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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008
The Devil Went Down to Georgia

Thoughts regarding the Russian attack on Georgia...

The 2 main under-reported facts regarding the attack on Georgia both have to deal with context.

The first contextual fact is speed. In a matter of a few days, the Russians have managed to launch both a large armored column and a joint naval-amphibious attack at the periphery of their territory. The complexity, and relative success, of those operations gave lie to the assertion that Russia was only reacting to provocations on the ground and instead give credence to the notion that this operation was a long time coming. You simply don't sortie ships armed for war, hundreds of armored vehicles and pieces of artillery with war loads, and long supply columns without a great deal of preparation. As Ralph Peters points out, the fact that the road into South Ossetia wasn't littered with broken down vehicles shows a degree of preparation beyond a launch out of the barracks. The Russians were poised and waiting.

Second, is both the position of Georgia and disposition of Russia. Putin went on record several years bemoaning the fact that the collapse of the Soviet Union was " the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." He certainly has acted on this feeling by attempts to subvert the former Soviet states from his cyberwar against Estonia, interference in the Ukrainian elections, and previous pot stirring in Georgia. The joint operation in both South Ossetia and Abkazia coupled with the air strikes in Georgia proper suggest a settling of accounts with Georgia and its pro-US government. The benefits from a toppling of that government are many: reduction of American influence on Russia's southern border, possible restriction of the oil pipeline in Georgia, and a general message to those nations on Russia's periphery regarding whose side is the winning one.

One final thought...

There has been alot of talk regarding the "3 AM phone call" nature of this crisis and how it will interplay with the presidential campaign. I think the focus on the "3 AM" part is misguided but there are effects on the campaign. Senator Obama has pinned a great deal of his foreign policy approach on the twin pillars of accomodation and personal diplomacy, the idea that if he could get in the room with the other side whether the leader fo Iran and Venezuela, that a deal could be struck. Call it Realpolitick or call it appeasement, depending on your political leanings. However it assumes that a deal beneficial to the US could be struck.

The US has sponsored Georgia's entry into NATO, a move that has been tabled for consideration until the end of this year due to opposition of Germany. You think if Georgia was now a candidate for NATO membership thatthe past few days would have happened? The Putin regime is playing for keeps, first isolating, and then attacking the key US ally in the region as part of a long-term strategy to assert Russian dominance.

What the crisis does inject into the campaign is the realization is that the world is still a dangerous place, that there are still those leaders who see the lives of their citizens and the citizens of other countries as mere means to their ends. Senator Obama should be asked how he plans to talk to such people or if he just plans to look into Putin's soul.