Friday, August 08, 2008

Russia Invades Georgia

The Guardian reports that Russian forces have invaded Georgia in support of the breakaway Ossetia rebels. The situation is confused but Georgia has admitted attacking two military convoys that had come from Russia and were heading toward the capital:

Whatever the precise battle details, it was clear that a serious conflict had broken out only hours after President Saakashvili promised a unilateral Georgian ceasefire and offered South Ossetia the chance of broad autonomy within Georgia. The number of casualties was unclear but likely to be high.

All eyes were on Russia and its peacekeeping contingent in the area, which Georgia accuses of supporting the separatists. The Russian peacekeepers said the Georgians were targeting their positions and they had lost some men. In Moscow, Russia's security council was due to meet in an emergency session today.

Georgian forces appear to have the upper hand and the element of surprise at the moment but they could soon find themselves fighting on two fronts, as another separatist region, the Black Sea enclave of Abkhazia, announced its troops were moving towards the Georgian border. Cossaks from Russia said they were also ready to go to the aid of the South Ossetians, many of whom have Russian citizenship.

In Tskhinvali, Kokoity was meeting Teymuraz Mamsurov, the leader of North Ossetia, which is just over the border in Russia. The North Ossetians have also promised help to their South Ossetian brethren.

Mamsurov said a convoy of lorries carrying humanitarian aid from his region was attacked by Georgian war planes during the night.
Georgian forces shelled the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, in an act seen by experts as a deliberate provocation intended to humiliate Russia and timed to coincide with the opening of the Beijing Olympics when world attention was distracted. The Georgians seem to be gambling that they can quickly overrun the 1,000-strong Russian force in the breakawa region but Moscow now seems determined to push back with reinforcements.
The Globe and Mail reports that the Georgian shelling hit a barracks being used by Russian peacekeepers, killing 10 and wounding 30. Georgia also claims at least one of the Russian convoys it is attacking is made up of tanks, not trucks.


Skinny Dipper said...

The Russians are peacekeepers? Thankfully, there are American peacekeepers in Iraq. Thankfully, there are Israeli peacekeepers in the West Bank.

LeDaro said...

Skinny Dipper, good one.I suppose Stalin and Hitler were peacekeepers too.

Anonymous said...

The president of georgia invaded south ossetia before the ceasefire was to take effect, on the day of the olympics, with a blitzkrieg that parallels what hapened in 1939...accusing his opponent of attacking georgian border town, sound familiar, this is almost the same acts that started the secong world war. the logic of georgias act against russia is confusing at best, georgias military is a flea compared to Russias...

The Mound of Sound said...

It's hard to understand Saakashvli's logic. Why he would do this when the very person whose support he's now pleading for was in Beijing for the opening of the Olympics is beyond curious. I can't imagine that either Washington or Brussels are particularly pleased about this stunt. The may even leave Saakash to twist in the wind.

Anonymous said...

Can we call this the Guns of August scenario as highlighted by the neo-cons. Using the pretext of a quick win in South Ossetia and then sending the troops down to Iran.

Skinny Dipper said...

Hi, the Mound of Sound. Technically, Russia invaded another country, Georgia. The Russians should not be interfering in another country's internal affairs. Where have I heard that line before? China?

Georgia is of strategic importance for the US as a potential oil pipeline can go from Azerbaijan to Georgia and across the Black Sea to Turkey. The Americans would not the Russians occupying Georgia.

The Mound of Sound said...

I still suspect the Russians want this to stand for a reverse Kosovo. A separatist, ethnic minority (Ossetia/Kosovo) attacked by the dominant state (Georgia/Serbia) with a friendly power coming to the rescue of the little people (Russia/NATO). The symmetry is at least curious.

I can't see the Russians extending their influence past Ossetia but, then again, they probably don't have to in order to put Saakash on notice.

As for America, who knows? It seems unlikely that Bush would draw any lines in the sand over a small change territory like Ossetia but that remains to be seen..

The Mound of Sound said...

The wild card in this standoff may be the Adzharia autonomous republic, a notional province of Georgia with strong separatist feelings. Adzharia represents almost half of Georgia's Black Sea coastline and has the important oil port of Batumi. The Russians have mediated differences between Adzharia and Georgia before but it's known they side with the separatists. Now if this Ossetia business spreads to Adzharia then it's a whole new ball game both regionally and internationally.