Tuesday, August 12, 2008

georgia on my mind

A few thoughts about the disturbing situation in Georgia (on the not-very-bright side, this helps our geographical knowledge, since now Americans know there is a Georgia that Sherman didn't march through and the Braves don't play ball in).

First, what the hell was Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili thinking? As Richard Cohen notes, small countries do not provoke big countries. Could Saakashvili have remotely thought that Putin's Russia would stand idly by, while Georgia defeated Russia's South Ossetian friends militarily? Could he have thought for even 30 seconds that the US or anybody else would do anything to help Georgia, beyond calling for a ceasefire and decrying Russia's invasion of non-Ossetian parts of Georgia?

Second - anybody want to reconsider the wisdom of letting the Baltic States and other former Soviet republics into NATO? It is one thing to guarantee Poland and Rumania. But to guarantee countries that were part of the USSR - and that were part of RUSSIA, too - and that have large Russian minorities is pretty provocative. Georgia was trying for NATO status. I think we can safely assume that won't be happening any time soon, since NOBODY in NATO has any appetite for war with Russia over the Russian Near Abroad.

Third - what is the likely outcome? Personally, I'd be surprised if Putin stops while Saakashvili is still in office. My bet: either Russian troops will directly oust him, or perhaps more likely they'll make the situation for Georgia suitably untenable - the nice way of saying they'll shell the living shit out of Tbilisi - that Georgians themselves will get rid of Saakashvili. You don't think Putin wouldn't do that? The pre-Putin Russians weren't shy about destroying Grozny - and that was one of THEIR cities.

And finally - I wonder what de facto President Bush saw in Putin's eyes as they met in Beijing? Putin's soul is thoroughly Russian. And the Russians are very comfortable with using force to keep their neighbors from crossing certain lines. It smacks of blaming the victim, but Georgia foolishly crossed that line. I don't think they deserve their likely fate - but who will do what to prevent it?

Nobody will do nothing that could provoke a military escalation.



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