Thursday, August 14, 2008

A backgrounder on Russia, Georgia and South Ossetia

With the American media focused upon the smog problem in Beijing and the bright, shiny medal objects soon to be awarded to athletes there, the escalation of the Russia-Georgia conflict on the eve of the Olympics took many by surprise.

Fortunately Stratfor.com provides an informative overview of the recent action, concentrating especially upon the puzzling and provocative opening move of Georgia into South Ossetia:
It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?

It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed.

[...]

Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption.

[...]

The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.


"Intelligence failure" is in the race for the worst and most oft-repeated euphemism of the early twenty-first century.

Perhaps successful diplomacy never makes the news, leaving only obvious failures in the public eye.

However, the repeated disasters of oblivious American foreign policy are highly dispiriting.

1 comment:

WLindsayWheeler said...

It's payback for Kosovo. I can't believe the hypocrisy of the US. The US supported a breakaway by the Albanian muslims of the Serbian heartland of Serbia. America thumbed its nose at Russia that called for ceasefire and the sovereignty of Serbian borders. America just ignored Russia and bombed Serbia for 78 days. Unconconscionable.

Now its payback and Russia is doing the same thing that America did to her. I applaud Putin's actions. Gooooo Russia!!!