambassador to say that “Differences between Russia and U.S. on a number of issues still persist. The most recent example is NATO maneuvers in Georgia. It disappoints us as it assures Georgian government that regardless of what it did towards Russia, it will gain NATO membership. Unfortunately, no lesson was drawn from August events,” referring to their 2008 invasion of Georgia.

This is the first admission of the real reason behind the invasion of Georgia, veiled though it was.  It was all about “lessons” for the U.S. and Georgia.  The most recent warnings are less veiled.

A Kremlin policy paper says international relations will be shaped by battles over energy resources, which may trigger military conflicts on Russia’s borders.

The National Security Strategy also said that Russia will seek an equal “partnership” with the United States, but named U.S. missile defense plans in Europe among top threats to the national security.

The document, which has been signed by President Dmitry Medvedev, listed top challenges to national security and outlined government priorities through 2020.

“The international policy in the long run will be focused on getting hold of energy sources, including in the Middle East, the Barents Sea shelf and other Arctic regions, the Caspian and Central Asia,” said the strategy paper that was posted on the presidential Security Council’s Web site.

“Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can’t be excluded,” it added. “The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated.”

Medvedev’s predecessor Vladimir Putin, who is now Russia’s powerful prime minister, often accused the West in the past of trying to expand its clout in the ex-Soviet nations and push Russia out of its traditional sphere of influence. The Kremlin has fiercely opposed NATO’s plans to incorporate its ex-Soviet neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia currently controls most natural gas export routes out of the former Soviet region, but that grip is coming under growing pressure from China and the West.

The European Union, which depends on Russia for about one-quarter of its gas needs, has sought alternate supply routes, including the prospective Nabucco pipeline that would carry the Caspian and Central Asian gas to Europe but skirt Russia.

Intensifying rivalry for influence in the ex-Soviet region fomented tensions and helped stage the ground for last August’s war between Russia and Georgia, which sits astride a key export pipeline carrying Caspian oil to Western markets.

The war erupted when the U.S.-allied Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili sent troops to regain control over the separatist province of South Ossetia, which had close links with Russia. After routing the Georgian army in five days of fighting, Russia recognized both South Ossetia and another Georgian rebel province of Abkhazia as independent nations and permanently stationed nearly 8,000 troops there.

President Barack Obama’s administration has sought to rebuild ties with Moscow, which plummeted to a post-Cold War low under his predecessor and focus on negotiating a new nuclear arms control deal. Medvedev and other Russian officials have hailed what they called the new administration’s constructive approach and voiced hope that Washington will drop plans to deploy missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic — a top irritant in U.S.-Russian relations.

Reflecting the Kremlin’s hope for better ties with Washington, the strategy paper said Russia will seek “equal and full-fledged strategic partnership with the United States on the basis of coinciding interests.”

But it warned that missile defense plans and prospects to develop space-based weapons remain a top threat to Russia’s security, and said Russia will seek to maintain a nuclear parity with the United States. However, it added that Russia’s policy will be pragmatic and will exclude a new arms race.

The Captain’s Journal has recommended engaging the Caucasus by means of friendship, assistance and special dispensation for business partnerships.  This remarkable admission by Russia, signed by Medvedev, directly admits that war is possible over energy.

The romantic notions of influence in its so-called near abroad has been dropped in favor of more honest but crass verbal bullying and threats, targeted at an administration which wants to press the “reset” button with them.  The team of Putin and Medvedev intend to bloat the cash flow directly into Russia in payment for energy, this very energy being extorted by force if necessary.

Given the predisposition of the current administration to negotiate, talk, bargain and expect only the best of our supposedly erstwhile enemies, it isn’t apparent that Georgia, the Ukraine and other regional countries have any hope of continued sovereignty as it currently exists.  If extortion and threats don’t pave the way towards a re-emergence of the old Soviet style government, then they have made their only other option clear.  War is coming to the Caucasus.

Prior:

Mutiny in Georgia

Obama, Russia and the Future of Georgia

It’s Time to Engage the Caucasus

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy

Obama, Russia and the Future of Georgia

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Significant attention is being given to Mr. Obama and his administration’s position on engaging the Muslim world.  But little attention has been given to what may be a very important exchange over the Caucasus.  We have extensively covered Russia’s interest in its near abroad, including in Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy, where we observed that the ceasefire with Georgia:

… has left the strategically important Russian base in Armenia cut off with no overland military transit connections. The number of Russian soldiers in Armenia is limited to some 4000, but during 2006 and 2007 large amounts of heavy weapons and supplies were moved in under an agreement with Tbilisi from bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki (Georgia). At present there are some 200 Russian tanks, over 300 combat armored vehicles, 250 heavy guns and lots of other military equipment in Armenia – enough to fully arm a battle force of over 20,000 (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozrenie, August 20, 2004). Forces in Armenia can be swiftly expanded by bringing in manpower by air transport from Russia. Spares to maintain the armaments may also be shipped in by air, but if a credible overland military transit link is not established within a year or two, there will be no possibility to either replace or modernize equipment. The forces will consequently degrade, undermining Russia’s commitment to defend its ally Armenia and Moscow’s ambition to reestablish its dominance in the South Caucasus

Russia hasn’t lost interest in the Causasus in spite of the overwhelming worship of the new administration on the world wide stage.  They have a long attention span and have kept their eye on the ball, so to speak.  At The Captain’s Journal we have recommended the full engagement of the Caucasus region, including transit of logistics through Georgia to neighboring Azerbaijan; from there the supplies would transit across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan, and from there South to Afghanistan.  This approach would have a dual affect.  First it would address the issue of interdiction of supplies through the Khyber region in Pakistan by the Taliban, and second, it would aid and benefit Georgia and assure the world that the West supports its sovereignty.

But perhaps Georgia shouldn’t have sent troops to Iraq to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The U.S. doesn’t have such a long memory when administrations change.  Russia is playing nice when it comes to logistics, in that it has “offered to discuss allowing the US to ship military cargoes across its territory to Afghanistan in a significant step seemingly aimed at building bridges twithWashington” (sic).  On another front, the Russians are hailing comrade Obama.

Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev hailed Barack Obama as “my new comrade” Thursday after their first face-to-face talks, saying the US president “can listen” — even if little progress was made on substance.

The Russian president contrasted Obama as “totally different” to his predecessor George W. Bush, whom he blamed for the “mistake” of US missile shield plans fiercely opposed by Moscow.

Obama agreed to visit Moscow in July after his talks with Medvedev on Wednesday on the sidelines of a G20 summit in London aimed at fixing the battered world economy.

“I believe that we managed to establish contact. But Moscow lies ahead. I cannot say that we made much progress on the most serious issues,” he told reporters, adding: “Let’s wait and see.”

“I liked the talks. It is easy to talk to him. He can listen. The start of this relationship is good,” he said, adding: “Today it’s a totally different situation (compared to Bush)… This suits me quite well.”

So Dmitri Medvedev is happy, something that may be a sign of trouble.  Continuing:

“Today from the United States there is at least a desire to listen to our arguments,” he said, adding that: “Such defence measures should be carried out jointly “between Washington and Moscow.”

The missile defence plan was “a mistake that the previous US administration is responsible for. Many of my European colleagues also believe this,” the Russian leader added, without specifying who.

Obama, speaking on Wednesday, admitted US-Russian ties had cooled, saying: “What we’ve seen over the last several years is drift in the US-Russian relationship.

“There are very real differences between the United States and Russia, and I have no interest in papering those over. But there are also a broad set of common interests that we can pursue,” he said.

One area of difference is Georgia — Russia sent troops and tanks deep into the ex-Soviet republic last August in response to a Georgian military attempt to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Medvedev made clear later Thursday that Moscow’s views have not changed — in particular about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili — however he feels about Obama.

“Everything that has happened, I will tell you frankly, that the leader of Georgia is responsible for everything. That is my direct and honest and open opinion.

“A lot of people had to pay for the mistakes of one man. We love and appreciate the Georgian people. But I do not want to have any relations with President Saakashvili.”

A catchphrase to remember: “jointly between Washington and Moscow.”  So there you have it – the price for the happiness.  Georgia had best be preparing to defend itself or have a puppet dictator installed who is subservient to Moscow.  Same for the Ukraine, and other nations in the Russian near abroad.  As for any possible U.S. reaction to this potential aggression?  Well, we wouldn’t want to “cool” our new-found happy relations with Moscow.

After Action Assessment of Russian Campaign in Georgia

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

The Captain’s Journal would like to see an official U.S. DoD after action report for the Russian campaign in Georgia, but in lieu of that, we offer a brief assessment of the Russian action. First, an assessment by Martin Sieff of UPI (concerning mostly equipment and military materiel).

The effective use of decades-old Russian T-72 main battle tanks in the brief conflict with Georgia again shows how supposedly obsolete weapons can still play a potent and even decisive role in modern war.

The Russian army did not rely exclusively on its 30-year-old T-72s. State-of-the-art T-90 main battle tanks also were identified during Russia’s brief but highly effective five-day drive into the former Soviet republic of Georgia last month.

But the old T-72s, upgraded with explosive-reactive armor, were there, too.

The Russians pushed ahead with overwhelming concentration of force, according to classic Carl von Clausewitz principles, using artillery, tactical air support for ground forces and a mix of older T-72 MBTs and modern ones backed up with overwhelming forces of highly mobile infantry.

Special forces were used effectively to pre-emptively seize potential bottleneck positions in the heavily forested Caucasus Mountains to prevent Georgian forces from slowing down the Russian drive.

In all, about 10,000 troops, still a very small proportion of the Russian armed forces, were used in the operation …

The old Soviet T-55 Main Battle Tank from the 1950s was notorious for its vulnerability to bursting into flame from a direct hit. But to this day, scores if not hundreds of them still do service as shows of military muscle for military dictatorships across sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.

In the same way, the Russian army has been able to greatly extend the operational life of its old T-72s. Tank for tank, on paper they are no match for the more modern T-90s or U.S. Abrams MBTs.

But when they are launched in operations such as the Russian drive into Georgia, they can still exert more than enough overwhelming force to fulfill the dictums of von Clausewitz.

This has been overlooked and forgotten by Western pundits since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The miserable performance of the Russian army in the first Chechen war of 1994-96 confirmed that the army had indeed become almost useless, weak, demoralized and disorganized during the chaotic early years in power of President Boris Yeltsin.

But that was then, and this is now. The Russian army today still could prove no match for the U.S. Army and its NATO allies at the peak of their power, but it doesn’t have to.

The U.S. Army and Marines have been exhausted by their ongoing commitment in Iraq fighting a relatively small but ongoing low-intensity counterinsurgency war against Sunni Muslim insurgents over the past 5 1/2 years.

And the nations of the European Union in general have allowed their conventional forces to run down to an extreme degree since the collapse of communism.

This article belongs in that category of fawning admiration of the mighty Russian bear, an assessment-type that we have rejected. The Captain’s Journal had previously judged that air power was the primary reason for the quick Russian win.

It’s easy to make too much of the Georgian retreat, especially when one considers the force strength by the numbers. Regardless of armor and artillery, the bottom line here is air power. Air superiority doesn’t ensure a victory, and lack of it doesn’t guarantee a loss. But it’s impossible to wage a conventional war against a larger armed forces without at least air equivalence.

We have also cited Ralph Peters, who knows first hand what the Russians had to do to field this force.

RUSSIA’s military is succeeding in its invasion of Georgia, but only because Moscow has applied overwhelming force.

This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin’s revitalized armed forces (funded by the country’s new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for prime time.

It can hammer tiny Georgia into submission – but this campaign unintentionally reveals plenty of enduring Russian weaknesses.

The most visible failings are those of the air force. Flying Moscow’s latest ground-attack jets armed with the country’s newest precision weapons, pilots are missing far more targets than they’re hitting.

All those strikes on civilian apartment buildings and other non-military targets? Some may be intentional (the Russians aren’t above terror-bombing), but most are just the result of ill-trained pilots flying scared.

They’re missing pipelines, rail lines and oil-storage facilities – just dumping their bombs as quickly as they can and heading home.

Russia’s also losing aircraft. The Kremlin admits two were shot down; the Georgians claimed they’d downed a dozen by Sunday. Split the difference, and you have seven or more Russian aircraft knocked out of the sky by a tiny enemy. Compare that to US Air Force losses – statistically zero – in combat in all of our wars since Desert Storm.

As one US officer observed to me, the Russian pilots are neither professionally nor emotionally toughened for their missions. Their equipment’s pretty good (not as good as ours), but their training lags – and their pilots log far fewer flight hours than ours do.

Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they’re pulling it off – but the military’s embarrassing blunders must be infuriating Prime Minister Putin.

In a fawning assessment similar to Sieff article cited above, Sebastian Alison with Bloomberg supplies data that undermines the very point that these assessments attempt to make. “Georgia suffered more troop casualties — 215 killed and 1,200 wounded — than Russia, with 64 killed and 323 wounded, according to figures from both governments.”

This is a kill ratio for the Russians of approximately 3.4:1, and a casualty ratio of 3.7:1. This data is appalling given the Russian artillery and air superiority, and doesn’t even come close to matching the typical 10:1 ratio achieved by the U.S. in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Col. Gian Gentile of West Point opines concerning the readiness of U.S. forces to conduct conventional warfare in light of the Russian aggression against Georgia.

Images of Georgian infantry moving under fire and Russian tanks on the attack show that the days of like armies fighting one another on battlefields are far from over.

What does this mean for the US Army? As it considers its role after Iraq, should it be restructured for war and conflict along the lines of counterinsurgency and nation-building, or toward conventional fighting as represented by the Georgian war?

Armies trained to fight conventional warfare can quickly and effectively shift to counterinsurgency and nation-building. Contrary to popular belief, the US Army proved this in Iraq.

Its lightning advance up to Baghdad in the spring of 2003 happened because it was a conventionally minded army, trained for fighting large battles.

If the Army had focused the majority of its time and resources prior to the Iraq war on counterinsurgency and nation-building, the march to Baghdad would have been much more costly in American lives and treasure.

[ ... ]

Artillery firing was a critical asset in Russia’s crushing defeat of the Georgian Army.

There are a range of scenarios that might include the US having to engage in heavy fighting. One of them involves a possible failed North Korean state. Focusing on counterinsurgency and nation-building operations will not prepare the Army for such a possibility.

The American Army must do what it takes to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But good counterinsurgency tactics practiced by proficient combat outfits cannot compensate for flawed strategies and policies.

Considering events today in Georgia and the recent past of Israel in south Lebanon, the Army must soon refocus itself toward conventional warfighting skills, with the knowledge that if called on to do so, it can easily shift to nation-building and counterinsurgency as it has done in Iraq.

If it doesn’t, it courts strategic peril.

Perhaps. The Captain’s Journal certainly agrees that we must do what is necessary to win in both Iraq and Afghanistan. U.S. forces also must maintain air superiority over all near-peers, as well as qualifications in the tactics of conventional warfare.

But this assessment should not devolve into the fawning admiration for the “mighty Russian bear” that the cited assessments have. Remember, Georgian troops, lacking air power or artillery, reduced the Russian kill ratio to less than 4:1. Militarily speaking, there is no “mighty Russian bear.” The response to Russian thuggery remains an issue of will rather than military might. Russia intends for Georgia to be the first, not the only, step in its goal of reconstructing the Soviet empire.

Concerning the Soviets, Georgia, Ukraine and NATO

BY Herschel Smith
6 years ago

Just hours before Russia escalated the crisis by recognizing the independence of two separatist Georgian provinces, Mr Saakashvili said Russian forces had advanced to the strategic Akhalgori heights 10 miles from Tbilisi.

Photograph AP

Michael Totten has written a good article from Georgia, and its introduction is hard hitting and informative.

BILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. “The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia,” the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn’t start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

Read Michael’s whole article. Michael is always worth reading no matter what the subject is. Michael said “virtually” everyone believes …,” and that’s good. Readers of TCJ knew better, as we previously said that the war was about Russian hegemony and the reconstruction of the Soviet empire (the title of this article is no accident or slip of the tongue).

The Russians are now dug in, and Kim Zigfeld writing for Pajamas Media has asked the next obvious question.

A few months ago, the issue of Ukraine’s admission to NATO was debated. NATO told Ukraine that it was “only a matter of time” before it would be granted membership.

Let’s be blunt: That time has now run out. NATO must act immediately, and it must do more than simply give Ukraine a promise of defense. It must arm Ukraine to the teeth. It must make it such a hard target that the lunatics who “govern” neo-Soviet Russia will not even consider moving against it, as they recently did in Georgia.

The reasons are so obvious that they hardly need to be stated.

The role played by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in brutally assaulting Ukraine has not been sufficiently reported, but Ukraine understands it only too well. Last week, Ukraine demanded that Russia give 72 hours notice before activating war ships at its naval base in Crimea, on Ukrainian territory (similar to the U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba). Russia said it would simply ignore the demand. The Moscow Times reported: “The chief of Ukraine’s General Staff, Serhiy Kirichenko, promised to fulfill Yushchenko’s decree. ‘The president’s decree on the Black Sea Fleet will, of course, be implemented on the territory of Ukraine. The Defense Ministry and the General Staff are among those state bodies responsible for this task.’”

As Ukraine stands up for its comrade Georgia, demanding that Russia not use ships based in Ukraine to blockade or otherwise torment Georgia without at least giving due notice to their host, Russia uses this as a pretext to ratchet up its confrontation rather than defuse it. It is a clear signal that Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine are at least as malevolent as they are towards Georgia, if not more so.

Or perhaps there are a couple of questions: [1] when will Russian designs for the Ukraine be effected, and [2] how fast can we arm the Ukraine and prepare to defend her?

Do you still doubt Russian intentions? Listen to Dmitry Medvedev concerning Russian recognition of the independence of South Ossetia:

Russia is not afraid of a new Cold War taking hold and is ready for “anything,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday in a television interview.

“We’re not afraid of anything (including) the prospect of a Cold War. Of course we don’t need that … Everything depends on the stance of our partners and the world community and our partners in the West,” Medvedev told the Russia Today channel in comments translated into English.

Asked whether Russia was ready for the consequences of recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev said: “If they want to preserve good relations with Russia, they will understand the reason for taking such a decision and the situation will be calm.”

The world remains a very dangerous and brutal place, and Russia is looking to rebuild the Soviet empire, even at the cost of a new cold war. The faster we can get on top of this series of events, the easier, cheaper, and safer we will be. Lethargy and delays will only make the situation more dangerous, costly and difficult down the road.

If NATO cannot bring itself to arm the Ukraine and come to her defense, then there is no reason for its existence, and it has proven itself to be what we knew it was all along – a paper tiger. This might be the one good thing that comes from the Russian aggression.

Note: See Saakashvili’s statement on Russian actions.

Prior at TCJ:

Russian Thugs

Iraq Veterans Engage Russian Troops

Georgia Pleads for Help Against Russian Brutality and Hegemony

Russia Invades Georgia

Russian Thugs

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

In Georgia Pleads for Help Against Russian Brutality and Hegemony, we linked a photo of thugish Russian troops.

We noted the long hair, beards, inconsistent cover, and the idiotic sneakers and purple socks being worn by the dude on the back of the beaten up APC.

Here is another photo of a Russian “soldier” in Georgia where he doesn’t belong.

This photo comes courtesy of the New York Times (Joao Silva).  Note the lack of a blouse and the cover being worn backwards.  Again, the cover is being worn backwards, like some thug gang member.

They are perfect representatives of their thugish government.  Michael O’Hanlon waxed pathetic today on Foxnews about the provocation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili that started the whole thing.  Unfortunately, Michael has bought into Russian propaganda.  Russia provoked the war, not Georgia.

“I blame the Russians,” he says, “because it was them who provoked the whole thing. They found some South Ossetians and some Abkhazians who have agreed to play their game.

“The Russians still cannot get used to the idea that Georgia is an independent state. They still want to use us as their slaves,” he says.

Asked about the destruction of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, which many Ossetians have blamed firmly on Georgia’s bombardment, he is adamant.

“It’s not true that the Georgians have destroyed Tskhinvali. Russian troops were stationed in Tskhinvali and from their base in the city have provoked the Georgian side [over a long period]. I work in Gori and there was hardly a day when there wasn’t any shelling – virtually every day we had wounded delivered to our hospital – there was no end to Russia’s provocation, all year round. So Georgia had no choice but to defend itself.”

But as for all of the talk about the mighty Russian bear asserting itself in the world, Ralph Peters gives some background to the thugish, horrible appearance and behavior we have already noted above.

RUSSIA’s military is succeeding in its invasion of Georgia, but only because Moscow has applied overwhelming force.

This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin’s revitalized armed forces (funded by the country’s new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for prime time.

It can hammer tiny Georgia into submission – but this campaign unintentionally reveals plenty of enduring Russian weaknesses.

The most visible failings are those of the air force. Flying Moscow’s latest ground-attack jets armed with the country’s newest precision weapons, pilots are missing far more targets than they’re hitting.

All those strikes on civilian apartment buildings and other non-military targets? Some may be intentional (the Russians aren’t above terror-bombing), but most are just the result of ill-trained pilots flying scared.

They’re missing pipelines, rail lines and oil-storage facilities – just dumping their bombs as quickly as they can and heading home.

Russia’s also losing aircraft. The Kremlin admits two were shot down; the Georgians claimed they’d downed a dozen by Sunday. Split the difference, and you have seven or more Russian aircraft knocked out of the sky by a tiny enemy. Compare that to US Air Force losses – statistically zero – in combat in all of our wars since Desert Storm.

As one US officer observed to me, the Russian pilots are neither professionally nor emotionally toughened for their missions. Their equipment’s pretty good (not as good as ours), but their training lags – and their pilots log far fewer flight hours than ours do.

Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they’re pulling it off – but the military’s embarrassing blunders must be infuriating Prime Minister Putin.

Let’s not overdo the notion of the mighty Russian bear, please.  They are thugs, led by a thug, and they look and behave unprofessionally because they are in fact unprofessional.  One more photo, from Reuters.

Note the stupid looking do-rag, the long hair and the inconsistent uniforms.  Thugs – commanded by a thug!

Iraq Veterans Engage Russian Troops

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

The Times brings us a report on Georgian troops who were transported back from Iraq to engage the Russian attack on their homeland.

The young soldier’s desert fatigues looked distinctly out of place on the Georgian front line facing the Russian advance. “I have just come from Iraq. Now I am here to drink Russian blood,” he said with a cheery smile, encapsulating Georgian bravado against an overwhelmingly superior opponent.

His presence was living proof that the United States has given at least some assistance to the beleaguered Georgian Government. Courtesy of the US Air Force and a fleet of C17 transporters, about 800 Georgian soldiers were airlifted from service in Iraq to the defence of their country. In some cases the men were taken straight from the runway to the front line, easily recognisable in their sandy uniforms against the dark green of the Georgian countryside.

Bryan Whitman, the Pentagon spokesman, described the US military assistance as “transportation”. But the move prompted an angry response from Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, who accused Washington of giving direct military assistance to his Georgian enemies. “It is a shame that some of our partners are not helping us but, essentially, are hindering us,” he said.

Let’s stop there to offer up a few observations.  TCJ would like to see the Georgian troops “drink the blood” of the Russians, but the U.S. assistance thus far is pathetic and embarrassing, regardless of the troop transport.  As for Vladimir Putin, The Captain’s Journal considers his charge that we are “partners” with him to be an insult.  Putin is a thug, murderer, thief and criminal.  We aren’t partners with him in anything.  Continuing with the report:

The Georgian troops made up the third-largest contingent in Iraq after those from the US and Britain. President Saakashvili of Georgia had calculated that his country’s contribution to the “coalition of the willing” would secure Washington’s help if he needed it. Unfortunately for him, the gamble failed to pay off once Georgia found itself at war with its mighty northern neighbour.

Although America kept its promise to return the troops at a time of crisis, that is as far as its assistance went.

In spite of the confidence displayed by the young soldier, and other veterans of the Iraqi campaign, their experiences of fighting Iraqi insurgents and guarding the Baghdad green zone were of little value against the tanks, artillery and air bombardment of the Russian Army. Dug in 17 miles outside Gori with orders to blunt any Russian assault, the troops soon found themselves under attack. At one moment two Russian MiG fighters wheeled overhead before sending bombs in the direction of Georgian positions.

On the ground a group of Georgian soldiers were anxiously replacing all six tyres on their military transport as the enemy jets circled under the baking sun above them. They told The Times that the vehicle had been hit in an ambush outside the next village to the border, killing a 22-year-old soldier and wounding another.

A burst of machinegun fire in nearby fields sent everyone scattering for cover. Nukri Koshovidze, 47, a veteran of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, looked defeated and felt betrayed. “The Russians are killing many people in the villages, even old women, and the West doesn’t want to hear their screams,” he said.

“If big countries like America and England said something more strongly then they may stop. But Russia is showing its muscles and we are all being forced to bow before it.”

Within a few hours his prediction came true. He and his troops were not bowing before the Russians but fleeing before them in an undignified rout, abandoning their positions to the advancing Russian forces. By nightfall the Iraqi veterans had joined their comrades on the outskirts of Tbilisi.

Baghdad might have seemed attractive by comparison.

It’s easy to make too much of the Georgian retreat, especially when one considers the force strength by the numbers.  Regardless of armor and artillery, the bottom line here is air power.  Air superiority doesn’t ensure a victory, and lack of it doesn’t guarantee a loss.  But it’s impossible to wage a conventional war against a larger armed forces without at least air equivalence.

If Georgia had air power it’s more than likely that the Georgian troops would indeed have had the chance to drink the blood of Russian troops.  A Squadran of A-10s (to cut Russian armor into little pieces) and fighter protection would have gone a long way towards neutralizing Russian air power.  But then, that would have required being true to friends who have given their utmost to our campaign in Iraq.

This is a commitment that the U.S. was not willing to make, and our “friends” in the future will likely remember this sad event.  Would Russia have responded with an increase in force?  Would the mere threat to cut the armor columns into small pieces have forced a retreat back to Russia without having to fire a shot?  We’ll never know.  TCJ misses Ronald Reagan.

The Captain’s Journal also salutes the brave Georgian troops and asks for God’s blessings on their efforts.

Georgia Pleads for Help Against Russian Brutality and Hegemony

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 1 month ago

It’s important to understand what the war in Georgia is about – and what it’s not about.

Russian troops sit on armored personnel carriers in the South Ossetian town of Dzhava on Saturday (Dmitry Kostyukov AFP/Getty Images). (TCJ: Some with beards, most with hair that’s too long, many with different cammie patterns, different types of cover being worn (or no cover at all), and one “soldier” sitting at the back with purple socks and sneakers. They look like crap, ideal representatives of their thug-in-chief, Vladimir Putin).

The news accounts, blogs and blog comments are adrift with Russian-made propaganda. The Russian machine has saturated the media with its own account of the situation in Georgia, the bulk of it lies with what little truth there is being stripped from proper context.

The war isn’t about Georgian violations of humanitarian law. To assume that Russia has a right to “protect its own borders from instability” is utterly to miss the point. The war isn’t about escalation by the Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, or some dream of grandeur he has. The war isn’t even about an oil pipeline, per se, although that makes a nice catch in the process and increases their control over the region’s oil supply. Control over the oil pipeline results from Russian hegemony rather than causes it.

Vladimir Putin is the strongman behind the curtain. He is a murderer, liar, thug and criminal. Russian President Medvedev is merely a puppet, and does the bidding of Putin. Putin has long held that “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” He wishes the world to negotiate and reason from this as an axiomatic irreducible, our unquestioned starting point. But Russia never had any claim to Georgia to begin with, and the criminality of the Soviet Union only reinforces the point that we mustn’t play the devil’s game. We must not allow Putin to set the theoretical framework for the debate and confrontation.

There has been plenty of dialog and negotiation with Russia, and Georgia hasn’t been heavy handed, as we learned again today from the Georgian President in a commentary in the Wall Street Journal.

The Kremlin designed this war. Earlier this year, Russia tried to provoke Georgia by effectively annexing another of our separatist territories, Abkhazia. When we responded with restraint, Moscow brought the fight to South Ossetia.

Ostensibly, this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war over the kind of Europe our children will live in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.

No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

This conflict is therefore about our common trans-Atlantic values of liberty and democracy. It is about the right of small nations to live freely and determine their own future. It is about the great power struggles for influence of the 20th century, versus the path of integration and unity defined by the European Union of the 21st. Georgia has made its choice.

When my government was swept into power by a peaceful revolution in 2004, we inherited a dysfunctional state plagued by two unresolved conflicts dating to the early 1990s. I pledged to reunify my country — not by the force of arms, but by making Georgia a pole of attraction. I wanted the people living in the conflict zones to share in the prosperous, democratic country that Georgia could — and has — become.

In a similar spirit, we sought friendly relations with Russia, which is and always will be Georgia’s neighbor. We sought deep ties built on mutual respect for each other’s independence and interests. While we heeded Russia’s interests, we also made it clear that our independence and sovereignty were not negotiable. As such, we felt we could freely pursue the sovereign choice of the Georgian nation — to seek deeper integration into European economic and security institutions.

We have worked hard to peacefully bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the Georgian fold, on terms that would fully protect the rights and interests of the residents of these territories. For years, we have offered direct talks with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so that we could discuss our plan to grant them the broadest possible autonomy within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.

But Russia, which effectively controls the separatists, responded to our efforts with a policy of outright annexation. While we appealed to residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with our vision of a common future, Moscow increasingly took control of the separatist regimes. The Kremlin even appointed Russian security officers to arm and administer the self-styled separatist governments …

Just this past spring, we offered the separatist leaders sweeping autonomy, international guarantees and broad representation in our government.

Our offers of peace were rejected. Moscow sought war. In April, Russia began treating the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as Russian provinces. Again, our friends in the West asked us to show restraint, and we did. But under the guise of peacekeeping, Russia sent paratroopers and heavy artillery into Abkhazia. Repeated provocations were designed to bring Georgia to the brink of war.

When this failed, the Kremlin turned its attention to South Ossetia, ordering its proxies there to escalate attacks on Georgian positions. My government answered with a unilateral cease-fire; the separatists began attacking civilians and Russian tanks pierced the Georgian border. We had no choice but to protect our civilians and restore our constitutional order. Moscow then used this as pretext for a full-scale military invasion of Georgia.

Vladimir Putin wants to reconstruct the Soviet Union, his ultimate design ever since taking power. President Bush’s response is weak: “I expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia,” the US president told NBC television. But again, it isn’t a matter of a disproportionate response. Russia has no right to have forces deployed within the borders of Georgia.

As this is being written, Georgia has been effectively cut in half by advancing columns of armor, and Russia is demanding that Georgia disarm. One of the clearest explanations of the high stakes war that is being fought comes from an unnamed State Department representative (courtesy of Scott Johnson at Powerline).

This is a huge event, and our inaction has been a disgrace. Have you noticed that Secretary Rice and President Bush’s responses have virtually mirrored Senator Obama’s recommendations? It is heaps of shame on the current administration for letting a close ally dangle like this, and is instructive of just how bad an Obama foreign policy would be …

Your last post on the energy route made an important point. Georgia is important to the West for more than just political reasons. It is an incredibly strategic location. That pipeline is an independent source of energy for the West, and an independent source of income for countries in the Caspian Basin. It allows them to have an independent foreign policy. It gives, say, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan the freedom to allow US arms to fly across their territory on the way to Afghanistan. Did you know that Russia forbids the transport of US military hardware across its territory, even by plane? Of course, Iran does too. Look at a map and think of where the large US logistical bases are located (Germany). That leaves only a narrow corridor — across Georgia and Azerbaijan — that we can use to supply our troops in Afghanistan.

There’s another point here. Russia is best influenced from Tbilisi, Astana, Kiev, etc. — not from Moscow. Russia is a bully. It does not respond to demarches, security council rebukes and harsh denunciations …

Russia has been angry that Georgia and its other former Soviet colonies haven’t been bowing to Russian control. Russia is out to teach them a lesson.

And that’s precisely why this attack is a swipe at the US. President Bush made Georgia one of his signature projects. One of the very first decisions Bush’s security council made in 2001 was on Georgia. Georgia’s progress over the last few years have been awe-inspiring and President Bush can very plausibly take a significant amount of credit for that. The Georgians sure think so. They renamed the main street in downtown Tbilisi after him. They sent troops to help us in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. Russia is punishing Georgia for cozying up with the US, and telegraphing the message to the rest of its neighbors: listen to us and not the Americans.

Given the weak response from the US, who do you think Russia’s neighbors are listening to right now? Countries like Estonia or Kazakhstan are going to be terrified over this. Or think about the Czech Republic who just fought a very contentious political battle to allow missile defense radars (the Russian Chief of Staff of the Army threatened an invasion!) . Poland has yet to sign an agreement to allow missile defense interceptors on their soil. What do you want to bet the price just went up? NATO has also been silent. What does that mean for countries like Ukraine who have asked to join, bucking Moscow’s decree not to do so or else. The message is clear: don’t go too far out on the US’ limb because they won’t back you up. (and what kind of lesson will Israel take away from this?)

Put into the context of Russia’s recent behavior — the polonium poisonings, trying to kill a pro-Western presidential candidate in Ukraine, shutting off energy supplies to Europe, high tech arms transfers and nuclear know-how to Iran, strategic bomber runs into Alaskan airspace, etc., etc., etc. – this is very serious indeed. Russia responds to resistance and pushback, not “strong denunciations.” So far they’ve only found an open door.

This State Department representative “gets it.” There is a much larger plan being implemented than just Georgia, and it has to do with Russian hegemony. As for the Georgians? They sent several thousand troops to assist Operation Iraqi Freedom, and are asking why the U.S. wouldn’t now come to the aid of Georgia? Indeed. The balance of the world may very well be asking a similar question for their help to the U.S.

Below are some scenes of Russian “peace keepers” and their handiwork.

An unidentified crying Georgian woman is calmed by her husband after finding out that her child was killed in a neighboring village, in the town of Gori, Georgia (AP, Sergei Grits)

Russian armor column (note that the column is out in the open and highly susceptible to being chopped to small pieces by A-10s with its faster kill chain) (Reuters)

Wounded Georgian Soldier (AFP)

A mother and child in the ravaged Georgian city of Gori, where at least 17 people were killed at the weekend when Russian jets bombed apartment blocks (David Mdzinarishvili/REUTERS).

An injured woman stands next to her bombarded home (Reuters)


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