You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Report From Georgia

Posted in Politics by Stacy McMahon on August 21, 2008

I’ve been following the news out of Georgia, but it’s been pretty sketchy for the most part. Western media is excellent at ‘reporting’ by wrapping highly suspect public statements from governments in background material so general that it could cover any time period from last month to next week. Now, though, Michael Totten is in Georgia, talking to locals about the Russian invasion. As always, he’s almost magically able to pull out deep insights right away. Unfortunately, in this case the signs are ominous:

Diana’s account: “They are burning the houses. From most of the houses they are taking everything. They are stealing everything, even such things as toothbrushes and toilets. They are taking the toilets. Imagine. They are taking broken refrigerators.” And Nana: “We are so heartbroken. I don’t know what to say or even think. Our whole lives we were working to save something, and one day we lost everything. Now I have to start everything from the very beginning.”

In A Frozen Hell, William Trotter’s history of the USSR-Finland conflict in 1939-40, an old Karelian (Finnish) man is quoted saying something very similar. Red Army soldiers were noted in that war and in WWII for stealing anything not nailed down, burning houses, raping women and general mayhem against the locals in any region they entered. By most accounts the Russian soldier today isn’t much different. But read on…

“My husband said he was going to see his family,” [Georgian refugee Lia] said. “And the Russians said again, ‘Are you going to the American side?’”

“So the Russians view you as the American side, even though there are no Americans here.”

“Yes,” she said. “Because our way is for democracy.”

Just some food for thought, for anyone who thinks US “neocons” are the only ones trying to restart the Cold War. Totten reports that Georgians believe western chest-thumping made the Russians stop short of Tbilisi at the last minute. We may not really know where they are on a map, but they’re definitely among our biggest fans.

There’s something else going on, though. Beyond the line of bullshit about spheres of influence and Russia’s backyard, Russian leaders have always had an abiding paranoia that someone, somewhere is going to attack them at any minute, and that the answer to this is to physically control every country on its borders. Imagine the US demanding a “security zone” extending 50 miles into Canada and Mexico and you’ll have the basic idea. That’s what precipitated the Winter War, a close analogy to the current conflict. In a nutshell, the Kremlin suddenly and randomly demanded that Finland give up several hundred square miles of territory, as well as leasing naval bases to the USSR. When Finland naturally refused, the Soviets attacked. The more things change…

Russia doesn’t want to annex Gori permanently, in all likelihood. But it does want, as it always has, a buffer zone between itself and its enemies.


5 Responses

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  1. Clint said, on August 21, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    There are plenty of reports as well saying that Georgia basically started all this. Ethnic cleansing in Ossetia. And America has 1000 special forces in Georgia, providing training and material support. Russia has captured U.S. Humvees being used against them, we have demanded that they return our military equipment. There was the girl on Fox News talking about how the Georgian soldiers were the ones doing all the killing — but they made sure to abruptly cut her off as soon as she did that.

    It’s definitely deeper than the basic American media is reporting. It’s not just Russia acting crazy…

  2. Stacy McMahon said, on August 21, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Yep, the emerging consensus seems to be that Georgia::Ossetia as Russia::Georgia. So Saakashvili can point his finger at the mirror, for sure. I’ve got another article from Asia Times that makes a convincing case for Ukraine being next on Putin’s list. I’ll probably post it tonight or tomorrow.

    Also, Poland jumped on the US missile shield bandwagon the day Russia went into Georgia, and that’s a serious country with a real democratic government that doesn’t make decisions on the basis of one hothead taking silly chances.

  3. Clint said, on August 21, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    I like how you put it in analogy form. That’s the mental equivalent of a soundbyte! Basically, everyone is acting crazy. This is also kind of another argument for making militaries only strong enough to defend homelands, and not strong enough to invade multiple countries 🙂 But of course, militaries tend to be pissing contests for countries. “I can shoot mine farther.” Stupid human nature.

  4. Stacy McMahon said, on August 21, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    But of course, militaries tend to be pissing contests for countries. “I can shoot mine farther.” Stupid human nature.

    I remember sometime back around GHW Bush’s military buildup, some senator was quoted saying “if we can go anywhere and do anything, we’ll always be going somewhere and doing something.” He probably didn’t know how right he was. The US first established a powerful standing military after the War of 1812, to make sure the British and others would never again step foot on American soil. Almost its first act thereafter was to fight the French at sea and on foreign soil (known as the “quasi-war” )

  5. Clint said, on August 23, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Hah! I didn’t know that tidbit of history. Good to know.

    And: Figures.

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