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Posted on Aug 14, 2008 in War College

Georgia – South Ossetia – Russia Conflict Update August 14, 2008

By Jerry D. Morelock

Aerial transporter, Staff Sgt. Chris Broegemueller helps push out the first delivery of 16 pallets containing one million dollars worth of U.S. - donated life-support equipment and medical supplies to the Republic of Georgia. The delivery was a joint-service effort between U.S. Army Europe Soldiers and Airmen representing Air Mobility Command. All photographs by Air Force Master Sgt. Scott Wagers.

Armchair General magazine’s editor-in-chief, Jerry Morelock (former Chief of Russia Branch on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon) provides this update into the Republic of Georgia-South Ossetia- Russia conflict. To read his initial article on the subject, click here. Be sure to also read Ralph Peters’ Assault on Georgia! Exclusive Military Analysis of South Ossetia Conflict, an exclusive.


August 14, 2008

Most of the fighting (although not all of the violence) appears to be over, with Russia having clearly demonstrated that it can do pretty much whatever it wants to do to small countries that lie on its periphery, as shown by the ease with which it beat up and humiliated the Georgian military. The cease fire negotiated by French president Nicolas Sarkozy may or may not be firmly in place, but with Russia holding all the cards in this conflict, the decision to stop major military operations was and remains in Moscow — whatever Sarkozy might claim.

International press photograph of the first of 16 pallets the U.S. donated to the Republic of Georgia.The United States humanitarian assistance began arriving in Georgia yesterday, and other countries are sending aid (Baltic nations, Canada, EU countries, etc.). U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has been dispatched to Paris en route to Georgia (Moscow is not on her itinerary), and American diplomatic initiatives continue to be explored and coordinated. U. S. officials, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, have stated that Russia’s actions could “adversely affect U.S. – Russian relationship for years to come.” Gates also said the U.S. will not participate in a scheduled multinational naval exercise in which Russia is also a slated participant and has promised to “reexamine the entire gamut of our military to military activities with Russia.” When asked if he trusts Putin “anymore,” Gates answered sensibly, “you make national security policy based on interests and on realities” not on “trust” (a backhanded way of saying, in effect, “no, I don’t trust Putin”).

As we warned in our August 12 update (see Observations: The View from the Near Abroad), Russia’s message to former Soviet republics via this invasion of Georgia (“be careful of getting too chummy with NATO”) was heard loud and clear in Kiev. Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s president, was one of the first international leaders to rush to Georgia where he addressed a cheering crowd of, perhaps, 200,000 Georgians, stating “Freedom is worthy to fight for. We came here to prove your sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. That is our values.” Yushchenko’s remarks about “freedom and independence,” of course, were really meant to be heard in Moscow, not Tbilisi. Russia has already, notoriously, intervened in Ukrainian affairs (remember the Orange Revolution? What do you think the revolution was against?), including the unconscionable manipulation of Ukraine’s energy supplies (mostly involving natural gas) in order to influence Ukraine’s internal political affairs. Yushchenko likely fears that Ukraine may be the next victim lining up in the Kremlin’s sights. Prior to August 8, that might have been seen as an irrational fear. Not any longer.

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  1. Almost every article I read disingenuously equates “Russia” with “Soviet Union.”

    This is not a case of a small, democracy-loving country fighting off the intrusions of a communistic behemoth. Georgia made the first move, and while the Russian response may have been disproportionate, the Russians (thus far) cannot be blamed of committing genocide as the Georgian military can. If S. Ossetia wants to be a part of Russia and secede from Georgia, that is their right. God help the civilians on the ground. And to think that America backs those committing murder amongst the citizenry. Our founding fathers would be spinning in their graves and rightly so.

  2. That may also be a back-handed way of saying “we never trusted them.”

  3. Yeah right! Russians is not the Soviet Union…?, who is being disingenuous? Russia are the good guys and Hitler was just misunderstood, right. Russians continue to show themselves as the barbarians who lost the Cold War.

  4. I think you will find that Russia has been making the first move for a rather extended period of time, PK. Building up forces on the border with Georgia (not that having contingency plans in place is unnatural given the political differences between the two countries), declaring South Ossetian’s Russian nationals (imagine Mexico started issuing passports to dissidents in Texas), ensuring that the peacekeepers in the region are primarily Russian etc. Not to mention inserting agent provocateurs into the ranks of the Ossetian separatists. When northern Georgian towns came under bombardment – not an unusual occurrence – Georgia responded by firing back. Also not unusual. And then the Russian army invaded. Russia can declare that Georgia fired first (although they only fired on their own people within their own borders – according to international rules of behaviour, that is within the province of their own sovereignty.) And any reporter that writes otherwise gets a “friendly” call from the Russian consulate instructing them that all affiliated reporters and news crews will be black balled from Russia unless they spin it the way Russia wants it. Don’t believe the lie, ladies and gentlemen. Russia has been planning this for months, if not years. Consider also the timing – almost immediately following the start of the Olympic games, when most decision makers will be taking holidays to attend, or to watch. Would Georgia pick such a time, knowing how outgunned they were? Of course not, unless they were completely incompetent (a dangerous assumption.) Who does it benefit? Well, Russia of course.

    And for those who complain that it is a double standard, may I say hurray for double standards? We are talking about the balance of power here, not ethics.

  5. Russia has a right to warn NATO not to get too close……imagine how we would feel if Russia had formed a political-military alliance during the Cold War and continued to keep it in existence today? And what if this ex-Soviet treaty organization contained as members a good deal of Europe and part of South America, and the Russians were pressuring countries like Canada and Mexico to join and erect missile-defense “shields?” How would we feel then?

    As I have said before on these discussions, I am not condoning anything wrong or immoral or unjust that Putin or Medvedev have done, nor am I in any way pro-Soviet, etc. I just think that America needs a less hubristic foreign policy.

    Thank you for the article Mr. Morelock.


  6. What always amazes me about all American and most European coverage of this conflict is the one-sided way the conflict was reported – and the inability of commentators to see things from the other side of the hill.

    On the first point, the bottom line is that Georgia started it. it invaded a neighbouring semi-autonomous state, pounded its cities, and gunned down or drove off its inhabitants. Yes, the Russians (not Soviets) then retaliated, and inevitably they not only defeated the Georgians and re-occupied South Ossettia, but they rolled on to create a buffer zone. This isn’t anything the Israelis haven’t done in the past, but they never suffered such widespread condemnation for it. WHat then blotted Russian’s copy-book was allowing the scum in – the armed mob militias following in the wake of the regular army – noit just Ossetians, but also other ethnic groups out for blood and loot.

    Secondly, just spend a minute seeing this from the Russian point of view. More than a century ago, America came up with the Monroe Doctrine – a policy which resulted in military intervention in the Caribbean and Central America. Now, the Russians feel the same way about their neighbours, especially if these neighbours used to BE part of their Soviet state until a decade or so ago. Nothing would irritate the US government more than a potentially hostile foreign power installing missile bases in Canada,sending trying to get the Mexicans to join a hostile military alliance, and sending troops and ships to Mexico AFTER Mexico used military force agaisnt American communities living along the Mexican-US border.That is exactly the situation the Russians find themselves in. Tie that in with their loss of face in recent decades, and it dosn’t take a diplomatic genius to figure out they’re not going to react well! Unfortunately the West doesn’t have a diplomatic genius – we only have governments who can’t see past using the situation to rattle sabers and provide PR opportunities in the lead-up to an election.

    Now, I’m not an apologist for Putin and Russia – I only suggest that you should do the sensible military thing, and take a look at things from the perspective of the other guys. The US has been encroaching in Russia’s “Monroe Doctrine” territory in a thoughtlessly heavy-handed way. How would YOU react if you were Putin?

    Oh, and while we’re at it, NATO is an elite club. I certainly don’t see why it should include countries run by tin-pot little Eastern potentates who use force against neighbouring semi-autonomous regions to solve their problems. Who’se going to be next to be invited into the club – The Bosnian Serbs?!