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Posted on Aug 8, 2008 in War College

Insights into the Georgia – South Ossetia – Russia Conflict

By Jerry D. Morelock

The Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus. University of Texas.

Recent news reports out of the Caucasus region may leave readers wondering what the fuss is all about. ACG Editor in Chief, Jerry Morelock (former Chief of Russia Branch on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon) offers his insight into the Republic of Georgia-South Ossetia- Russia conflict.

See also Jane’s article “Georgia Launches Major Assault on South Ossetia,” August 8, 2008, by Matthew Clements at and Assault on Georgia! Exclusive Military Analysis of South Ossetia Conflict by Ralph Peters, an exclusive.

 International groups (UN, EU) and several countries (US, UK, China, Sweden, Ukraine, etc.) have called for both sides to cease military actions immediately.

Republic of Georgia Strikes Breakaway Region – Russia Reacts


Although the collapse of the “Evil Empire” of the Soviet Union (December 1991) was cheered by Cold Warriors, the fallout from the disintegration of the USSR’s former heavy-handed, monolithic control of its diverse empire continues to plague some former Soviet republics today. The situation is not unlike what occurred in the Balkans region in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s – recently independent countries plagued by breakaway or separatist regions that want to be independent themselves (regardless of the lack of viability of such entities (think “Kosovo” here, for example).

Most recently, the Republic of Georgia has been plagued by two separatist regions — Abkhazia in the northwest on the Black Sea coast, and South Ossetia in its rugged, mountainous north-central area (a third separatist region, Ajaria [Adjara] on the Black Sea coast in the southwest has been largely quiet since 2004 and peacefully exists as an “autonomous republic” within the Georgian nation). On August 8 – and after a week long “sniper war” that inflicted numerous casualties on both sides — the Republic of Georgia sent its military forces into South Ossetia “to restore order and reestablish the rule of law.” Georgian infantry, backed by tanks, artillery, rocket launchers and strike aircraft, were reported fighting in the South Ossetian capital city of Tshinkvali, where South Ossetian separatists claim the Georgians have inflicted “hundreds of civilian casualties,” a claim disputed by Georgian government spokesmen.

Russia, which has had stormy relations with the former Soviet republic of Georgia (not least due to Georgia’s ongoing military cooperation with the West and the country’s desire to become part of NATO), backs the South Ossetian separatists (Moscow also supports the Abkhazian separatists) for political and economic reasons. Russia has reportedly retaliated by sending two strike aircraft that dropped bombs on Georgian military and police bases, and may be sending Russian combat troops (with tanks and artillery) into South Ossetia “to support Russia’s peacekeeping force,” a 500-man unit that has been there for several years. Both Russian president Dmitri Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin have condemned the Georgian military action. Medvedev stated, “Russia will not allow the unpunished death of Russian citizens (many South Ossetians hold Russian passports),” saying those responsible for such deaths will incur “deserved punishment.” Putin called Georgia’s actions “aggressive” and said Russia would be compelled to retaliate. At least one Georgian government official has stated that an armed Russian incursion would cause Georgia to “declare war on Russia.”

International groups (UN, EU) and several countries (US, UK, China, Sweden, Ukraine, etc.) have called for both sides to cease military actions immediately and resolve to settle their differences through diplomatic means. Meanwhile, entities supporting the South Ossetian separatists, such as neighboring North Ossetia (a part of Russia), Russia’s Don River cossacks, and Abkhazia and have vowed to send fighters to resist Georgian forces.

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  1. Thanks for the article!


  2. IMHO Russia is right to resist NATO, which should more or less be disbanded or at least have its aggressiveness toned down since it was originally created to counter the USSR, which doesn’t exist anymore. Also, Putin may be somewhat tough and autocratic in our American eyes, but not every nation (read: Russia) needs or is suited for democracy. Also, democracy is not necessarily the single best form of government. We should always bear these thoughts in mind when dealing with other nations, esp. today’s Russia.

  3. Thanks for your comments Mr Wilson, you are right on the money. NATO should be disbanded as a cold war relic. Why are they expanding their circle of confusion? Why are they trying to encircle Russia? And how does their mandate extend to Afghanistan? They were created to counter the Warsaw Pact troops. Currently NATO is creating these problems to justify their own existence. Small countries like Georgia are being used as pawns by the United States and Europe and the poor people are paying with their lives. The level of hypocrisy and immorality in international relations is reaching a new high.

  4. Mr. Sudha,

    Thank you for the compliment. While I am not sure whether or not Russia is completely justified in her incursion into this conflict, especially since I don’t know nearly all of the facts in this case, I do know that I disapprove of NATO and the US’s current attitude towards Medvedev and Putin, which I consider overly and unecessarily aggressive and expansionist.

  5. It’s funny how nobody mentions what the author originally said about Russia inserting itself into another country’s affairs, but you point out that NATO and the US are doing that very thing… with vehemence. Which hypocrisy is worse, yours or theirs?

    Putin has reversed Russia’s gains since the Cold War ended, whether or not it is admitted here. Sure he has found sources of income to fuel the Russian economy… at the expense of Russian citizens (as usual). Robbing people of their wealth under false pretenses is a Soviet tactic, fostered by Putin, who is a Soviet to his very marrow, Cold War or no.

    Just because NATO is wrong doesn’t make Russia right.

  6. I absolutely agree with US Dude on this matter. The US attitude toward Putin is due to his unwillingness to relinquish power and the means he has gone to do so. Assassinations, rigged elections and similar activities should not be seen as “cultural differences,” but the abuse of a weak political structure in Russia. That said, the Russian people deserve better and we should not pretend otherwise.

  7. US Dude and Mr. Jackson,

    Please allow me to say that I am not supporting Putin per se, and do not think that he is “right”—only that he is not entirely wrong and evil, like most people think. Pointing out that NATO is wrong does not necessarily mean backing Putin 100%…I only sympathize with him with regards to aggressive NATO encroachment and the missile shield, etc. I do not support any assassinations or rigged elections, etc. that have gone on in Russia…though I do support a more humble and less hubrisitic U.S. and NATO foreign policy.

    Regards to you both,


  8. Tactically speaking this is a old tactic as old as Sun Tzu. Speaking of old tactical deceptions, blaming the victim by silencing their voices/news was probably used best by America in the Tonkin Gulf Incident which was what President Johnson could come up with at short notice. Another major disinformation specialist was Bonaparte, who speeded home after declaring victory in Egypt after leaving his army stranded and defeated army to fend for itself in the Middle East. Controlling the press is always how the user of disinformation and blamingb the victim works best. Remember, Putin seized control of the media before he started every other subsequent seizure of America’s Cold War victory. It began with blamming the Chechens for blowing up several huge blocks of concrete apartment buildings killing 500 plus innocents.

  9. Mr Wilson I can’t agree with your assertion that democracy is not superior to every other form of government yet tried, regardless of which country it would be applied to. Can you name another form which is superior to it?

    Whether a country is yet ready for a modern democracy is another question entirely. Education of the electorate and establishment of democratic institutions is a prerequiste. Is Iraq or China ready yet? Probably not. Russia certainly may be.

    • Lol Yes “Marty” There IS A Better Form Of Government Re-Search ‘Meritocracy’ & While This May Not Be The “Best” Form Of Government Either It IS A “Better” Form Of Government Then That Of MAJORITY Vote……

  10. My personal view is that NATO should not be disbanded, just because the USSR is disbanded doesn’t mean that russia’s policies are not a threat to stability in th world, the NATO alliance forces by legal paper if one party is attack then they are all attacked. What greater deterent to war or bullying.

    Any of the major countries are still a threat to smaller nations in terms of miltary might and economic pressures, the guarentee indepences of these countries are paramount and with NATO especially in the areas of europe, it is unlikely there will be challenges through miltary force of smaller independant countries.

    NATO did a great job in the old yugoslavia, through the transision phases it had. Looking at those countries today is proof of there sucess.

    If anything how NATO operates is fair better process then how the UN works, and each member gets an equal voice. Just look at the security council the UN how it is not effective , especially when it comes to protect humans basic rights.

    Sometimes a fist has to be used to protect these rights, and the UN can never provide this.

  11. Since cold war ended with the breakdown of the mighty USSR empire is there any need of NATO to bring the former soviet republics under its umbrella by offering inducements to these poor countries. If these countries really need help this can be easily provided by moneytary and other means to prop up their economy than fortifying their military. Georgia, Poland and Czech Republics are good examples. Russia should be given all the help to recover from the aftermath of the breakdown of the USSR. Sadly, what we see is a well concerted move by USA and the NATO in their attempts to humiliate Russia. This can be very dangerous in fuelling ultra-nationalism the way Nazis came to power in Germany. There is also a definite double standard in the USA and its allies in its attitude towards Russia.
    If Kosovo can seccede why not South Ossetia and Abkhazia?? If Milesovic can be tried as a war criminal why not Saakashvili?? Why Chechens are freedom fighters and Talibans are terrorists. When USSR had invaded Afghanistan for the same reason the USA and NATO did (to eliminate terrorism and tyranny of religious fundamentalism) why did USA create the Talibans and armed them to their teeth. Divide and rule policy can sometime backfire and can create its own Frankensteins!! Its time for USA and its allies to learn form their mistakes and do some serious introspection.

  12. People
    of the world. You deceive! World mass media conduct propagation of a
    false information. Russia DID NOT ATTACK Georgia! 07.08.2008 at 22:00
    Georgia has attacked South Ossetia. At 3:30 08.08.2008 tanks of the
    Georgian armies have entered into city Tskhinvali. Artillery
    bombardment all the day long proceeded, fights with use of tanks and
    heavy combat material, both against ossetic armies, and against peace
    inhabitants were conducted. 2000 civil people already were lost. The
    Russian peacemakers have arrived to South Ossetia in the evening
    08.08.2008 for settlement of the conflict and prompting of the world in
    republic and protection of the Russian citizens living on territory of
    South Ossetia. Georgia has attacked South Ossetia on eve of Olympiad,
    it is top of cruelty and cynicism. Proofs and video-materials look on :

    http://www.1tvrus .com/ ,
    http://www.1t , , , , , .
    We shall tell is not present to WAR!!!

  13. It’s all a question of wise policy. It cannot be wise policy to encircle Russia unless one is prepared to weigh the (probably notional) energy policy gains against the foreign policy nightmare. Russia has a history of resisting bullying. Her people will likely support her government in this.

  14. I wish them all, peace. One of these years, Russia & the US are going to find-out they have more in common than either will admit, right now. Both have right-wing nuts, have been surprise attacked multiple times, & I suspect are really trying to improve their lot in life for their people. In the US, we’ve been really blessed by God for getting so far so fast. I can understand some of the Russian “paranoia” about NATO & the EU in general. If we had a Napoleon & Hitler on our border in the past couple hundred years, we’d be very sensitive too. How far ahead would mankind be if the wars over the last 100+ years wouldn’t have been fought? Any idiot can build a bomb, we all need more people that can build other things, willing to do now for their future generations, I suspect that’s what keeps going wrong in Africa. Pure simple greed, seems to be a human condition we all need to address.


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