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Old 08-08-2008, 09:42 AM   #1
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Russian Tanks Enter South Ossetia

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Russian tanks are moving towards the capital of Georgia's separatist region of South Ossetia, which has been under heavy bombardment from Georgian forces.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakasvili said 150 Russian tanks and other vehicles had entered South Ossetia.

Georgia is reported to have said any involvement of Russian forces in the conflict will result in a state of war between the two countries.

Russia says it is sending reinforcements to support peacekeepers.

Reports from Georgia claim Russian jets have attacked an airport near Tbilisi.

Nato, the US and the EU have all called for an immediate end to hostilities.

At least 15 civilians are reported dead, as well as several Russian peacekeepers based in Tskhinvali.
BBC NEWS | Europe | Russian tanks enter South Ossetia

This doesn't look good; it may escalate. I don't think Russia should get involved. Yes, its a conflict that needs to be resolved, but no one asked Russia to basically invade. What Russia is doing may come across as trying to control its former Soviet republics.
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Old 08-08-2008, 11:39 AM   #2
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This is very, very bad - worse than I think most people realize yet. The potential for this to spill over into the other Caucasus nations is very high, and if that happens all bets are off. Iran and Turkey are very close by, too. Hopefully cool heads prevail soon and the Russians will get out. I don't see that as being very likely, though.
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Old 08-08-2008, 12:13 PM   #3
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this is going to be very tense.
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Old 08-08-2008, 01:55 PM   #4
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What good can come from this...?
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Old 08-08-2008, 03:52 PM   #5
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This is such a shame, you would think that countries would learn from one another and lead by example not go into a war.
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Old 08-08-2008, 04:44 PM   #6
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Hopefully the Russian movement into South Ossetia will remain limited. There are already over a thousand Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. North of Georgia, the Russian "North Caucasus Military District" has large numbers of Russian forces including 3 Mechanized divisions, an Airborne Division and several smaller unattached brigades. These forces have over 700 tanks, over 2,000 Armored vehicles, and over 1,000 Artillery pieces, and tens of thousands of troops. Georgia by comparison has a total of 86 tanks, 200 armored vehicles, 100 Artillery pieces and 11,000 troops. But, 2,000 of those troops are currently stationed in Iraq. Georgia does have a reserve and paramilitary force of about 14,000 which is being called up, plus the President is planning to pull out the forces that are currently in Iraq. Georgia does not have much of an Airforce with only 10 combat aircraft and a dozen helicopters.

The population of South Ossetia prior to the break up of the Soviet Union had about 100,000 people, 66,000 ethnic Ossetians, 30,000 Georgians, and over 2,000 Russians. Today, the population is estimated at any where from 30,000 to 70,000 people with similar ethnic ratio's. Georgia in total has a population of 4.6 million and Russia's current population is just under 141 million. Georgia is well behind Russia on the UN human Development Index at #96 while Russia is at #67.
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Old 08-08-2008, 06:27 PM   #7
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So who are the good guys here?

My two cent, the disputed territory is Georgian territory.

The figures provided by Strongbow show that Russia cannot possibly lose.

But the history of such conflicts shows that aggressive acts by the larger power can backfire and create the rationale for a terrorist campaign (or campaign of resistance, depending on point of view).

In twenty years time, assuming we haven't ALL been blown back to the Stone Age ( ), don't be surprised if Georgian militia are regularly mounting attacks on the Russian state, much as the IRA were a thorn in the side of the British state for decades.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:22 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by financeguy View Post
So who are the good guys here?
This conflict is too old to be reduced to "good guy, bad guy." Caucasia is just as complicated as the Balkans and the Middle East when it comes to tribal issues and artificially created nation states. Couple this with Soviet/Russian interference, and you have the situation we have today.

First, we have South Ossetia, which is inhabited by an Indo-Iranian speaking populace, in contrast to the Caucasian Georgians. North Ossetia is in Russia, where it is known as the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania (as their ancestors were the Alans, a tribe best known for merging with the Germanic Vandals in the Dark Ages). Ossetia was annexed into Russia in 1801, along with Georgia, and, following the Russian Revolution, North Ossetia was made part of one Soviet Republic, while Georgia and South Ossetia were made part of another. So the first part of this conflict stems from the fact that the Ossetes and Georgians have no common cultural identity, and were only put together arbitrarily. In fact, Georgia and South Ossetia were at war between 1918 and 1920, precisely because South Ossetia's loyalty lied with Russia and its desire to reunite with North Ossetia. This conflict only ended when the Soviet Union invaded and annexed both areas.

So, as one might expect, when the Soviet Union collapsed, South Ossetia and Georgia picked up where the left off in 1920, with South Ossetia demanding independence or union with Russia. Georgia, like in 1920, was not about to have this, and so they went to war again. In 1992, the fragile peace developed with Russian peacekeepers as mediators, but, as you can imagine, with South Ossetia being heavily pro-Russian and Putin-era Russia being heavily nationalist and paranoid that a Georgian-style "Rose Revolution" might happen to them, Russia is more than happy to assert its dominance here and implicitly show who's the boss.

As for who should win, this, I guess, should all depend on your personal philosophy on whether Georgian territorial integrity is more important Ossetian self-determination, in spite of the fact that this region has never effectively ever been under sovereign Georgian control. Frankly, the whole Caucasian region is a mess, as there are a few other trouble regions here like Abkhazia (NW Georgia), Nagorno-Karabakh (in Azerbaijan, but ethnically Armenian; likely complicated by the non-contiguous Azerbaijani exclave, Nakhchivan, on Armenia's SW), and, of course, Chechnya, which make's Russia's support for South Ossetia seem tremendously hypocritical.

But, as you can expect from situations like this, right will be determined by might, instead of reason.
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Old 08-08-2008, 10:45 PM   #9
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Turned over to see the US walk out at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Matt Laure was saying there has been significant casualties already in the region.
Presidents Putin and Bush are in talks at this time, in Beijing.


ETS: Georgia was walking out at the time.
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Old 08-09-2008, 04:42 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by melon View Post

As for who should win, this, I guess, should all depend on your personal philosophy on whether Georgian territorial integrity is more important Ossetian self-determination, in spite of the fact that this region has never effectively ever been under sovereign Georgian control.
Its important to remember though that South Ossetia
ethnically is 30% Georgian and not everyone in the province wants to leave Georgia and become apart of Russia. So its not just a matter of Ossetian self-determination vs. Georgian territorial integrity. There are issues within South Ossetia which make resolving the problem more complicated.
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Old 08-09-2008, 05:23 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by financeguy View Post
So who are the good guys here?

My two cent, the disputed territory is Georgian territory.

The figures provided by Strongbow show that Russia cannot possibly lose.

But the history of such conflicts shows that aggressive acts by the larger power can backfire and create the rationale for a terrorist campaign (or campaign of resistance, depending on point of view).

In twenty years time, assuming we haven't ALL been blown back to the Stone Age ( ), don't be surprised if Georgian militia are regularly mounting attacks on the Russian state, much as the IRA were a thorn in the side of the British state for decades.
Unfortunately for Georgia, if the Russians were really determined to overrun the country, there is not much Georgia could do. Georgia is essentially Chechnya but 4 times larger. It took a while for the Russians to pacify Chechnya, but that is what has essentially happened now.

I hope and do not believe at the current time that Russia is really planning a large scale invasion of Georgia. Hopefully the action will be limited to South Ossetia, although there are "reports" of Russian airstrikes all over Georgia.

The Georgian military will probably abandon any attempts it had at trying to regain control of South Ossetia through force, if that is indeed what they were trying to do as the Russians claim.

Its really unknown at the moment who is at fault for the recent eruption of violence, the worst since 1992. The President of Georgia was just on the night before saying that they had successfully negotiated a ceacefire ending a much smaller level of violence that had started days ago. But the Georgians claimed hours later that Georgian towns were being shelled by rebel Ossetian Artillery and that Georgian forces had to move in to stop that. Ossetians claim the Georgians moved in unprovoked.

The Georgian President had earlier this week proposed that Russian peacekeepers in the province could stay there indefinitely if the rebel Ossetians gave up their cause and the province of South Ossetia remained legally part of Georgia.

What needs to happen now though is a ceacefire, and hopefully both sides will do what they can to insure that will happen as soon as possible. Georgia certainly cannot resolve the issue with military force and will most likely withdraw and hope that the Russians ceace military operations against Georgia. I think its likely the Russians will, since as long as their goals are limited to the issue of South Ossetia, they will have achieved most of what they probably set out to do. In addition, the fighting will serve as a reminder to any NATO nation attempting to extend Alliance membership to Georgia in the future. The unstable situation will make it unappealing for most Alliance members to give NATO membership to Georgia. The Russian leadership does not want to see Georgia or Ukraine become members of NATO and the current conflict probably helps further insure that won't happen in the near future.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all are NATO members today and do have ethnic Russian populations. But ethnic relations have been relatively good in these countries compared with the south Caucasian countries. The three Baltic states also have relatively stronger economic and political development and stability which is why they were invited to join NATO. Russia does not like the fact that they are in NATO, but is unlikely to resolve any issues it has with the Baltic States in the same way it is currently doing with Georgia because it knows that NATO is fully committed to defending the three countries.
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Old 08-09-2008, 09:02 AM   #12
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Its important to remember though that South Ossetia ethnically is 30% Georgian and not everyone in the province wants to leave Georgia and become apart of Russia. So its not just a matter of Ossetian self-determination vs. Georgian territorial integrity. There are issues within South Ossetia which make resolving the problem more complicated.
Throw in the fact that it is estimated that between 70-80% of South Ossetia is estimated to have Russian citizenship, and it becomes even more complicated.

The problem I see here--and this extends even to the fact that most nations refuse to recognize Kosovo on "territorial integrity" grounds--is that we're dealing with centuries-old grudges and we often view these issues with Western-tinted lenses. That is, we look at the American Civil War and see "territorial integrity" as inviolable. Yet, at the same time, if "territorial integrity" was so inviolable, then the U.S. should have remained a part of Great Britain and the American Revolution should have been internationally condemned.

Likewise, the nation state itself, as organically developed in Western Europe in the Middle Ages, were generally Germanic super-tribal states it seems (i.e., France was a "super tribe" with a Germanic Frankish ruling class at its core; England a "super tribe" with a Germanic Anglo-Saxon and later Norman ruling class). There seems to be less national cultural cohesion in European states with little to no Germanic influence, which seems why we get more identity politics in nations like Spain and Italy, although there's still some sense of a national identity. But trying to arbitrarily apply this standard to arbitrarily carved nations with predominantly tribal identities, such as in the Caucasus, only seems like an inevitable recipe for disaster. Even presuming that this conflict ends in the status quo, the Ossetes are never going to identify as Georgian, and the fact that North Ossetia is in Russia and the South Ossetes have, at least since the Russian Revolution, developed a more Russian identity, I find it impossible to see how we can continue to trumpet "territorial integrity" as the utmost ideal, when these territorial boundaries were arbitrarily drawn in the first place. History has shown, too, that Georgia has never independently controlled South Ossetia. It has been Russian-dominated since being invaded in 1801 when Georgia and Ossetia were separate entities, with the exception of 1918-1920, when the two sides fought against each other in between the dissolution of Imperial Russia and the rise of Soviet Russia, and 1990 to 1992, where they immediately resumed war and South Ossetia became wholly autonomous.

It is unfortunate, certainly, but, as we saw when Yugoslavia broke up into several nations, some peoples have such wholly distinct national identities that they just refuse to live together. And why, as a matter of principle and democracy, should we force them to live together?
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Old 08-09-2008, 02:26 PM   #13
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Its really unknown at the moment who is at fault for the recent eruption of violence, the worst since 1992. The President of Georgia was just on the night before saying that they had successfully negotiated a ceacefire ending a much smaller level of violence that had started days ago. But the Georgians claimed hours later that Georgian towns were being shelled by rebel Ossetian Artillery and that Georgian forces had to move in to stop that. Ossetians claim the Georgians moved in unprovoked.
I'm trying to understand this and have read all this twice, but still can't figure out what the rebel Ossetian's want? What is it they are fighting for or against?
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Old 08-09-2008, 06:04 PM   #14
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^ They want union with Russia, so that they can be politically reunited with their kinsmen in Russian North Ossetia.

I think Saakashvili may have made a bad miscalculation that the West will do more to help him out than we're realistically likely to.
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Old 08-10-2008, 06:42 PM   #15
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US, Russia Trade Accusations at Security Council Over Georgia

By Margaret Besheer
VOA, August 10


Relations between the United States and Russia were visibly tense during a U.N. Security Council meeting Sunday on the situation in Georgia...At the rare Sunday session of the Council, called jointly by the United States and Georgia, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad questioned Russia's motives in sending some 10,000 troops into South Ossetia in recent days to prevent Georgia from reasserting control over the Russian-backed breakaway region. "Russia has claimed that its military operations were intended to protect its peacekeepers and the civilian population in South Ossetia," said Zalmay Khalilzad. "Yet, its reaction goes far beyond any reasonable measures required to do so. Indeed, its escalation of the conflict has been the immediate cause of increased loss of innocent life and humanitarian suffering." Khalilzad said Russia's expansion of the conflict to another separatist region of Georgia--Abkhazia--and attacks on areas around Georgia's capital, Tblisi, "suggest other motives and objectives." He also accused Russia of obstructing the withdrawal of Georgian forces from South Ossetia.

Russia's ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, responded to the U.S. accusations, calling charges that Russia is targeting civilians and conducting a "campaign of terror" against the Georgian population, "unacceptable" and "propaganda" that had no place in the council. He said Moscow is not obstructing the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the conflict zone. Churkin said charges that Moscow is refusing international mediation are false, and pointed to several conversations between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over the last few days.

Khalilzad seized on that and said the two top envoys' latest telephone conversation "raised serious concerns about Russia's objectives" in Georgia. "In that conversation, Foreign Minister Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Rice that a democratically elected president of Georgia--and I quote--'must go.' I quote again: 'Saakashvili must go.' This is completely unacceptable and crosses the line," he said. "I want to ask Ambassador Churkin, is your government's objective regime change in Georgia? The overthrow of the democratically elected government of Georgia?"

"Your interesting reference to the diplomatic telephone call--this confidential call between our minister and your secretary of state," said Vitaly Churkin. "I would like to say straight away, that regime change is an American expression. We do not use such an expression. I'm encouraged by the fact that you have referred to this publicly--I suggest that this means this is an interesting idea and that you are ready to bring this forward to the public platform."

Ambassador Khalilzad was not satisfied. "I want to restate my question to Ambassador Churkin, he did not answer my question," he said. "Is the goal of the Russian Federation to change the leadership of Georgia?"

"I suggest that I gave a complete response," said Churkin. "Maybe the ambassador was not listening when I gave my response? Maybe he did not have his earpiece on? I suggest that I gave a full response to that question."

The U.S. ambassador was also strongly critical of Russia's refusal to call for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire. Russia's envoy repeated his country's demands that Georgian forces must withdraw from South Ossetia and agree to sign an accord saying Tblisi will not use force with the breakaway republic, before it would agree to a cessation of hostilities.
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