Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the War on Terror

The War on Terror: It's all about the Middle East, right?

Probably not.

People in Indonesia certainly wouldn't agree that the War on Terror is a strictly Middle Eastern conflict. They're having trouble with terrorist organizations like Jemaah Islamiyah.

I think this war is global. I also think that it won't be exclusively concerned with a particular variety of Islam by the time it ends.

I've posted before, about what the previous century's conflicts suggest we may look forward to.

There's a lot going on right now:
  • China is re-emerging as a major world power
  • Europe's nations are merging their economies into the
    • European Union
    • European Free Trade Association
  • Russia is finding a place in the world, now that the Soviet Union is gone
This post is mostly about Russia.

Unlike every other major Industrial Age nation in the world, Russia is almost completely landlocked. Russia has coastline on the Arctic Ocean, and the Pacific. The Arctic is perhaps the least navigable of the world's oceans. The Pacific is thousands of miles from the economic center of Russia.

If someone in Russia wants to ship material in or out of the country by ship, the cargo must go across Siberia, to the Pacific, or through St. Petersburg on the Baltic or Rostov on the Black Sea.

If America was in this situation, someone in Los Angeles with a cargo to ship would have to either ship it overland to the east coast, or arrange for passage through one of two waterways: both of which are controlled by several other nations.

Russia has, understandably, found this an awkward circumstance.

Which may explain why the Russia has bombed a military airfield near the Tbilisi International Airport. Tbilisi is the capital of Georgia, and the Georgian government isn't too happy about the situation.

Russian leaders say they've got a perfectly good reason for bombing the Georgian capital.
  • Russian version:
    Russia has rolled troops into Abkhazia and South Ossetia to keep the peace.
  • Georgian version:
    Russia has invaded Georgia, in reaction to the death of 15 'peacekeepers.'
What seems to be going on is that some people in two territories on the north side of Georgia don't want to be part of Georgia. Maybe they'd like to be part of Russia: Which, considering the relative size and wealth of the two countries, might not be such a bad idea.

The Georgian government doesn't want to give up those regions.

If it were up to a global vote, it looks like most nations go along with the Georgian position.

Russia, however, seems to prefer a Georgia without quite as much territory as it has now. And it's bombing buildings and people in Georgia to make this point.

What About the War on Terror?!

Put what's happening in Georgia today together with the eagerness Russia has shown, supporting Iran's nuclear program, and it's not too hard to see the possibility of some sort of agreement along the lines of the one that the Soviet Union made with Germany as WWII was starting. (More about this at "Putin, Ahmadinejad, Iran, Syria, Israel: Here We Go Again?" (October 18, 2007).)

I don't think it's such a stretch to think of the War on Terror as a conflict between countries that see freedom as a good idea, and organizations like Al Qaeda, which want a much more orderly and controlled world.

And, while a certain flavor of Islam tries to keep their way of life safe from men who wear trousers, women who don't wear burqas, and dogs, It would hardly be surprising if countries with a taste for more territory took advantage of the distractions, to do some grabbing while the grabbing's good.

In the news: Recent events:


Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you said, however, Russia is not wrong at all. First of all, Georgia has attacked Ossetia out of nowhere. Russia had peacekeepers in the area because it is a hotbed of "hate". Russia had no ulterior political motivations except to keep peace in the area. What Georgia has just done to the Ossetian people can be considered genocide. Ossetians number only about 100,000 people, with 2,000 dead and 30,000 displaced... You can do the math yourself. Russia HAD to do something. The fight started off on Ossetian land, however, with Georgia attacking Russian soldiers from all around the fight had to advance into Georgia to push the Georgians out. There is so much more to say, but I'm leaving it at that now.

Anonymous said...

Ossetia, Abhazia become independed states in early 1990's, just in time with Geogia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazahstan and other fomer Soviet Union repablics, the only difference is that world community do not "recognize" Abhazia and Ossetia. Ossetia become geogian territory just according to the wish of Saakashvili... US "recognize" wish of Saakashvili and form a new country... Just US democracy and nothing more...
Western press do not say about georgian fascism and genocide of ossetia and abhazia people, do not say about dozens thousands of civilians crossing Russia border seeking for life-saving. But CNN CRYING about Russian invasion to Georgia, accuse Russia in trying to defend ossetian people... Russia has been keeping peace in the region fot 17 years from the first war Georgia with Ossetia and Abhazia and now in western press it bacame agressor - shameless hypocrisy. People, try to get truth for making your opinions, do not read US and Britain press...

Brigid said...

Then what press should we read? The Russian press?

I say read the US and British press. And the Georgian press (translated), and the Russian press, and the reports from the ground, and as many other sources as you can find.

Anonymous said...

I personally do read all the press. Watching one sided news is simply dumb.

Brian H. Gill said...

Well, this is quite a crop:

Somewhere between one and three Anonymouses, Some one whose (name?) is خسن آقا - and who left a comment that apparently is "Writing by an Iranian Anti-Islam NGO" - and seems to be in Persian.

If someone reads Persian and English, I'd appreciate knowing whether it's: a comment that relates to the Russia-Georgia mess; a description of how to make chicken soup; a Tehranian travelogue, or something else.

I'm leaving that acreage of non-Latin-alphabet text as an example of what doesn't help in this blog's comments.

Another War-on-Terror Blog is written in English. I've assumed that people who read it understand English - but that's as far as I make assumptions.

If you speak Persian, or Urdu, or Wu, or Swahili, that's fine. But please don't assume that everyone who reads this blog also knows your language.

And, if you've got a private message to post, please use a more appropriate venue.

Brian H. Gill said...

As for the assertion that Russia is "not wrong at all."

I'm pretty sure that Mr. Putin would agree with that.

I also wonder if Anonymous would say the same, if America brought peace to Chihuahua, the way Russia is bringing peace to Georgia.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Russia is wrong in advancing into Georgia but was not wrong in attacking Georgia in the first place. It was not so much attacking as attacking back. Georgia made the first move.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of August 12, 2008 2:02 AM,

I'm glad to hear that one of the Anonymous community regards Russia's invasion of Georgia as being of debatable propriety.

There's a long history in that region: not the millennia-spanning web of feuds and inheritance disputes that's found in the Middle East, but long enough to make things complicated.

Georgia has been at odds with its neighbors since Colchis and Iberia became distinct, independent entities. Since then, whatever the name, Georgia has had disputes with Rome, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and now Russia.

So, yes: Russia can certainly state that some very real event from that history was the reason for their response.

I'm digging around, and hope to have a timeline of sorts ready to post in the next day or so.

Anonymous said...

Its Miss. Previous Anonymous, I just don't understand how in your blog you basically made it seem like Russia was totally at fault and completely "wrong" for what is happening. Surely, you can understand that Russia had no choice but to respond with an attack. You can't just poke a dog in the eye and expect it to lie there.
Also, a friend who had been staying in France called me recently and said that the French news had interviewed an Ossetian couple living in France who have said that the pictures and footage shown of supposed destroyed Georgian buildings, are landmarks the couples recognize from their hometown in Ossetia and the couple even recognized their neighboring building. My friend said that this was never aired again, and the French press has begun sort of avoiding talking about the Ossetia-Georgia-Russia conflict altogether. Thought you'd be interested in hearing this, not that this justifies anything but it goes to prove that the first casualty in war is always the truth.

Brian H. Gill said...

Ms. Previously Anonymous,

Or Miss -

Russia totally wrong? No, I don't think so.

Both sides are claiming genocide, and have made some other rather wild claims.

Russia may have had a legitimate grievance with Georgia, over Georgia sending troops into South Ossetia to deal with trouble. Trouble caused by groups which may be getting assistance from Russia.

The Russian response was so massive that even France didn't approve.

As for Russia having no possible ulterior motives, Reuters came up with an interesting detail (discussed in my post, "Russia, Georgia, Two Oil Pipelines, and the European Union (August 13, 2008)).

I don't think 'it's all about oil,' but I'd say that the Reuters article shows that Russia was "not wrong at all" to invade Georgia. That country might have given them some serious competition for the European oil market.

Brian H. Gill said...

Anonymous of August 11, 2008,

"Georgia made the first move." That's sort of correct. Russia had a legitimate grievance. Georgia had sent troops into South Ossetia to deal with trouble: trouble caused by organizations which may be assisted by Russia.

However, Russian troops were in South Ossetia by agreement. Russia did have a point.

The Russia response was, to put it mildly, disproportionate.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.