Daily Archives: August 19, 2008

AUR#897 Aug 19 Ukraine Next Russian Flash Point?; Russia Truely Represents A Threat; Most Vulnerable Country is Ukraine; Bush Stumbles;

An International Newsletter, The Latest, Up-To-Date
In-Depth Ukrainian News, Analysis and Commentary

Ukrainian History, Culture, Arts, Business, Religion,
Sports, Government, and Politics, in Ukraine and Around the World       
Zbigniew Brzezinski (Article One)
Mr. Morgan Williams, Publisher and Editor, SigmaBleyzer
Clicking on the title of any article takes you directly to the article.               
Return to Index by clicking on Return to Index at the end of each article
Ukraine could well be the next flash point
COMMENTARY: By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time Magazine
National Security Adviser to President Carter
Georgia, Russia, Diplomacy, International Organizations, United Nations
By Carlos Pascual, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy and
Steven Pifer, Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe
The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., Monday, August 18, 2008
By Micholas Kulish, Kiev, and Sara Rhodin, Moscow
New York Times, NY, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008
Comments: William Harrison, Guardian, London, UK, Sunday August 17 2008 
Ukraine will be a test as to whether the Kremlin still feels a need to flex its muscles.
By Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate,Carnegie Moscow Center.
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 18, 2008 
It reflects Moscow’s view that the US and NATO are not to be taken seriously
The message being sent to Ukraine and the Baltic countries is brutally clear.
Analysis & Commentary: By Paul Dibb
Emeritus Professor of strategic studies at Australian National University
The Australian, Sydney, Australia, Monday, August 18, 2008
The most vulnerable country is probably Ukraine, wedged between Russia and NATO states.
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 18, 2008 
By Henry Meyer, Bloomberg, Wednesday, August 13, 2008
By Tony Karon, Time Magazine
New York, New York, Friday, August 15, 2008
Ukraine is in his sights. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.
President Bush and Secretary Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin.
Editorial: The Wall Street Journal Europe
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia
Editorial: The Wall Street  Journal Asia 
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Thursday, August 14, 2008
Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, August 16, 2008
By Adrian Blomfield, Telegraph, London, UK, Sunday, 17 Aug 2008
InTheNews, London, UK, Sunday, 17 Aug 2008 
By Askold Krushelnycky, The Sunday Times
London, UK, Sunday, August 17, 2008
OP-ED: By Charles Krauthammer, Columnist, The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Thursday, August 14, 2008; Page A17


Editorial: The Wall Street Journal
New York, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A10
Associated Press, Moscow, Russia, Friday, Aug 15 2008
Analysis & Commentary: By Peter Charles Choharis, 
The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, August 16, 2008; Page A11
Opinion: By Garry Kasparov, The Wall Street Journal
New York, NY, Friday, August 15, 2008; Page A13
Analysis & Commentary: By David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Friday, August 15, 2008; Page A15
Tensions at Obscure Border Led to Georgia-Russia Clash
By Marc Champion and Andrew Osborn, The Wall Street Journal,
New York, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A1
By Jay Solomon in Washington and March Champion, in Tbilisi, Georgia
The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A5
Russia truly represents a threat to an independent Ukraine.
Editorial: Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug 14, 2008
Ukraine could well be the next flash point.
COMMENTARY: By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Time Magazine
National Security Adviser to President Carter
New York, NY, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008 
The end of the Cold War was supposed to usher in a new age in which the major powers would no longer dictate to their neighbors how to run their affairs. That is why Russia’s invasion of Georgia is so tragic and so potentially ominous.
Russia is now on watch: Will it continue to rely on coercion to achieve its imperial aims or is it willing to work within the emerging international system that values cooperation and consensus?
Moscow’s ruthless attempt to suborn, subdue and subordinate this tiny, independent democracy is reminiscent of Stalin’s times. The assault on Georgia is similar to what Stalin’s Soviet Union did to Finland in 1939: in both cases, Moscow engaged in an arbitrary, brutal and irresponsible use of force to impose domination over a weaker, democratic neighbor.
The question now is whether the global community can demonstrate to the Kremlin that there are costs for the blatant use of force on behalf of anachronistic imperialist goals.
This conflict has been brewing for years. Russia has deliberately instigated the breakup of Georgian territory. Moscow has promoted secessionist activities in several Georgian provinces: Abkhazia, Ajaria and, of course, South Ossetia. It has sponsored rebellious governments in these territories, armed their forces and even bestowed Russian citizenship on the secessionists.
These efforts have intensified since the emergence in Georgia of a democratic, pro-Western government. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s resentment toward Georgia and its President, the U.S.-educated Mikheil Saakashvili, has seemingly become a personal obsession.
The international community has not done enough to push back. In recent weeks, a series of incidents along the fragile cease-fire lines that cut across Georgian territory helped prompt the escalation of violence, including Georgia’s abortive effort to remove the “government” of South Ossetia, a small region with a population of about 70,000 people.
That rash action was perhaps unwise, but it is evident from Russia’s military response that Moscow was waiting for such an act to provide a pretext for the use of force. Large Russian contingents quickly swept into South Ossetia and then into Georgia, sending tanks to Gori and bombing Gori and the capital, Tbilisi.
Russia’s aggression toward Georgia should not be viewed as an isolated incident. The fact is, Putin and his associates in the Kremlin don’t accept the post-Soviet realities.
Putin was sincere when he declared some time ago that in his view, the dissolution of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the [20th] century.” Independent democracies like Georgia and Ukraine, for the Putin regime, are not only historical anomalies, but also represent a direct political threat.
Ukraine could well be the next flash point. The Russian leadership has already openly questioned whether it needs to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Russian leaders have also remarked that Crimea, a part of Ukraine, should once again be joined to Russia. Similarly, Russian pressure on Moldova led to the effective partition of that small former Soviet republic.
Moscow is also continuing to try to economically isolate central Asian neighbors like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. And the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have been the object of various threats from Russia, including economic sanctions and disruptive cyberwarfare.
The stakes are high. Ultimately, the independence of the post-Soviet states is at risk. Russia seems committed to the notion that there should be some sort of supranational entity, governed from the Kremlin, that would oversee much of the former Soviet territories. This attitude reflects in part the intense nationalistic mood that now permeates Russia’s political élite.
Vladimir Putin, former President and now Prime Minister, is riding this nationalist wave, exploiting it politically and propagating it with the Russian public. Some now even talk of a renewed Russian military presence in Cuba as a form of retaliation against the U.S. for its support of the independence of the post-Soviet states.
For the West, especially the U.S., the conflict between Russia and Georgia poses both moral and geostrategic challenges. The moral dimension is self-evident: a small country that gained its independence only recently, after almost two centuries of Russian domination, deserves international support that goes beyond simple declarations of sympathy. Then there are questions of geostrategy.
An independent Georgia is critical to the international flow of oil. A pipeline for crude oil now runs from Baku in Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea, through Georgia to the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The link provides the West access to the energy resources of central Asia. If that access is cut, the Western world will lose an important opportunity to diversify its sources of energy.
The West needs to respond to Russia’s aggression in a clear and determined manner. That doesn’t mean with force. Nor should it fall into a new cold war with Russia. But the West, particularly the U.S., should continue to mobilize the international community to condemn Russia’s behavior.
Presidential candidates Barack Obama (whom I support) and John McCain should endorse President George W. Bush’s efforts to oppose Russia’s actions and form a bipartisan stand on this issue. It is unfortunate that some of the candidates’ supporters are engaging in pointless criticism of each other’s public statements on the Georgia crisis. This is too important for that.
It is premature to specify what precise measures the West should adopt. But Russia must be made to understand that it is in danger of becoming ostracized internationally. This should be a matter of considerable concern to Russia’s new business élite, who are increasingly vulnerable to global financial pressure.
Russia’s powerful oligarchs have hundreds of billions of dollars in Western bank accounts. They would stand to lose a great deal in the event of a Cold War–style standoff that could conceivably result, at some stage, in the West’s freezing of such holdings.
At some point, the West should consider the Olympic option. If the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity is not adequately resolved (by, for example, the deployment in South Ossetia and Abkhazia of a truly independent international security force replacing Russian troops), the U.S. should contemplate withdrawing from the 2014 Winter Games, to be held in the Russian city of Sochi, next to the violated Georgia’s frontier.
There is a precedent for this. I was part of the Carter Administration when we brandished the Olympic torch as a symbolic weapon in 1980, pulling out of the Summer Games in Moscow after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.
The Soviet Union had planned a propaganda show reminiscent of Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin. America’s boycott delivered a body blow to President Leonid Brezhnev and his communist system and prevented Moscow from enjoying a world-class triumph.
The Georgian crisis is a critical test for Russia. If Putin sticks to his guns and subordinates Georgia and removes its freely elected President — something Putin’s Foreign Minister has explicitly called for — it is only a question of time before Moscow turns up the heat on Ukraine and the other independent but vulnerable post-Soviet states.
The West has to respond carefully but with a moral and strategic focus. Its objective has to be a democratic Russia that is a constructive participant in a global system based on respect for sovereignty, law and democracy.
But that objective can be achieved only if the world makes clear to Moscow that a stridently nationalistic Russia will not succeed in any effort to create a new empire in our postimperial age.
NOTE: Brzezinski, who was National Security Adviser to President Carter, is co-author, with Brent Scowcroft, of America and the World, to be published in September
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Georgia, Russia, Diplomacy, International Organizations, United Nations
Carlos Pascual, Vice President and Director, Foreign Policy
Steven Pifer, Visiting Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe
The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., Monday, August 18, 2008
Russian military operations against Georgia created the most serious crisis in that region since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. Moscow has defined Georgia’s European aspirations as a threat to Russian interests.
At stake is more than crisis in the Caucasus – but also whether Russia and the West can share a core base of values to combat terrorism, stop proliferation, and promote energy security. The United States cannot meet this test alone; it must mobilize the international community.
The devastation in Georgia and South Ossetia make clear one point: this tragedy will not easily be put behind. Whatever Georgia’s grievances, Tbilisi plainly miscalculated. It should have anticipated that sending its forces into South Ossetia would trigger a massive Russian response. Now Georgia faces the intense ire among the people it hoped to court.
Russia’s response – striking by air and land into undisputed Georgian territory and deploying troops into another breakaway region, Abkhazia – violated international law and made clear this is not just about South Ossetia.
Georgia’s independent foreign policy has angered Moscow, which has sought for years to re-build influence in the post-Soviet space. And it has become personal. Russian Prime Minister Putin, in particular, despises Georgian President Saakashvili and wants to bring him down.
This crisis comes when Washington is preoccupied, Russia is energy-rich and U.S.-Russian relations are strained. Washington, NATO allies and the European Union must stay on the same page when dealing with Moscow – whether in bilateral contacts with Russia or multilateral fora such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) or UN Security Council. The Kremlin will happily exploit any Western splits.
Here are ten points for a way forward.
[1] First, Washington and the EU must sustain personal and high-level engagement with Putin, Russian President Medvedev and Saakashvili. This conflict is tragically personal. Without personal engagement each actor will be swayed by anger. Sarkozy, French Foreign Minister Kouchner, Finnish Foreign Minister (and OSCE Chairman) Stubb, Secretary Rice and EU High Representative Solana must stay involved.
[2] Second, Washington will need to continue to reinforce European efforts to sustain the ceasefire completed on August 17. The United States cannot serve as an honest broker; Moscow sees Washington as too close to Georgia and unacceptable as a mediator. Paris has the hotline now with Moscow. Washington’s pressures have to be carefully in sync.
[3] Third, the UN and OSCE should expand their observers on the ground to help make the parties accountable. Moscow and Tbilisi offer wildly diverging narratives as to what is going on. The international community needs eyes in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and elsewhere in Georgia to establish ground truth. The OSCE or UN Security Council should organize the observers, and the UNSC should approve the mission. Russia obsessively calls for respect for the UN – it should now respect its rhetoric.
[4] Fourth, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should use the authorities under longstanding General Assembly Resolution 46/182 to deploy a humanitarian planning mission to South Ossetia and undisputed Georgia. By most accounts, over 100,000 have been displaced. If Russia and Georgia want to stem the human suffering and begin to rebuild, they should accept and guarantee safety to humanitarian workers. Such a UN Mission does not need Security Council approval.
[5] Fifth, the G-7 should make clear that it wants Russia as a partner, but that means a partner that does not assault small neighboring states. Secretary Rice’s August 11 conference call to consult with G-7 foreign ministers was a smart move, clearly signaling that Russian actions could put its seat at the G-8 table at risk.
[6] Sixth, the West should build a coalition of nations around common respect for international borders. Washington should engage China, which shares a long border with Russia and cannot be happy about Russian military actions. Beijing, moreover, holds a veto on the UN Security Council. The U.S. government should talk to the Central Asian states as well; Russia’s pummeling of Georgia must have set off alarm bells in their capitals.
[7] Seventh, NATO should send a clear message about the desires of Georgia (and Ukraine) to ultimately enter the Alliance. NATO should ask itself what it means if Russia concludes that its tactics have won itself a veto over decisions on NATO membership. NATO should act on the merits of the case, and Russia should know that NATO is not deterred. Georgia (and Ukraine) should know that acceptance is not automatic.
[8] Eighth, Saakashvili, and every Georgian, should register that Georgia needs more than the assurances of good will from its friends. It needs an alliance. Now is the time to galvanize Georgian democracy, free the Georgian press, and meet the criteria for a NATO membership action plan.
[9] Ninth, the United States, EU and NATO should reassure Ukraine, whose European desires also draw Moscow’s ire. Ukraine should reduce its vulnerabilities to Russian pressure by paying debts on time, enhancing its energy security, and ending the infighting between the president and prime minister. Now is not the time for a divided government in Kyiv.
[10] Tenth, France (acting as EU president) should seek the UN Security Council’s support to host within three months negotiations with Georgians and South Ossetians and, in parallel, with Georgians and Abkhazians to settle these conflicts. The status quo is not sustainable. Yes, it is a long shot, but the alternative is two flashpoints that could very quickly trigger a new conflict.
NOTE:  Carlos Pasqual and Steven Pifer have both served as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Micholas Kulish, Kiev, and Sara Rhodin, Moscow
New York Times, NY, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008
KIEV, Ukraine — For 18 years now the countries along the border with the former Soviet Union have cherished their democracies, all made possible from the simple premise that the days of Russian dominance were over.
The events in Georgia over the past week have made them rethink that idea. Poland announced Thursday that it had reached a deal to base American missile interceptors on its territory, after months of talks. But then a Russian general went so far as to say that Poland might draw Russian retaliation, sending new shudders through the region.
The sense of alarm may be greatest in Ukraine. Since the Orange Revolution in 2004, when the pro-Western Viktor A. Yushchenko came to power after widespread protests, Ukraine has been a thorn in Moscow’s side, though perhaps not as sharp as the outspoken Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
“We’re the next,” said Tanya Mydruk, 22, an office assistant who lives in Kiev, the capital. “Sooner or later our president is going to say or do something that goes too far and then it will start.”
Ukraine has done little to win Russia’s favor since the crisis in the Caucasus began. First the Kiev government announced that it would restrict the movements of Russia’s Black Sea fleet into Sevastopol, on the Crimean peninsula. On Friday, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was prepared to give Western countries access to its missile-warning systems.
“What happened here in the last week certainly came as a shock, not only to Georgia but to a lot of others as well,” said Peter Semneby, the European Union’s special representative for the South Caucasus. “A lot of people will, as a result of this, want to build a closer relationship with their Western partners as quickly as possible.”
Vadym Karasyov, a political scientist here, said the Georgia conflict would start “a new circle of militarization in this region.”
Feelings toward Russia are complex here. Ukraine has a sizable Russian ethnic minority, roughly 17 percent of a total population of 46 million. Many Ukrainians speak first of their fraternal bonds to Russia, not of enmity. And Russian speakers watched the conflict in Georgia through the prism of state-controlled Russian television channels broadcast here.
Asked whether she thought Ukraine’s future lay with Russia or the European Union, Lena Stepnevska, 24, who works at a construction company and was out for a walk with a friend Friday, opted for the former. “I would like to believe it will be Russia, because we are fraternal nations and have to support each other,” she said.
Though he supports membership in both NATO and the European Union, Anatoliy Grytsenko, the head of the national security and defense committee in Parliament and a former defense minister, said that Russia could not be ignored. “Russia will not disappear tomorrow, as well as in a century or two. We will always wake up and it will be there, not Canada,” he said.
The Baltic states, meanwhile, are also gravely concerned about what a newly resurgent Russia could mean for them. “In the public, there’s a certain anxiety,” said the Estonian president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. “Given our history, we understand why people feel anxious.”
While Mr. Ilves claimed that fears that Russia would invade Estonia were unfounded, he stressed the serious consequences of Russia’s actions in Georgia on the international scene.
“The assumption of the post-1991 settlement has been that the old Russia is in the past — that it is not a country that invades its neighbors,” he said. “Basically the entire European security architecture is based on this premise.”
Estonia has been at the forefront of states giving aid to Georgia. The country not only provided humanitarian assistance, but also sent Internet security specialists to Georgia and agreed to host Georgian Web sites. Like Georgia, Estonia was also subject to cyberattacks against its government Web sites in April 2007.
As much as there is fear in the region, there is also anger that more could have been done by Western allies to rein in Russia. In an interview with a Polish newspaper on Saturday, Lech Kaczynski, Poland’s president, criticized the European Union for being too soft on Moscow.
Elka Krol, a Warsaw resident who organizes photo exhibitions, said in a telephone interview that she was angry about what had happened and particularly the impotence of the Western powers to fix it. “From point of view, everyone just shouts and says empty words, but nobody is doing anything.”
But she said she felt no imminent danger from Russia, which stemmed partly from a sense that Poland is much more developed and much better integrated into the West. “The difference between Poland and, for instance, Ukraine is really quite big, I think,” she said.
At Shevchenko Park in the heart of the Ukrainian capital, card games have gotten pretty heated since the war between Georgia and Russia began.
“Smart Russians keep silent and they still think about their fate in Ukraine,” said Vasyl Marsiuk, 70. He was there to play cards with friends on a hot Saturday morning, sitting at one of the granite tables where the older men also play dominos or checkers in the shade of chestnut trees.
In Mr. Marsiuk’s eyes, the Russians are the clear aggressors in the Caucasus conflict, and they are by no means finished with their ambitions for the region. “Ukraine is under the same threat, the same kind of Damocles sword,” Mr. Marsiuk said.
Mr. Marsiuk spoke Ukrainian, but a man overhearing him quickly launched into a defense of Russia, in Russian. “It was Georgia that started the conflict,” said Pyotr Lyuty, 53, who said he had served in military intelligence in Soviet times.
Asked if he thought the Soviet Union should have broken up, he replied with a simple and direct, “No,” before adding, “My grandfather explained it to me. You can break a bunch of twigs one by one, but if we take a bunch of twigs you can never break it.”
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

COMMENTS: William Harrison, Guardian, London, UK, Sunday August 17 2008 
Western politicians and commentators have been quick to seize on the conflict in South Ossetia as a defining moment in world history, or their careers. Some have been clambering to play peacemaker (Sarkozy, Kouchner), others want to boost their reputations for taking a strong line with Moscow (McCain, Miliband). But closer to Russia, in the neighbouring countries of Ukraine and Belarus, some politicians have been conspicuous by their silence.
In Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenka has stunned the Russians with his lack of overt support. In an outburst on Tuesday, Russia’s ambassador to Belarus said he was “perplexed by the modest silence on the Belarusian side. You need to express yourself more clearly on such issues.”
Belarus is a member of a union state with Russia, has close economic, political and social ties with the country, and has enjoyed much support from Moscow in the past – from cheap gas to the congratulations Putin sent to Lukashenka on his re-election in 2006, while others were declaring him “the last dictator in Europe”.
But in the isolation from the west that followed his re-election in 2006, including travel bans and economic sanctions, Lukashenka also started to find that money from Russia was beginning to dry up as Moscow hiked the price of gas.
Since then, the Belarusian leader has taken a series of steps to persuade the west that he is opening things up, notably by releasing a number of political prisoners. His reaction to the July bombing of a concert he was attending can be viewed as a further attempt to give his regime a better image in the west.
The EU and the US have responded, but made it clear that any concessions are dependent on a greater degree of openness in the parliamentary elections in September.
Coming out in support of Russia’s war in Georgia could have caused irreparable damage to his plan, given the predominantly anti-Russian mood in western political circles. Lukashenka’s silence, therefore, should be understood as consistent with a gradual shift in his policy towards appeasement with the EU and the US.
He is, of course, playing each side off against the other. He has no desire to open politics in Belarus up any more than is necessary to get what he wants. Furthermore, the opposition in Belarus is divided and weak.
But any opening up in Belarus must be welcomed: it shows that the west’s soft power is in a position to have a positive effect in the region and may give the opposition a chance to put forward their views in a less hostile environment. Before making any concessions, however, the EU and the US need to ensure that Lukashenka is not just window-dressing.
In Ukraine, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has had nothing to say about the war. With her ability to attract support in all parts of the country, Tymoshenko is a unique figure in Ukrainian politics. As the leading contender for the 2010 presidential elections, she has no intention of alienating any part of the electorate, as demonstrated by her non-committal position on joining Nato.
More interestingly, Tymoshenko’s predecessor, Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovich, whom the Russians tried to propel to victory in the 2004 presidential elections, has been restrained in his comments. His party as a whole has been calling for peace and criticising President Viktor Yushchenko’s one-sided support for Georgia, without decisively coming out on the Russian side.
This reflects a mood in the Party of Regions – whose main support base is in the Russian-speaking east of the country – that is split between pro-Russian elements and groups with a more pro-western orientation. A Party of Regions deputy in the Verkhovna Rada I spoke to last month told me that they were in favour of Nato.
The party’s major backer and Europe’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, is part of a more liberal wing of the party which is purportedly in favour of a move towards Nato for business reasons. The party did not take part in anti-Nato protests during exercises in Odessa last month, nor when the secretary general visited Kiev in June.
The Party of Regions is not likely to start campaigning in favour of Nato membership any time soon and has a tendency to exploit and inflame this divisive issue – such as during the Nato exercises in Feodosia in 2006 – in order to garner votes. But these are further signs that the west’s soft power is having an influence on Ukrainian politicians.
The reactions of Lukashenka and Yanukovich to the conflict in South Ossetia show that Russia’s military victory does not herald the whitewash in the region that many have been proclaiming. If Russia’s intervention in Georgia has made some fear that the country’s territorial ambitions are unstoppable, calm analysis points to a more complex picture.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC): http://www.usubc.org
Promoting U.S.-Ukraine business relations since 1995.

Ukraine will be a test as to whether the Kremlin still feels a need to flex its muscles.
By Lilia Shevtsova, Senior Associate, Carnegie Moscow Center.
The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 18, 2008 

The war between Russia and Georgia is not about disputed territory or the personal animosity between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Nor is it about Moscow’s moral claims to defend the Ossetians — whether they are South Ossetians or North Ossetians.

After all, Russia bears responsibility for not only failing to avert the tragedy in Beslan, located in North Ossetia, but also for the botched rescue attempt that resulted in unnecessary casualties. The current armed conflict between Moscow and Tbilisi is about power and survival.

True, there are other factors that contributed to the conflict, such as Russia’s failure to play a stabilizing role in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as Saakashvili’s reckless provocations. But even if you combine all of these elements, they probably wouldn’t have been enough to trigger last week’s war.

The deciding factor was Georgia’s intention to join NATO and NATO’s plans to eventually offer membership to the two countries, which Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer reiterated at the April NATO conference in Bucharest. The worst nightmare for the Russian elite would be Georgia (and Ukraine) becoming full NATO members.

NATO encirclement would be a serious threat for a state that defines itself through highly personalized power and a constant search for internal and external enemies. Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev cannot control the country without maintaining this image of Russia as a “besieged fortress.”

The elite, who have relied on hyped-up anti-Western and especially anti-U.S. rhetoric as a key component of their foreign policy and as a means to mobilize public support, had to strike before they lost their strategic backyard to the West. Ossetians and Georgians were, unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By teaching the Georgians a lesson, Moscow sent Ukraine and other countries it considers within its sphere of influence a warning: It may be dangerous to have such warm relations with the West.

Russia’s military response had another purpose as well — to show that the Medvedev-Putin tandem can be tough. This show of strength was particularly important because the elite had started to fragment and the public was starting to wonder who was really in control of the country.

The war has demonstrated the emergence of the Kremlin’s new “containment policy” targeted at the West. The country’s elite have turned fiery anti-Western and anti-Georgian rhetoric into military action by attacking beyond Russia’s borders.

Yet it is the West that has given the Kremlin the justification it needs. Russian propaganda has taken full advantage of the West’s double standard and hypocrisy regarding its selective interpretation of “regime change, ethnic cleansing, genocide and humanitarian intervention” in Iraq and Serbia.

Georgia needs to forget about its territorial integrity and accept the loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Further, if Georgia wants to put an end to the conflict, it might need Saakashvili to step down and allow a more pragmatic leader to come to power. Ironically, Moscow, by attempting to oust Saakashvili, may actually facilitate Georgia’s NATO membership.

The war has intensified a conservative backlash in Russia. The country is now highly unified against the West — not unlike the consensus before the second Chechen war, which helped Putin’s rise to power.

Even those that have traditionally belonged to the liberal camp quickly switched gears to support the official line and blast the Georgians. The Kremlin has convinced most Russians that the West, under the banner of liberalism and democracy, has been able to carry out color revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia.

This helps explain why there is no strong democratic opposition in Russia; no one wants to be considered a U.S. stooge or a fifth column. When the country is so united against its “enemies,” there is no need for the Kremlin or the White House to restart reforms. Why rock the boat?
If Medvedev had any serious modernization plans before the war started, he has no other choice now but to drop these plans now. His top priority is to show that he is a strong commander-in-chief during a military conflict.

There is evidence, however, that the Russian ruling tandem may also be seeking reconciliation with the West, following Putin’s model of “for and against the West at the same time.” Some members of the elite feel that its time to mend fences in order to prevent Western ostracism of Russia, which may put their accounts in Western banks at risk.

Ukraine will be a test as to whether the Kremlin still feels a need to flex its muscles. If Kiev insists on joining NATO, Crimea could easily become a point of heightened conflict between Russia and Ukraine, particularly if Crimea seeks some kind of union with Russia.

What about the West? It is split between the hawks, such as U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, who has repeatedly called for kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight, and the doves, such as Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Up to this point, the West has not been able to pursue a dual policy of engaging Russia and getting Moscow to abide by the membership rules it has pledged to follow as a member of certain international organizations.

In any case, the drama in the Caucasus continues. It could destroy not only Medvedev’s political future, but it could also dampen investor confidence in the country for years and cripple Russia’s ability to modernize.

Moreover, this conflict could have a long-term negative impact on U.S.-Russian relations and become an important factor in whom the American voters choose in the presidential election in November.

And so much of this mess was caused by the Kremlin’s inferiority complex.
LINK: http://www.moscowtimes.ru/article/600/42/369860.htm

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
It reflects Moscow’s view that the US and NATO are not to be taken seriously

The message being sent to Ukraine and the Baltic countries is brutally clear.
Emeritus Professor of strategic studies at Australian National University
The Australian, Sydney, Australia, Monday, August 18, 2008
RUSSIA’S attack on Georgia shows that it is back as a force to be reckoned with.
It reflects Moscow’s view that the US and NATO are not to be taken seriously when it comes to what it calls its “near abroad” blizhnoe zarubezhe’e. The message being sent to Ukraine and the Baltic countries is brutally clear: Russia is returning to great power status and that is being demonstrated to them by its military operations in Georgia.
This is the first time Russia has used military force against another state since the USSR pulled out of Afghanistan. In the intervening two decades, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and Russia experienced a massive collapse of its economic and military power and a dramatic reduction in its importance in world affairs.
Worse still, despite promises to the contrary by the US, NATO has expanded its presence to the very borders of Russia and occupied parts of the former Soviet strategic space in the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe.
Now, the US wants Ukraine and Georgia to become members of the alliance. This has angered Moscow enormously.
Russia rejects American criticism of its invasion of Georgia and responds that “the invaders and occupiers of Iraq” lack the moral authority to offer such criticism. It points to the evidence that Georgian aggression against South Ossetia was responsible for Russia’s military response.
The great puzzle here is how President Mikheil Saakashvili could make such a gross miscalculation given the closeness of his relations with the US and the presence of American military advisers in Georgia.
Even Mikhail Gorbachev believes that such a reckless decision could only be made by the Georgian leadership “with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force”.
Even if that is not true, America’s reputation has been seriously damaged. It was understandable for the leaders of Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to meet in Tbilisi last week, stating that the time of Russian dominance is over and calling on the EU and NATO “to oppose Russia’s imperialist policy to Georgia”.
But do they actually believe NATO is going to go to war with Russia, given Europe’s heavy dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the fact that America is over-extended militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan?
None of this is to defend Russia’s disproportionate and brutal attack on Georgia. Nor is it to condone Moscow’s bullying of its former East European captive nations. But it is to recognise that America’s dismissal of Russia as a third-rate power after the collapse of the USSR was a great mistake. The unseemly haste in deploying NATO military forces within striking range of Russia has played to Moscow’s worst historical paranoias.
And while Condoleezza Rice dismisses as “ludicrous” Moscow’s fears about US plans to place ballistic missile defence forces in Poland and the Czech Republic, Vladimir Putin suggests that Moscow will retaliate by targeting its nuclear missiles on Europe, or base them in the Kaliningrad enclave (which adjoins Poland), should the US system be deployed. From Moscow’s perspective, another EU error was to encourage Kosovo’s independence from Serbia, a fellow Slav country.
Putin warned about the repercussions of this and he cites South Ossetia and Abkhazia as having the same rights. Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov very clearly stated: “One can forget about any talk about Georgia’s territorial integrity because, I believe, it is impossible to persuade South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree with the logic that they can be forced back into the Georgian state.”
Russia’s President, Dmitri Medvedev, now claims: “Historically Russia has been, and will continue to be, a guarantor of security for peoples of the Caucasus.” This is plainly a declaration that the Caucasus is part of Russia’s strategic space.
So, what does all this mean for Russia’s future geopolitical stance?
As the US internet report Stratfor observes, what Russia has done in Georgia is on a new order of confidence and indifference to world opinion. Putin did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power closely aligned with the US. Given that the US is absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he judged correctly that the US was in no position to intervene anywhere on the Russian periphery.
Russia will now be more confident and self-assured with its status as a great power velikaya derzhava. This promises greater tension – perhaps serious tension – between Russia and the West.
America’s relations with Russia are now at the most serious level of disagreement in the past 25 years. Even so, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates makes it clear that he does not see any prospect for the use of American military force.
Moscow will seek to reassert Russia’s natural sphere of influence in the “near abroad”, where some 25 million ethnic Russians live. Russia will seek to establish Russian dominance in its neighbourhood, especially in Ukraine and the Baltic countries. If this means clashing with NATO, it will be prepared to use its energy supplies as a lever or even threaten the use of force.
Russia’s weakness for the past 17 years is an aberration that is about to be rectified. The new Russia will be assertive in its foreign policy and aggressive in its neighbourhood. Moscow is no longer prepared to allow the shift in the military balance on its borders to go unchallenged.
Those theorists who have been proclaiming that future wars will not be between states over territory and will not involve conventional conflict have been proven wrong by Russia, as have those who assert that the major threats to world order no longer come from rivalry between great powers.
The implications of all this for Australia is that an authoritarian Russia, as well as an authoritarian China, is on the move.
And they both perceive America to be a weakened and distracted power. That should have important implications for our forthcoming defence white paper.
Paul Dibb is emeritus professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. His article The Bear is Back was published in The American Interest in December 2006.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
The most vulnerable country is probably Ukraine, wedged between Russia and NATO states.

The Moscow Times, Moscow, Russia, Monday, August 18, 2008 
WARSAW — Poland strikes a deal on a U.S. missile-defense base. Ukraine tries to limit the Russian navy’s movement in its waters. The Czech Republic’s leader warns his nation is in danger of being sucked back into Moscow’s orbit.

Russia’s attack on Georgia has sparked fears across the young democracies of Eastern and Central Europe that Moscow is once again hungry for conquest — and they are scrambling to protect themselves by tightening security alliances with Western powers.

Around the region, memories are being revived of the darkest days of Soviet oppression.

In Prague, where Czechs on Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion that crushed a reform movement, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek expressed fears of history repeating itself.

“The Russian tanks on the streets of Georgian towns remind us … of the invasion in 1968,” Topolanek wrote in Mlada Fronta Dnes daily, the country’s biggest newspaper.

“But it is not just history. It is still, even now, a relevant question whether we will or will not belong to the sphere of Russian influence.”

Since fighting broke out 10 days ago between Russia and Georgia, the crisis has dominated headlines and sparked pro-Georgia rallies across the region.

Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski and the leaders of four ex-Soviet republics journeyed together to Tbilisi last week to show solidarity with Georgia. At a demonstration there, Kaczynski declared that the Russians had again “shown the face that we have known for centuries.”

“I am scared of those things that are happening in Georgia now,” said Juste Viaciulyte, a 23-year-old student at a rally Thursday in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, to protest Russia’s actions in Georgia.

He noted that the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad borders his country “and is beefed up with Russian soldiers, missiles and tanks. It would take just several hours for them to ignite a similar nightmare here in Lithuania if something turned really wrong.”

The most vulnerable country is probably Ukraine, wedged between Russia and NATO states.

Eugeniusz Smolar, director of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, said countries like Poland and the Czech Republic are safer because they already belong to NATO and the EU.

“But not so with Ukraine; with Ukraine there is fear,” Smolar said. “It’s very unstable politically, there is a strong pro-Russian political element, plus there’s strong activity of Russian intelligence.” And there are signs Central and East European countries feel that their NATO membership isn’t sufficient protection.

As part of the preliminary missile-defense deal that Poland struck with the United States on Thursday, it secured from Washington a commitment of swifter help than that offered by NATO.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
NOTE: Send in a letter-to-the-editor today. Let us hear from you.

By Henry Meyer, Bloomberg, Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MOSCOW- Now that Russia has humiliated Georgia with a punishing military offensive, it may shift its attention to reining in pro-Western Ukraine, another American ally in the former Soviet Union.
Moving to counter any threat, Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko today restricted the movement of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, based in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, citing national security. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow denounced the decision as a “serious, new anti-Russian step.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s first order of business in confronting Ukraine likely will be to try to thwart its bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
“We still don’t know who’s next,” said former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was foreign minister under the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who helped end the Cold War. “Ukraine most likely,” because of its Russian- speaking population and naval base in the Crimea, Shevardnadze said in an interview today.
The U.S. has long seen Georgia and Ukraine as counterweights to Russia’s influence in the region. Opposition leaders in the two countries came to power after U.S.-backed popular protests in 2003 and 2004.
Their ascension advanced an American strategy that seeks to expand NATO to include both countries and secure energy routes from the Caspian Sea that bypass Russia. The BP Plc-led Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline to Turkey runs through Georgia.
Policy in Doubt
The future effectiveness of that policy is now in doubt, with Georgia’s U.S.-educated president, Mikheil Saakashvili, 40, weakened by a five-day blitz that his American patrons were powerless to halt.
Medvedev, 42, and Putin, 56, say Russia began the offensive in response to a drive by Georgia to restore control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Now Russia has ousted Georgian forces from there and from Abkhazia, another separatist region, and destroyed much of the central government’s military.
“Georgia will be enormously more careful in its actions in the future, and much less confident of its relationship with the United States,” U.S.-based geopolitical advisory group Stratfor said in a research note.
NATO is scheduled to review the two countries’ bids to join the Western military alliance in December. NATO leaders in April promised Ukraine and Georgia eventual membership while declining them fast-track status. Russia, which has also denounced U.S. plans to station missile defense sites in former Soviet satellites Poland and the Czech Republic, says the expansion of the Cold War-era alliance to its borders is a security threat.
`Similar Fate’
NATO should affirm the potential of Georgia and Ukraine to become alliance members in the face of Russia’s incursion into Georgia, senior U.S. officials said yesterday in Washington.
“Russia may find it convenient to raise the level of tension with Ukraine in the run-up to the December NATO review,” Citigroup Inc.’s London-based David Lubin and Ali Al- Eyd wrote in a note to clients. “If the conflict with Russia decelerates or reverses Georgia’s integration with the West, a similar fate could also affect Ukraine.”
Ukraine, a country of 46 million people that’s almost as big as France, has a large Russian-speaking population in the south and east that opposes NATO entry and looks to Moscow. Russian officials warn that if Yushchenko pushes Ukraine into NATO, the nation may split in two. Russia has made its displeasure with Ukraine clear, temporarily cutting off gas supplies to the country 2 1/2 years ago and reducing deliveries last March.
Show of Solidarity
Yushchenko, 54, yesterday flew to the Georgian capital Tbilisi to show solidarity with Saakashvili along with the leaders of four ex-Communist eastern European nations that joined NATO as a bulwark against Russia.
Today, he cited national security needs when he insisted Russia’s Black Sea fleet coordinate its movements with Ukranian authorities. Russia has leased the port since 1991, and ships from there took part in hostilities against Georgia.
“The previous liberalized regime for Russian fleet movements gave the opportunity for Russia to cross Ukrainian state borders and to move across the Ukrainian part of the Black Sea without any control,” Yushchenko said in a decree, published on his Web site.
`A Warning’
The military operation in Georgia will serve “as a warning” to Ukraine that it should desist from petitioning for NATO entry, said Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Otherwise, Moscow may intervene to protect the allegedly threatened interests of the Russian population.”
Russian Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu today rounded on Ukraine for its public support of Georgia in the conflict.
“One week before these events, we send a column of humanitarian aid to Ukraine to help flood victims and the next we find they’re offering military aid, arms for the destruction of civilians,” Shoigu told reporters in Moscow.
Germany and France opposed NATO entry for Georgia, a country of 4.6 million people that is almost as big as the U.S. state of South Carolina, and Ukraine because of the Georgian separatist disputes and opposition to membership among some Ukrainians. They now will feel their concerns have been justified, said Cliff Kupchan of New-York based Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm.
NATO Membership
“Considering both European reticence and possible fears about Ukraine, I think it is very much on the slow track,” he said, referring to NATO membership for both states.
The assault by Russian artillery, tanks and bombers inflicted significant damage on Georgia’s armed forces, which last month increased their size to 37,000 soldiers. Russia’s military has 1.13 million personnel. The U.S. trained and equipped Georgia’s military and in 2006 approved almost $300 million in aid over five years.
Ukraine has about 214,000 soldiers, which include 84,000 paramilitary troops, according to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
“A substantial part of our military power has been destroyed,” said Georgian National Security Council chief Kakha Lomaia. “However, we did preserve the core of our army, and have managed to regroup it close to the capital.”
An airbase in Senaki was destroyed and three Georgian ships were blown up in the Black Sea port of Poti, he said.
Base Bombed
A month ago, about 1,000 U.S. soldiers joined 600 Georgians and 100 from Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Armenia in joint exercises at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi. Russia repeatedly bombed the base during this month’s war.
“The American role in the region has been weakened,” Jan Techau, a European and security affairs analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said in an interview. “It’s a reassertion of Russia’s dominant role in the region.”
Ian Hague, a Bank of Georgia board member and fund manager with $1.8 billion in the former Soviet Union, said the attack on Georgia discouraged Western investments in energy infrastructure by raising the risk premium.
“It’s somewhat reminiscent, in 1939, when Stalin attacked Finland,” former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told Bloomberg Television. “I think this kind of confrontation is the best kind of answer as to why they are seeking to be members of NATO.”
Henry Meyer in Moscow at Hmeyer4@bloomberg.net.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By TONY KARON, Time Magazine
New York, New York, Friday, August 15, 2008
Washington hawks insist that the remedy to Russia’s military humiliation of Georgia is to expedite the smaller country’s incorporation into NATO. After all, Moscow might think twice about attacking any nation able to trigger the Atlantic Alliance’s Article 5, which obliges all member states to respond militarily to an attack on any one of them.
President Bush, in fact, toured Europe last spring to stump aggressively for Georgia and Ukraine to be granted Membership Action Plans, the first step toward joining the Alliance.
But despite Bush’s high-profile campaigning, the proposal was rebuffed at NATO’s April summit by 10 member states, led by key U.S. allies Germany and France. That rejection, said Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain, “might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia,” and he urged European NATO members to “revisit the decision.”

But many of the Europeans draw the opposite conclusion. They see last week’s events in Georgia as vindicating their caution over granting Georgia NATO membership. Indeed, many in Europe see the Bush Administration’s military support for Georgia and its trumpeting of Tbilisi’s cause in NATO as having emboldened President Mikheil Saakashvili to launch his reckless attack on South Ossetia.

If Russia’s brutal response to Georgia’s provocation had, in fact, obliged NATO to intervene, the Atlantic Alliance itself might have faced a terminal crisis. Most of its member states have no enthusiasm for confronting a resurgent Russia in the Caucasus, traditionally a Russian sphere of influence.
The Alliance, for one thing, is having enough trouble maintaining 71,000 troops in Afghanistan, where they are managing only to tread water against mounting odds.
Other arguments against confrontation: much of Western Europe is wholly dependent on Russian energy supplies, and European negotiators believe there is little chance of a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear standoff without committed support from Moscow.
So, regardless of the appeals of Senator McCain — and his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama — the events of the past week have more likely placed Georgia’s NATO membership in the deep freeze for the foreseeable future, even if the Alliance remains rhetorically committed to the idea in principle. If so, Moscow can count what has transpired as a major victory: it has prevented the advance of a rival military alliance into Russia’s backyard.
Russia’s very purpose in its “punishment” of Georgia has been to warn neighbors inclined to challenge Moscow from under a Western security umbrella that if a storm is provoked, that umbrella offers precious little protection. The conflict was never simply about Georgia and its restive minority regions; it was always about NATO, as well as the regional balance of power between Russia and the U.S.
Putin has used the opportunity presented by Saakashvili to show Russia’s neighbors that Washington’s tough talk could not be matched by any meaningful response to the Kremlin’s military campaign.
Bush may now be trying to play catch-up with his tough talk, but reversing the impact of the Russian offensive will require a lot more than stitching up a bloodied Georgia and casting Russia out of the G-8 or boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
(Thursday’s announcement of a deal between the U.S. and Poland to station missile interceptors on Russia’s doorstep over increasingly bellicose objections from Moscow may have been timed to signal resolve in the face of Russian aggression, but that plan was in the works long before the Georgia showdown and is unlikely to have any effect on the Georgia situation.)
When NATO holds its last summit of the Bush presidency in December, the symbolic language may remain soothingly supportive of membership for Georgia, but don’t expect to see it granted a Membership Action Plan. Indeed, the events of the past week have called into question the very purpose of NATO and its relationship with Russia.
While many Western critics declared the Russian actions of the past week a reversion to Cold War tactics, Moscow sees NATO itself as a Cold War relic.
The Russians complain that following the demise of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Treaty Organization, the U.S. reneged on promises to create a new global security order and instead moved to expand its own Cold War military alliance — NATO — into Moscow’s own sphere of influence.
NATO’s very purpose had been to contain the Soviet Union in the wake of World War II. The Red Army had just broken the back of Hitler’s Wehrmacht and put Moscow in control of the Baltic states (annexed at the outset of the war), Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.
Having watched Central Europe transformed by Soviet military power into a patchwork of authoritarian vassal states, Western Europe was only too willing to join an all-for-one military alliance with the U.S. and Canada to even up the odds in the event of further Soviet expansionism.
Nor was it surprising that decades later, those Europeans who had actually lived under the Soviet heel would race to join the same alliance at the first opportunity. The anti-Moscow military alliance not only remained intact in the decade after the Cold War but also advanced toward Russia’s shrinking borders. Russians saw all of that as strategic encirclement with hostile intent.
Last month, General Norton Schwartz, nominated as chief of the U.S. Air Force, said at his confirmation hearing that the U.S. needed to send a warning to Moscow in the wake of Russian media reports claiming that Moscow was weighing the deployment of nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba in response to U.S. missile-defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The Russians should be told that moving bombers to Cuba “crosses a red line for the United States of America,” he said. Let’s just say that the Russian military brass have long felt the same way about Ukraine and Georgia being militarily integrated into a rival alliance.
Russia could do little to stem NATO’s advance during the economic and social collapse presided over by Boris Yeltsin. But Putin’s Russia, flush with petrodollars, has re-emerged as a geopolitical player at the same time that U.S. influence has been waning.
With the bloodletting in Georgia, the Russians are telling Europe that the current security architecture is dysfunctional — a message Moscow sent earlier in the year through a vague proposal to replace NATO with a pan-European security structure in which Russia would be an equal partner.
In Washington and in many former Soviet satellite states, the response to the Georgia debacle will be to continue NATO’s eastward expansion and stiffen its resolve to contain a resurgent Russia. But in Western Europe, there will be growing doubts over the value of a security system built upon a structure designed to isolate and contain Russia.
The problem, of course, is that NATO operates strictly by consensus, and in the absence of such consensus, paralysis may set in. Indeed, it may yet emerge that Putin’s campaign in the Caucasus has succeeded not only in keeping Georgia out of NATO but in dealing a body blow to the Alliance itself.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Ukraine is in his sights. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.
President Bush and Secretary Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin.

EDITORIAL: The Wall Street Journal Europe
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The farther Russia’s tanks roll into Georgia, the more the world is beginning to see the reality of Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions. Having consolidated his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead President, Mr. Putin is now pushing to reassert Russian dominance in Eurasia.

Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Baltic states could be threatened if he’s allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia.
No matter who fired the first shot last last week in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, Moscow is using the separatist issue as an excuse to demolish Georgia’s military and, if possible, depose its democratically elected government. Russian forces moved ever deeper into Georgia proper yesterday.
They launched a second front in the west from another breakaway province, Abkhazia, and took the central city of Gori, which lies 40 miles from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. These moves slice the country in half and isolate its ports, most of which Russia has bombed or blockaded. Moscow dismissed a cease-fire drawn up by European nations and signed by Georgia.
Russian bombers have also hit residential and industrial areas, making a mockery of Moscow’s charge that Georgia is the party indiscriminately killing civilians. Russian claims of Georgian ethnic cleansing now look like well-rehearsed propaganda lines to justify a well-prepared invasion. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of tanks, ships and warplanes were waiting for Mr. Putin’s command.
While the rape of Chechnya was brutal, this is the most brazen act of Mr. Putin’s reign, the first military offensive outside Russia’s borders since Soviet rule ended.
Yet it also fits a pattern of other threats and affronts to Russia’s neighbors: turning off the oil or natural-gas taps to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and even to NATO-member Lithuania; launching a cyberassault on Estonia; opposing two antimissile sites in NATO members in Eastern Europe that couldn’t begin to neutralize Russia’s offensive capabilities.
Our emphasis on NATO here is no coincidence. The Georgia invasion is a direct slap at the Western alliance. Tbilisi, like Kiev, has been pushing for NATO membership. Mr. Putin decided to act while some alliance members, led by Germany, dallied over their applications. Georgia was first. Ukraine, which has been pushing Russia to move its Black Sea fleet’s headquarters out of the Crimea, could be next.
The alliance needs to respond forcefully, and it can start today. NATO officials have granted Russia a special meeting before deciding what to do about Georgia — though we don’t recall Russia briefing NATO about its plans in the Caucasus.
The meeting is an opportunity to relay to Moscow that Georgian and Ukrainian membership is back on the table and that the alliance is considering all options for Georgia, from a humanitarian airlift to military aid, if Russia doesn’t withdraw immediately.
Mr. Putin is betting that the West needs him for oil and deterring Iran’s nuclear ambitions more than he needs the West. He’s wrong — not least since his “cooperation” on Iran consists of helping Tehran stall for time and selling the mullahs advanced antiaircraft missiles. Russia also needs the West’s capital and especially its expertise in developing its oil and gas fields at least as much as the West needs Russian energy supplies.
The U.S. and Europe need to make all of that clear. Forcing Russia to veto a strong condemnation of its own actions at the U.N. Security Council would be one way to turn the pressure up. And speaking of pressure, where are all the peace protesters during this war? They can’t all be in China.
As for the U.S., this is perhaps the last chance for President Bush to salvage any kind of positive legacy toward Russia, amid what is a useful record elsewhere in Eurasia.
While Mr. Bush has championed the region’s fledgling democracies, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin. Now would be a good moment for Mr. Bush to publicly acknowledge his misjudgment and rally the West’s response.
John McCain had the Russian leader pegged better, which speaks well of his foreign-policy instincts. The Republican Presidential candidate has long said that Russia should be booted from the G-8 and yesterday he outlined a forceful Western strategy on Russia that stops short of military action.
Barack Obama has in the past indicated support for the Georgia and Ukraine NATO bids, but the Democratic candidate has yet to explain in any detail how he would respond to the current conflict.
There’s one other way the U.S. could hit Russia where it hurts: by strengthening the dollar. The greenback’s weakness has contributed greatly to the record oil prices that have in turn made Russia flush with petrodollars and fueled Mr. Putin’s expansionist ambitions. Crude prices continued to fall yesterday, below $115 a barrel, and further deflating that bubble would do more to sober up an oil-drunk Kremlin than would any kind of economic sanctions.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia isn’t the former Soviet Union, bent on ideological confrontation around the world. But it is a Bonapartist power intent on dominating its neighbors and restoring its clout on the world stage. Unless Russians see that there are costs for their Napoleon’s expansionism, Georgia isn’t likely to be his last stop.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC) www.usubc.org.
Promoting Ukraine and U.S.-Ukraine business relations since 1995. 
Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia

EDITORIAL: The Wall Street  Journal Asia 
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Thursday, August 14, 2008

On June 13, 1948, the day after the Soviet Union took the first step in its blockade of Berlin, U.S. General Lucius Clay sent a cable to Washington making the case for standing up to the Soviets. “We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent.” The Berlin Airlift began 13 days later.

Sixty years on, U.S. credibility is again on the line as the Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia. Until yesterday, the Administration was missing in action, to put it mildly. The strategic objective is twofold: to prevent Moscow from going further to topple Georgia’s democratic government in the coming days, and to deter future Russian aggression.
President Bush finally announced a plan of action Wednesday — an airlift of humanitarian supplies to Georgia and the dispatch of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Paris and then Tbilisi. That followed his condemnation on Monday of Russia’s actions after a weekend of Olympics tourism in Beijing while Georgia burned.
The State Department had sent a mid-level official to Tbilisi over the weekend, and unnamed Administration officials are carping to the press that Washington had warned Georgia not to provoke Moscow. That was hardly a show of solidarity with a Eurasian democracy that has supported the U.S. in Iraq with 2,000 troops.
Compared to the U.S. lethargy, the French look like Winston Churchill. In Moscow Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting as president of the European Union, got Russia to agree to a provisional cease-fire that could return both parties’ troops to their positions before the conflict started. His next stop was Tbilisi, on the heels of a visit from Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
If both sides agree to a cease-fire, Mr. Sarkozy promises that Europe will consider sending peacekeepers to enforce it. We trust he will find volunteers from the former Soviet republics, which see the writing on the wall if Russian aggression in Georgia is left unchallenged. The leaders of Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia flew to Tbilisi this week in a show of solidarity.
NATO met Tuesday and denounced the invasion, while stopping short of promising military aid to Georgia. Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the allies “condemned and deplored [Russia’s] excessive, disproportionate use of force,” and demanded a return to the status quo ante.
The NATO leader also said Georgia’s potential membership remains “very much alive” and that it would be a member of NATO one day. Georgia and Ukraine’s applications come up again in December, and perhaps even Germany, which blocked their membership bids earlier this year, will now rethink its objections given that its refusal may have encouraged Russia to assume it could reassert control over its “near abroad.”
Much as it respects and owes Georgia, the U.S. is not going to war with Russia over a non-NATO ally. But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one.
Barring Russia’s long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren’t off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy.
The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. The airlift announced by Mr. Bush yesterday is a good start. The U.S. military will ferry humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort.
And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili’s fault.
Reshaping U.S. policy toward Russia will take longer than the months between now and January 20, when a new President takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction that his successor would have to deal with. If that successor is Barack Obama, this is an opportunity to shape a crucial foreign policy issue for a novice who could very well go in the wrong direction
The alternative is ending Mr. Bush’s tenure on a Carter-esque note of weakness. To paraphrase General Clay: Whether for good or bad, how the U.S. responds to Russia’s aggression in Georgia has become a symbol of American credibility.
By trying to Finlandize if not destroy Georgia, Moscow is sending a message that, in its part of the world, being close to Washington can be fatal. If Mr. Bush doesn’t revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his Presidency.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
If you are receiving more than one copy of the AUR please contact us.

Reuters, Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, August 16, 2008
KIEV – A top Ukrainian security official on Saturday discounted any notion of a separatist rebellion in the sensitive Crimea as President Viktor Yushchenko proposed Kremlin talks on the issue of the Russian fleet based there.
Ukraine’s pro-Western leaders, brought to power by the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and committed to seeking NATO membership, have been increasingly at odds with Russia over foreign policy. Yushchenko, like the United States, backs Georgia in its conflict with Russia over separatist South Ossetia.

He further enraged Moscow this week by ordering restrictions on the movement of ships in the Black Sea fleet, based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Russia’s military vowed to disregard the rules, saying the fleet answered only to Russia’s president.

Russia’s conflict with Georgia over the separatist region of South Ossetia has prompted suggestions that pro-Russian nationalism in the Crimea, strong in the 1990s, could be rekindled and undermine the authority of the Ukrainian state.
Crimea, part of Russia from the late 18th century, was handed to Soviet Ukraine by Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev in 1954. It became part of independent Ukraine in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell.
Valentin Nalivaichenko, acting chairman of Ukraine’s SBU security service, said latent nationalism in Crimea could not be compared with South Ossetia’s longstanding rebellion that ultimately led to the conflict between Georgia and Russia. “I am certain that such a scenario is not possible in Ukraine,” he told the weekly Zerkalo Nedeli.
“Prosperity, peace and calm in Crimea is the very foundation on which the interests of Ukraine and neighboring Russia coincide. Everything else is of secondary importance.”
Nalivaichenko said Ukraine had taken legal action to hobble nationalist groups in Crimea. “If we complete this stage and go on to the next one, we can be confident that there will be no Russian, or any other, destabilization scenario in Crimea.”
Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in the port of Sevastopol under a leasing agreement due to expire in 2017. Yushchenko has made plain that the lease will not be renewed and talks should focus on overseeing the fleet’s orderly departure.
Outbursts of pro-Russian nationalism in the 1990s prompted authorities in Kiev to reduce local autonomy. Kiev’s jurisdiction over Crimea, populated mainly by ethnic Russians, remains a highly sensitive issue among nationalists in Moscow who periodically call for Sevastopol — or the entire peninsula — to revert to Russian jurisdiction.
In a statement on his website late on Friday, Yushchenko said his backing for Georgia was based on preserving the country’s territorial integrity and similar concerns in Ukraine.  Disagreements with Russia over the fleet, he said, could only be settled through a formal agreement.
“I have therefore sent an urgent proposal to the president of Russia to start talks on signing an agreement that would regulate our relations in the event of military action like that which we saw at the beginning of August,” he wrote.
“In other words, we need to come up with clearer rules that would ensure Ukraine’s national security in such situations.” (Writing by Ron Popeski; editing by Robert Hart)
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Adrian Blomfield, Telegraph, London, UK, Sunday, 17 Aug 2008

Ukraine is investigating claims that Russia has been distributing passports in the port of Sevastopol, raising fears that the Kremlin could be stoking separatist sentiment in the Crimea as a prelude to possible military intervention.

The allegation has prompted accusations that Russia is using the same tactics employed in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abhkazia and South Ossetia in order to create a pretext for a war.

Russia handed out passports to the residents of the two provinces, which have long looked to Moscow for support, five years ago. The Kremlin has justified its invasion of Georgia in terms of defending its citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgian “aggression”.
Mykola Stretovych, an MP with Ukraine’s ruling orange coalition, claimed that Russia was engaged in a massive operation to hand out passports in Sevastopol, home to 400,000 people, many of whom have historic ties with Russia.
Anatoly Gritsenko, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s national security committee, launched a probe into the claims which, if true, would represent “a threat to national security”, he said.
Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have grown in recent days after Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s pro-western president, imposed restrictions on Russian ships entering the Black Sea Fleet’s base in Sevastopol.
The decision to place limitations on movement to and from the base, which Russia rents from Ukraine, was taken after ships from the Black Sea Fleet were used in military operations in Georgia.
Ukraine further infuriated the Kremlin last week by offering Europe and the United States access to its missile warning systems.
Mr Yushchenko’s alliance with Georgia has caused further resentment among the Crimea’s overwhelmingly Russian-speaking population. The territory was historically part of Russia but was awarded to Soviet Ukraine by Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
The head of Ukraine’s security service, however, said that despite nationalist tensions in the territory, a rebellion in the Crimea with or without Russian support was inconceivable.
“Prosperity, peace and calm in the Crimea is the very foundation on which the interests of Ukraine and neighbouring Russia coincide,” Valentin Nalivaichenko said.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, warned Russia that its actions in Georgia would further increase the alienation of Ukraine towards Moscow. Mr Yushchenko has applied for Ukraine’s membership of Nato, a move bitterly opposed by the Kremlin.
“If the Russians intended this as intimidation, they have done nothing but harden the attitudes of the small states around them,” she said. “I think the Russians have made a significant mistake here.”
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

InTheNews, London, UK, Sunday, 17 Aug 2008 
Russia is opposed to the missile shield over fears that it is might be aimed against it Printer friendly version Ukraine has offered to give the west information through its missile early warning radar systems.

The move follows Russia’s ending of a 1992 agreement with its neighbour on the use of the systems that can be used to prepare against an attack.

Announcing the decision, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said: “The fact that Ukraine is no longer a party to the 1992 agreement allows it to launch active cooperation with western countries to integrate its stations with governments with an interest in receiving data of the situation in space.”

It comes after the country’s president Viktor Yushchenko expressed concerns over last week’s war between Russia and Georgia. The Ukrainian head of state said that only a collective security system could prevent conflicts, such as the recent war over South Ossetia, from breaking out.

He has also called for urgent talks with Russia over the use of one of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to facilitate operations against Georgian territories.

Ukraine’s decision comes days after Poland announced that it and the US would begin setting up a long-delayed missile defence system on the former Soviet republic’s territory.

The US insists that the defence shield is designed to protect against attacks by “rogue states” such as Iran and has previously stated that it doesn’t seek to defend against Russian attacks. Russia is opposed to the defence shield over fears that it might be aimed against it.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

By Askold Krushelnycky, The Sunday Times, London, UK, Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ukraine yesterday offered to create a joint missile defence network with the West amid fears that its port city of Sebastopol, home of the Russian Black
Sea fleet, could become the next flashpoint between Russia and its former satellites.

The Ukrainian offer, which means its early warning radar stations could become part of the West’s civil defence system, will further damage poor
relations between Kiev and Moscow.

Ukraine, which to the fury of Russia is looking towards Europe and membership of Nato, announced last week that it would require the Russian fleet to seek permission whenever ships entered its territorial waters.

Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s reformist president who visited the Georgian capital Tbilisi last week to support President Mikhail Saakashvili, said the
use of Russian ships for a war violated Ukraine’s neutrality and risked drawing it into conflict.

He instructed his security council to draw up new rules forcing Russia to apply up to 10 days in advance for permission for its fleet to move in and
out of Ukraine’s territorial waters.

This weekend Yushchenko said a threat to Georgia’s territorial integrity should be viewed as a potential threat to Ukraine’s: “We have lived through
the most terrible 10 days of our recent history.”

The Russian response was immediate. Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian general staff, who last week warned Poland that
it could face a nuclear strike after signing a deal with the United States to place a missile shield on its soil, made a belligerent statement to Ukraine.

He said Russian ships would ignore the order to seek permission, which he claimed was “illegitimate”.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, warned Yushchenko last February that Russia could point nuclear missiles at Ukraine if it cooperated with US
missile defence plans.

Ukraine is insisting the Russian military must leave Sebastopol when the lease on the base expires in 2017. The Russian navy has made it clear it may
refuse to do so.

[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

OP-ED: By Charles Krauthammer, Columnist, The Washington Post
Washington, D.C., Thursday, August 14, 2008; Page A17

The Russia-Georgia cease-fire brokered by France’s president is less than meets the eye. Its terms keep moving as the Russian army keeps moving. Russia has since occupied Gori (appropriately, Stalin’s birthplace), effectively cutting Georgia in two.

The road to the capital, Tbilisi, is open, but apparently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has temporarily chosen to seek his objectives through military pressure and Western acquiescence rather than by naked occupation.

His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia’s mercy.

The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.
Which explains Putin stopping the Russian army (for now) short of Tbilisi.

What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps — troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces — will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia.

But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin’s refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to “give peace a chance.”

The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.

Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia’s former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.

What is to be done? Let’s be real. There’s nothing to be done militarily. What we can do is alter Putin’s cost-benefit calculations.

We are not without resources. There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin’s dictatorship long made Russia’s presence in this group of industrial democracies a farce, but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. (And if Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, who has been sympathetic to Putin’s Georgia adventure, wants to stay, he can have an annual G-2 dinner with Putin.) Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusan and Jamaican bobsled teams.

All of these steps (except dissolution of the G-8, which should be irreversible) would be subject to reconsideration depending upon Russian action — most importantly and minimally, its withdrawal of troops from Georgia proper to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: Reaffirm support for the Saakashvili government and declare that its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.
President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film “Charlie Wilson’s War” to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians’ capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.

Bush needs to make up for his mini-Katrina moment when he lingered in Beijing yukking it up with our beach volleyball team while Putin flew to North Ossetia to direct the invasion of a neighboring country. Bush is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and Georgia.

Not a moment too soon. Her task must be to present these sanctions, get European agreement on as many as possible and begin imposing them, calibrated to Russian behavior. And most important of all, to prevent any Euro-wobbliness on the survival of Georgia’s democratically elected government.
We have cards. We should play them. Much is at stake. (letters@charleskrauthammer.com)
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

EDITORIAL: The Wall Street Journal
New York, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A10
Vladimir Putin proved last weekend that Russia’s army can push over Georgia’s army. In the past 48 hours, the West has begun to push back. If its leaders stay the course, they may yet turn Mr. Putin’s meager military success into a significant political defeat.
In Washington yesterday, President Bush issued a statement of precisely the sort the world expects from American leadership in such circumstances. It made clear what he understands to be Mr. Putin’s goals and made equally clear the intention to resist those goals, and why doing so is in the world’s interests.
“The United States and our allies stand with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government,” Mr. Bush said. In other words, the Russians have made no pretense that their purpose in Georgia is to remove President Mikheil Saakashvili from the office to which he was elected in 2004. This would make the West complicit in the overthrow of a democratic government.
Mr. Bush also noted pointedly that “The days of satellite states and spheres of influence are behind us.” It has become clear through this week that Mr. Putin’s rationale for the invasion extends beyond Georgia’s violated borders.
His intent is to convince independent nations on Russia’s periphery — Ukraine, the Baltic states — that persisting as Poland has to deepen formal ties to the West, particularly NATO, will cost them dearly. In crudest terms, it will be fatal.
This would be a reversion to the vassal-state relationship of the Cold War that the West cannot allow. It is evident and welcome that in the days between Mr. Putin’s decision to belly-slam into the Olympics’ opening weekend and now, Mr. Bush and his team have notably hardened what was a tepid early response.
Both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are specialists in the Soviet era and are acutely aware of the price paid in human terms to bring the Soviet Union to dissolution in 1991. It must discomfit them to see that achievement threaten to unravel, especially after having invested so much in good relations with Mr. Putin.
So it is reassuring to hear Mr. Gates say the Russians run the risk of damaging relations with the West “for years to come.” This isn’t just some point of disagreement. The Americans and their allies must continue to make Mr. Putin pay a political penalty for Georgia.
Yesterday the Russians said their General Prosecutor’s Office would undertake a “genocide probe” in South Ossetia, and they called for putting President Saakashvili on trial at the Hague for “war crimes.” As it happens, Chapter 1, Article II of the U.N. Charter, signed amid the smashed borders of World War II, forbids Members from the “use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
The U.S. and France should force Mr. Putin’s U.N. ambassador to veto a Security Council resolution describing his week-long mockery of those words.
Additionally, a genuinely independent prosecutor investigating war crimes might examine the Russian bombing runs over Georgia and the looting of Georgian villages by Ossetian militias. An intriguing article by Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya Gazeta, the Russian newspaper, argues that an examination of the movement of the ground equipment and ships used in the strike against Georgia required planning that predated August.
Western authorities should also explore the vulnerability of Russian assets abroad. At the least, they can make life difficult for the holders of those assets. Post-Soviet Russia allowed the emergence of businessmen and entrepreneurs who indeed wish to function as normal participants in world commerce.
Their number, however, assuredly includes the lucky billionaires under Mr. Putin’s protection. All of them want to benefit from the West’s rules. That privilege should be restricted so long as Mr. Putin breaks the rules.
In the world of global commerce, reputation matters. China has calculated that its own ambivalent reputation can only gain from staging the Olympic extravaganza. The glow of the Games is money in the bank. By contrast, the Putin government has embarked on a strategy that seems to believe its power grows in sync with its reputation as an international pariah, an outsider state.
Mr. Bush said Friday that “Russia has damaged its credibility and its relations with the nations of the free world.” True, and if the West remains firm, it can make clear to Mr. Putin that the political price of behavior beyond the pale of normal relations is high. Overrunning Georgia was easy. Life after that should not be.
LINK: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121884390619045939.html?mod=2_1601_middlebox
[return to index] Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
You are welcome to send us names for the AUR distribution list.
Associated Press, Moscow, Russia, Friday, Aug 15 2008
MOSCOW – After a brief victorious war, the Kremlin must decide what to do with its triumph. The Kremlin has already reasserted its historic military dominance in the region, punished Georgia for its surprise attack on South Ossetia’s capital and humiliated a bitter foe, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Now, Russia is expected to set up permanent military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and establish a security zone around their borders. It appears poised to charge Saakashvili with genocide in a Russian court, and strengthen ties with the two separatist regions.
After that, there is no certainty about what might happen.
One option is for the Kremlin to recognize the independence claims of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, or even Russian annexation of both areas. Moscow also might demand that Georgia slash the size of its armed forces.
Whatever the Kremlin demands are, the world will be forced to listen.
After the Soviet collapse, a weakened and impoverished Russia struggled to exert influence. In recent years it has relied on energy wealth to assert its will. Now its willingness to flex military muscle compels the West to pay greater heed.
“The situation in the post-Soviet area has changed significantly,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs Magazine. “Russia is ready and able to use force outside its borders. That’s a different situation.”
But in exploiting its victory, Russia risks further antagonizing the international community – which could hurt the country’s economy and cost it international prestige. Already, there is serious talk in the West of stripping Russia of its membership in the elite Group of Eight club of nations.
Russia must also worry about ties to its neighbors, particular in the former Soviet sphere. Some of Russia’s allies may turn to China, increasingly a major player in the competition for Central Asian energy reserves.
Foreign policy experts here, as well as intelligence officials in the U.S., agreed that Russia is unlikely to permanently occupy Georgian territory, or to back any efforts by separatist forces to seize additional territory.
Neither, several experts said, is Moscow likely to try to disrupt shipments through Georgia’s Batumi-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, or BTC, pipeline, the only conduit for crude from Central Asia to Europe that bypasses Russia.
“This is not about oil,” said Kimberly Marten, an expert on Russian defense and foreign policy at Barnard College. “The only oil at stake is what’s flowing through the BTC pipeline to Turkey, something that involves many big Western oil companies; and if Russia were to do anything to disrupt that, it would become a pariah in Europe.”
But Russia could take other steps that would trigger international condemnation and further its diplomatic isolation.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, said Thursday that Moscow no longer recognized Georgia’s territorial sovereignty, suggesting the Kremlin was prepared to absorb Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where many residents hold Russian passports.
Even if Moscow limits itself to recognizing the independence of the two contested regions, there would be trouble.
Alexander Konovalov, president of Moscow’s Institute of Strategic Assessment, said such a move would weaken Russia’s arguments against recognition of the independence of Kosovo, which broke from Moscow-backed Serbia this year. “It will shrink Russia’s ability to operate in foreign policy,” he said.
The Kremlin has fought two wars against rebels in the Russian region of Chechnya, and still clashes with insurgents in several of its Caucasus mountain republics. Formal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia would only encourage Russia’s own separatist movements, Konovalov said.
Still, Russia might use the genocide charge against Saakashvili to argue that Georgia forfeited its right to rule Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Georgia has lost the moral legality of its claim” to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the presidium of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy.
The war may have weakened Ukraine’s bid to enter NATO, some experts predicted, because of European concerns about antagonizing Russia. The defeat of Georgia, an ally of Washington, also could reduce the influence of the United States in the former Soviet Union – particularly among the rulers of Central Asia.
“They always closely follow who is the boss, who is stronger,” said Lukyanov, of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. “If they come to the conclusion that the U.S. is less strong now than before, I can’t exclude that they will turn their attention more to Russia – or to China.”
Karaganov, of the Russian Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, said Moscow should demand that Georgia shrink its military forces “to a bare minimum,” to prevent a repeat of what he called its aggression.
But one U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, that Georgia is an ally and needs to be able to defend itself. “Once the dust settles, we can then look at assisting Georgia in rebuilding their military,” he said.
Russia seems determined to bring charges of genocide and mass murder against Saakashvili in a Russian court, and has investigators scouring South Ossetia for evidence. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin assailed the West for failing to condemn Saakashvili’s military campaign in South Ossetia, which included tank warfare waged on city streets. 
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY: By Peter Charles Choharis 
The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, August 16, 2008; Page A11

Moscow has much more than a military threat to intimidate countries in its neighborhood. Long before its foray into Georgia, Russia was using its market strength in oil and gas resources to strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the United States and the European Union. As NATO considers how to respond to Russian troops in Georgia, the West should also consider how to counter Kremlin capitalism.

Ever since Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president in 2000, Russian authorities have used the power of the state to gut Russian companies and seize their assets for a fraction of their value. Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil producer, was seized by Russian authorities allegedly for back taxes. Its assets were auctioned off at bargain prices to Russia’s state-owned energy giants, Rosneft and Gazprom, while its CEO and other company officials were arrested and imprisoned.
The government’s seizure also deprived ExxonMobil and Chevron from buying major stakes in Yukos. Sibneft, Russneft, and other Russian hydrocarbon companies have suffered similar fates.
More recently, TNK-BP, Russia’s third-largest oil company and a joint venture between British Petroleum and a group of Russian billionaires, has been the target of Russian government investigations. BP calls the government’s scrutiny a campaign of harassment.
The company’s British head, Robert Dudley, was forced to flee Russia two weeks ago, and its British CFO abruptly resigned. This after Gazprom wrested control of the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project from Royal Dutch Shell for a fraction of market value.
BP vows to use “all legal means” to protect its investment. But lawyers won’t be enough. For the TNK-BP dispute is about geopolitics and Russian hegemony as much as it is about money.
Since Mr. Putin became president, the Russian government has renationalized much of the energy sector; it now owns 50% of the country’s oil reserves and 89% of the gas reserves. Beyond ownership, the Kremlin has positioned high-ranking government officials and other Putin-loyalists — elites in the security services known as siloviki (men of power) — to key positions in leading Russian companies, even while they keep their government jobs.
Before becoming Russia’s current president, Dmitry Medvedev was both Gazprom’s chairman and Russia’s first deputy prime minister. siloviki also control major companies in metals, mining and other strategic sectors. While profits are fine, the Kremlin ensures that these companies promote Russia’s foreign-policy goals.
This strategy extends beyond energy. Two weeks ago, Moscow announced the formation of a state grain-trading company to control up to half of the country’s cereal exports, which are the fifth-largest in the world. Its purpose, most analysts believe, is to provide the government with greater leverage over food-importing nations at a time of rising food costs and shortages.
But it is in the natural gas sector where the Kremlin wields the most power. Numerous Western European countries depend heavily on Moscow for natural gas to heat homes and produce electricity, with some Eastern European countries almost completely dependent. Beyond supply, Russia also enjoys a near monopoly of the pipelines transporting gas to Europe from the east.
In a further bid to extend its grip on gas supplies, Russia — along with such anti-U.S. governments as Iran and Venezuela — is supporting the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which some fear will become an OPEC-like cartel.
While Russia may or may not intend to start a new Cool War, it is not afraid of leaving Europeans out in the cold — literally. In the middle of winter 2006, it cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and parts of Western Europe. It has also cut off gas to Moldova, Belarus and Georgia.
This past spring, critics charge that, in part due to Russian pressure, Germany opposed Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia, the first step toward NATO membership.
They point to a Gazprom-led consortium building the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia underneath the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, while circumventing pro-U.S. countries like Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. (Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s role as Nord Stream chairman could not have hurt Russia’s influence.)
Last month, after the Czech Republic supported an antiballistic missile system opposed by Russia, the flow of Russian oil dropped 40%. President Medvedev had promised “retaliatory steps.”
Aware of their vulnerability, in March 2007 the Europeans developed an “Energy Policy for Europe” to coordinate energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. But agreeing on principles has been far easier than acting on them. Moscow continues to exploit differences among EU member states — whose dependence on Russian gas, voracity for lucrative pipeline transit fees and desire to tap into Russian energy markets vary considerably — in order to promote greater European dependence on Russian gas and pipelines.
Thus, when a consortium of European countries proposed the Nabucco pipeline, to pump gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe without going through Russia, Mr. Putin earlier this year personally met with foreign government and corporate leaders on behalf of South Stream, a rival pipeline that would go from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and the rest of Europe.
To ensure that South Stream would have gas to transport, Gazprom upped its offer to Caspian region suppliers to pay higher rates for natural gas. It also just signed a deal with Turkmenistan to invest in its gas infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the Nabucco pipeline’s future is cloudy, with one of its original sponsors, Hungary, switching to South Stream due in part to European dithering and skillful Russian negotiating.
Just as NATO’s response to Georgia will be crucial for American credibility throughout Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, so too U.S. leadership is vital to maintain Europe’s energy security.
Short of sanctions, the West does not currently have much economic leverage. European, Japanese and American export credit agencies could refuse to finance any deals involving Russian companies that have acquired assets expropriated from foreign investors.
European countries could also bar such Russian firms from operating in Europe, or could impose a special fee to reimburse expropriated investors. And rather than expel Russia from the G-8 as John McCain has proposed, members should demand that Russia respect the rights of foreign investors and ratify the Energy Charter Treaty.
Longer term, the U.S. needs to use its diplomatic and financial clout to push forward alternative energy routes. Washington’s backing was vital to building the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in five years. One of the longest of its kind, the pipeline bypasses Russia and carries crude oil from offshore fields in the Caspian Sea across Georgia to the Mediterranean. Washington must make financing and constructing the NABUCCO gas pipeline a top priority.
Washington also needs to reach out to Central Asia, and should push for a Trans-Caspian pipeline from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and west to Europe. Years of Russian domination have made these countries open to Western investment. Moreover, they understand the strategic importance of diversifying sales and transport options for their oil and gas. Western companies also offer superior technology.
But after Russia’s use of military force in Georgia, these countries are wary of antagonizing their former overseer. Without a strong American presence, it is impossible for the West to compete in the region. Yet Turkmenistan has lacked a full-time U.S. ambassador for more than a year.
The markets can also help hold Russia accountable for its heavy-handedness. Two weeks ago after Mr. Putin targeted Mechel, a steelmaking giant — suggesting that Russian antitrust and tax authorities investigate the company — Russia’s stock market lost $60 billion.
Market forces may not protect BP’s Russian investments or save Georgia, but they could make it far more costly for the Kremlin to proceed.
Mr. Choharis is a principal in Choharis Global Solutions, an international law and consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He recently returned from a trip to Turkmenistan.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

OPINION: By Garry Kasparov, The Wall Street Journal
New York, NY, Friday, August 15, 2008; Page A13

Russia’s invasion of Georgia reminded me of a conversation I had three years ago in Moscow with a high-ranking European Union official. Russia was much freer then, but President Vladimir Putin’s onslaught against democratic rights was already underway.

“What would it take,” I asked, “for Europe to stop treating Putin like a democrat? If all opposition parties are banned? Or what if they started shooting people in the street?” The official shrugged and replied that even in such cases, there would be little the EU could do. He added: “Staying engaged will always be the best hope for the people of both Europe and Russia.”
The citizens of Georgia would likely disagree. Russia’s invasion was the direct result of nearly a decade of Western helplessness and delusion. Inexperienced and cautious in the international arena at the start of his reign in 2000, Mr. Putin soon learned he could get away with anything without repercussions from the EU or America.
Russia reverted to a KGB dictatorship while Mr. Putin was treated as an equal at G-8 summits. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Germany’s Gerhardt Schroeder became Kremlin business partners. Mr. Putin discovered democratic credentials could be bought and sold just like everything else.
The final confirmation was the acceptance of Dmitry Medvedev in the G-8, and on the world stage. The leaders of the Free World welcomed Mr. Putin’s puppet, who had been anointed in blatantly faked elections.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sprinted to Moscow to broker a ceasefire agreement. He was allowed to go through the motions, perhaps as a reward for his congratulatory phone call to Mr. Putin after our December parliamentary “elections.” But just a few months ago Mr. Sarkozy was in Moscow as a supplicant, lobbying for Renault. How much credibility does he really have in Mr. Putin’s eyes?
In reality, Mr. Sarkozy is attempting to remedy a crisis he helped bring about. Last April, France opposed the American push to fast-track Georgia’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership. This was one of many missed opportunities that collectively built up Mr. Putin’s sense of impunity. In this way the G-7 nations aided and abetted the Kremlin’s ambitions.
Georgia blundered into a trap, although its imprudent aggression in South Ossetia was overshadowed by Mr. Putin’s desire to play the strongman. Russia seized the chance to go on the offensive in Georgian territory while playing the victim/hero.
Mr. Putin has long been eager to punish Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for his lack of respect both for Georgia’s old master Russia, and for Mr. Putin personally. (Popular rumor has it that the Georgian president once mocked his peer as “Lilli-Putin.”)
Although Mr. Saakashvili could hardly be called a model democrat, his embrace of Europe and the West is considered a very bad example by the Kremlin. The administrations of the Georgian breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are stocked, top to bottom, with bureaucrats from the Russian security services.
Throughout the conflict, the Kremlin-choreographed message in the Russian media has been one of hysteria. The news presents Russia as surrounded by enemies on all sides, near and far, and the military intervention in Georgia as essential to protect the lives and interests of Russians. It is also often spoken of as just the first step, with enclaves in Ukraine next on the menu.
Attack dogs like Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky are used to test and whip up public opinion. Kremlin-sponsored ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin went on the radio to say Russian forces “should not stop until they are stopped.” The damage done by such rhetoric is very slow to heal.
The conflict also threatens to poison Russia’s relationship with Europe and America for years to come. Can such a belligerent state be trusted as the guarantor of Europe’s energy supply? Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been derided for his strong stance against Mr. Putin, including a proposal to kick Russia out of the G-8. Will his critics now admit that the man they called an antiquated cold warrior was right all along?
The conventional wisdom of Russia’s “invulnerability” serves as an excuse for inaction. President Bush’s belatedly toughened language is welcome, but actual sanctions must now be considered. The Kremlin’s ruling clique has vital interests — i.e. assets — abroad and those interests are vulnerable.
The blood of those killed in this conflict is on the hands of radical nationalists, thoughtless politicians, opportunistic oligarchs and the leaders of the Free World who value gas and oil more than principles. More lives will be lost unless strong moral lines are drawn to reinforce the shattered lines of the map.
Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Please contact us if you no longer wish to receive the AUR.

ANALYSIS & COMMENTARY: By David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey
The Wall Street Journal, New York, NY, Friday, August 15, 2008; Page A15

Russia’s invasion of Georgia will be a defining moment for America’s credibility and global stability.

If the Medvedev (or, rather, Putin) regime succeeds in using force to topple a democratic and pro-Western government, based on spurious claims of “protecting” Georgia’s population against its own government, the stage will be set for similar aggression against the other states — from the Baltics to Ukraine — that border Russia but look to the free West. The dangers of the post-September 11 World will be combined with the challenge of a new Cold War.
Russia is fully aware of these ominous implications. It has accordingly sought to cloak this act of aggression in the raiment of modern international justice. Its officials and surrogates (including Mikhail Gorbachev) have falsely accused Georgian leaders of violating international law in the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, which have “Russian” populations on account of Russia’s extralegal issuance of its passports in those areas.
President Dmitry Medvedev has called for the “criminal prosecution” of the perpetrators of these supposed abuses and Vladimir Putin has alleged that if “Saddam Hussein [was hanged] for destroying several Shiite villages,” Georgian leaders are guilty of much more. Ruthless Kremlin realists have learned the language of global humanitarianism.
The language of “protection” was once a favorite pretext for Tsarist expansion in the 19th century. It is also the same rationale that Germany offered for absorbing the Sudetenland in 1938.
The Kremlin’s current claims are no more credible than its tattered justifications for invading Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, and Afghanistan in 1979. Russian assertions that Georgian forces provoked the conflict by attacking Russian troops call to mind Hitler’s story that his 1939 invasion of Poland was justified by Polish attacks on Germans. This is particularly ironic, given the Kremlin’s penchant for comparing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to Adolf Hitler.
Moscow’s sudden embrace of a “limited sovereignty” for Georgia doesn’t square with Russia’s own previous protestations about the sanctity of its sovereignty and stubborn insistence that it was free to act on its own soil as it saw fit.
Moscow’s concern about alleged atrocities and genocide is also preposterous in light of the Russian government’s callous indifference to the very real genocides conducted by its allies in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, and in Rwanda and Darfur — not to mention Moscow’s own exceptionally brutal military campaigns in Chechnya.
Predictably, Messrs. Putin and Medvedev also assert that their actions in Georgia are no different from Western behavior vis-à-vis Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. Accordingly, they have demanded Mr. Saakashvili’s resignation.
Moscow’s clear goal is to replace a pro-Western government with a new Russian satellite, both through military action and by discrediting Georgia’s leadership through false war crimes and genocide accusations. Behind the hypocrisy, Russia may be trying to lock in a new set of international rules, by which Moscow will be free to intervene at will in its “near abroad” while the United States looks on.
These claims, reminiscent of the Brezhnev doctrine which posited that Moscow had a right to use force to preserve its empire, ring particularly hollow in the 21st century.
Moscow’s attack on Georgia is only part of a broader campaign against its real and perceived enemies, a mission that has been conducted without the least regard for settled principles of international law. This campaign includes the de facto annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia — which must now be considered “Russia-occupied territory” protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
It also encompasses cyber attacks against the Baltic states, state-ordered assassinations of individuals in Western countries, and economic intimidation, as in the recent cutoffs of Russian oil and gas shipments to Ukraine or the Czech Republic.
It is important that Moscow pays a concrete and tangible price for its latest aggression, at least comparable to the price it paid for the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. Visa denials to all individuals connected to the Russian government and vigorous oversight and enforcement activities against Moscow’s state-owned companies would be a good way to start.
Given Russia’s historic insecurities, and the desire of Russian plutocrats to travel freely throughout the world, educate their children in the West, and own property overseas, such modest measures would be quite effective. Russia’s WTO membership should be blocked and its G-8 participation suspended.
The Bush administration should also make an assertive effort to deny the legitimacy of all Moscow’s legal and policy claims, and defend Mr. Saakashvili without reservations.
We should draw a sharp contrast between the American leadership in securing Kosovo’s independence — an infringement of Serbian sovereignty brought about by Belgrade’s real genocide and war crimes — and Moscow’s cynical encouragement of secessionist movements in countries formerly a part of the Soviet Union, which was designed to reconstitute Russian imperial control.
John McCain has already taken the lead on this, quickly reaching out to the Georgian president and condemning Russia’s actions as a new form of empire building.
While rebutting Moscow’s claims of today, the U.S. should also press for a historical accounting. Russia’s history goes directly to its credibility.
We should remind the world that Russia remains unrepentant for the sins of its past, not the least of which are its previous 1803 and 1922 invasions and annexation of Georgia, its 1939 partition of Poland with Hitler’s Germany, and the Katyn massacre that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of captured Polish officers (which Moscow still falsely blames on Germany). Russia refuses to take responsibility for its past oppression of numerous non-Russian “captive nations” — among them, of course, the Georgians.
American credibility is very much at stake here. If a true friend of the United States — an ancient country already twice annexed by Moscow in the past two centuries, a democracy that has enthusiastically reached out to NATO and the European Union, and even sent troops to fight in Iraq — can be snuffed out without concrete action by Washington, America’s friendship will quickly lose its value and America’s displeasure would matter even less. The repercussions would be felt world-wide, from the capitals of New Europe, to Jerusalem, Kabul and Baghdad.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington lawyers who served from 2004-2007 as members of the U.N. Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
Tensions at Obscure Border Led to Georgia-Russia Clash

By Marc Champion and Andrew Osborn, The Wall Street Journal,
New York, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A1

TSKHINVALI, Georgia — The fighting that threatens to remake the post-Cold War world began in the craggy mountains of separatist South Ossetia province when ethnic fighting that has long plagued the area abruptly got much worse.

On Aug. 1, a roadside bomb hurt five Georgian policemen. By evening, snipers, presumably Georgian, had killed a half-dozen South Ossetians, mostly off-duty policemen out fishing or swimming.

After dark, artillery shells began raining down on Georgian enclaves ringing this provincial capital. The South Ossetian leaders began sending women and children to safety in Russia — and mobilizing men into brigades.
Six days later, fighting flared to a level not seen for years between the ethnically Georgian and ethnically Ossetian villages that form the patchwork of the separatist region. It was then that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sent thousands of U.S.-trained troops into the province, after which Russian forces swept in, crushing his assault.
In the aftermath, Russia and Georgia have each blamed the other for the escalating violence, insisting their own intentions were peaceful — and forcing Washington to choose between two erstwhile allies. But an examination by The Wall Street Journal suggests both sides had been preparing for war for months, if not years.
With the two historic enemies armed and convinced an attack could come at any time, all it needed was a trigger. That appears to have come last Thursday, in the form of intense shelling by the Ossetians, an ethnic group that identifies strongly with Russia.
On Friday, President George W. Bush, in his strongest declaration of support for Georgia yet, accused Russia of “bullying and intimidation.” The U.S. is sending military aircraft to support Georgia, a former Soviet state which Washington has promoted as a beacon of democracy in the troubled Caucasus region.
Also Friday, with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at his side, Mr. Saakashvili said he had signed a Western-brokered cease-fire. Ms. Rice said it protects Georgia’s interests and all Russian troops “must leave immediately.” But on Friday, they remained in control of the central Georgian city of Gori, effectively cutting Georgia in half. 
Tension had been simmering since the early 1990s. After the Soviet Union collapsed, South Ossetia and another Georgian province, Abkhazia, fought to secede from Georgia. With the help of Russian military aid and volunteers, they defeated Georgian forces and became, in effect, unrecognized Russian protectorates. The end of those skirmishes left South Ossetia patrolled by hundreds of Russian, Georgian and Ossetian peacekeepers and a few dozen European observers.
This year, two things pushed tensions higher: Over Russian objections, Georgia moved toward joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and Western countries, ignoring Russian opposition, recognized the independence of the onetime Yugoslavian province of Kosovo.
Russia strengthened its contingents of peacekeepers and periodically it sent planes over Georgia, sometimes launching rocket attacks. Georgia, with U.S. financial aid, built up its military and warned Western allies that Moscow was planning an attack. Pro-Russian separatist leaders in South Ossetia repeatedly told Russian officials that Georgia was preparing an assault.
Blaming the Other
In fact, both sides were preparing for war. Earlier in the year, Russia sent railroad troops to repair a railway in Abkhazia helpful for transporting military equipment. In April it shot down a Georgian unmanned spy plane. In July, Russia held exercises called Caucasus 2008 that were an undisguised rehearsal for invasion.
Georgia, meanwhile, had by Aug. 7 pulled much of its army up to the area of Tskhinvali, the capital of its pro-Russian South Ossetian province, according to officials and witnesses on both sides.
Each side blames the other for the escalation early in August. Georgian officials say South Ossetians first fired artillery at ethnically Georgian villages Aug. 1.

An Ossetian official says the Georgians had been fortifying their positions near the provincial capital of Tskhinvali for weeks, and claims they were just looking for a pretext to go to war. On the day the fighting began, “The whole day was planned by the Georgians, from the start to the finish, to provoke a clash,” says Murat Tkhostov, an Ossetian who sits on a commission meant to settle the conflict.

Late that day, ethnically Georgian villages “came under tremendous bombardment from the South Ossetians,” says William Dunbar, who was a correspondent for Russia Today, a Kremlin-funded television channel that promotes pro-Russian views. He visited the next day and says he tried to file a report on the shelling but his editors weren’t interested. He soon resigned.
South Ossetian officials evacuated thousands of women and children to safety in Russia, a move Georgian officials interpreted as preparations for war. The civilian men who remained formed into partisan battalions. In Russia, ethnic Ossetians and their Cossack supporters — quasi-military groups still active in southern Russia — called on volunteer fighters to head to South Ossetia to fight.
Some Missing
On Aug. 7, Georgia’s minister for reintegration, Temuri Yakobashvili, arrived in Tskhinvali for talks on the future of the province. They were supposed to include his Russian opposite number, Yuri Popov, and Ossetian leaders. But the only other person there was a Russian general, Marat Kulakhmetov.
Mr. Yakobashvili says the Russian general told him that the South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, had left. The Georgian minister then phoned Mr. Popov, and the Russian replied that he was stranded on the roadside 20 miles away with a flat tire.
“I asked him about the spare and he said that was flat, too,” says Mr. Yakobashvili, an account Mr. Popov confirms.
The Ossetian capital was almost a ghost town by then, Mr. Yakobashvili says. He asked the Russian general what he would advise Georgia do in response to the shelling by South Ossetians. The answer: “Order a unilateral cease-fire and don’t respond.”

In the car on the way home, Mr. Yakobashvili phoned that advice to Georgian President Saakashvili. By the time he got back to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, the president was on TV announcing such a ceasefire and no-response order.

The Russian Mr. Popov, meanwhile, says that when he arrived in Tbilisi, Ossetian leaders were no longer willing to meet as planned, citing a military build-up by Georgia. After fixing his flat at around 6 p.m., he headed to Tskhinvali to change their minds. He saw large numbers of Georgian tanks, armored personnel carriers, howitzers and other equipment rolling up the road from the Georgian town of Gori.
The troops, according the Mr. Yakobashvili, the Georgian minister, were meant only as a deterrent, as if “to say: don’t mess with us.”
Russian armor was on the move that day, too, according to Tamari Betsunashvili, a resident of Beloti, an ethnically Georgian Ossetian village in South Ossetia. Beloti is close to a rough road the Russian military long ago cut through the forests to reach Ossetian villages, bypassing the main road partly under Georgia’s control.
Military convoys were a common sight there, but on Aug. 7 there were unusually large numbers of Russian army vehicles moving toward South Ossetia, she said, speaking in a Tbilisi school where refugees from South Ossetia are being housed.
In Tskhinvali, the Ossetian capital, Russia’s Mr. Popov met with the South Ossetian leader, Mr. Kokoity, a former wrestler, Communist-youth leader and fighter in past separatist wars. Mr. Popov says he persuaded the South Ossetian boss to set talks for the next day at 1 p.m. The meeting never took place. By then, Georgian troops had stormed Tskhinvali.
The heaviest shelling started at around 11 p.m., when refugees from ethnically Georgian villages in South Ossetia say they started getting hit. According to the Russian military, meanwhile, Georgian shelling of the South Ossetian capital began at 12:30 a.m. It lasted much of the night.
In the Georgian presidential palace in Tbilisi, increasingly dire reports flowed in from the field. Two ethnically Georgian villages near Tskhinvali were reported destroyed, says Mr. Yakobashvili, who was in the room as President Saakashvili took the calls. Ground commanders on the ground were begging to be allowed to return fire and saying they couldn’t evacuate the wounded, Mr. Yakobashvili says.
President Saakashvili says he initially resisted, but then he got a call reporting that a column of 150 military vehicles had been spotted coming into South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel from Russia.
He says he figured a Russian invasion had begun, and the only way to stop it was to blow up a bridge on the road to the Ossetian capital and confront them north of Tskhinvali. That would require invading the capital city itself.
President Saakashvili spoke on the phone to Secretary of State Rice to brief her, according to the State Department’s point man on Georgia, Matthew J. Bryza. Other U.S. and Georgian officials were talking too. Mr. Bryza says all had the same message, one they had been delivering for months: “Avoid an unwinnable confrontation with Russia.”
President Saakashvili was undeterred. He ordered troops to take Tshkinvali, the Ossetian capital, and to knock out the bridge.
Hearing of the attack, Russia’s Mr. Popov says he again called Georgia’s Mr. Yakobashvili, who told him about the shelling of Georgian villages and about the Russian tanks moving south. The tank report “was absolute nonsense,” Mr. Popov says. Georgian officials have provided no evidence to confirm the existence of the tank column.
Tough Response
Russian officials contend the Georgians planned the attack from the start. “They moved their forces into positions on high ground around Tskhinvali,” says a Russian official. “It’s very simple: The Georgians decided to take South Ossetia by force.” He adds: “They thought we’d whine like over Kosovo but our response was very tough.”
“They were using 19 planes,” says a Georgian officer, Maj. Malkhaz Shavadze. “We pulled out and they kept bombing, because they didn’t know we had left.”
By this past Monday, Georgia’s army was fleeing in disarray, south through Gori and back toward Tbilisi. Hundreds of Russian tanks, trucks, volunteers and troops continued to pour into South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel through the mountains. In Georgia’s other separatist province, Abkhazia, more Russian troops landed both by sea and overland.
They triumphantly confiscated large amounts of U.S.-supplied military equipment that Washington had shipped to the Georgian army in recent years. “American rations are really tasty,” said Col. Igor Konoshenko, speaking in Tskhinvali this week.
Western leaders frantically pressured Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his patron and prime minister, Vladimir Putin, to stop the advance. The Russians were defiant. In a conversation with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, Mr. Putin was “beside himself” with anger, says a French official familiar with the talk.
One Concession
Mr. Medvedev initially demanded the removal of Georgia’s president as a condition of any cease-fire. Western leaders successfully resisted, but that was about the only concession they won.
On Wednesday, Russian leaders appeared to place a seal on their military victory, receiving South Ossetian leader Kokoity and Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh in the Kremlin. The Russians pledged to guarantee, on the ground and internationally, whatever status the two separatist, pro-Russian provinces of Georgia choose. Abkhazia, whose majority Georgian population was driven out in the early 1990s, has previously voted for independence. South Ossetia has voted to join Russia.
The world, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, “can forget about any talk about Georgia’s territorial integrity.”
On Thursday, with Russian armored personnel carriers within 25 miles of the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Secretary of State Rice was persuading the Georgian president to accept a cease-fire.
“The U.S. has lost the Caucasus,” said Georgy Khaindrava, a onetime Georgian minister for reintegration, who contends Mr. Saakashvili made a huge strategic error in trying to retake the South Ossetian capital. “My country is cut in pieces.”
Yaroslav Trofimov, Alan Cullison, Gregory L. White and Alessandra Galloni contributed to this article.
Write to Marc Champion at marc.champion@wsj.com  and Andrew Osborn at andrew.osborn@wsj.com
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC): http://www.usubc.org
Promoting Ukraine and U.S.-Ukraine business relations since 1995.

By Jay Solomon in Washington and March Champion, in Tbilisi, Georgia
The Wall Street Journal, NY, NY, Saturday, August 16, 2008; Page A5

When Russian tanks rolled out of South Ossetia and into Georgia proper Monday, triggering fears of a full-scale invasion, a man began furiously shoving U.S. diplomat Matthew J. Bryza around the lobby of the Marriott Tbilisi, the capital’s fanciest hotel.

“It’s your fault too,” shouted Georgy Khaindrava, a former Georgian minister for conflict resolution. “If you hadn’t propped up Misha Magariya [Misha the strong], we wouldn’t have tanks here now,” he said, referring to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Mr. Bryza, who is in his mid-40s, is a household name in Georgia, closely identified with U.S. support for Georgia and for its pro-Western president, Mr. Saakashvili. When he goes out in the street, people sometimes ask to take their picture with him. They ask for his autograph. And, like Mr. Khandraiva, a fierce critic of Mr. Saakashvili since being fired, some of them get mad.
In this conflict, which threatens to rewrite U.S.-Russian relations, the Stanford and Tufts University-educated Mr. Bryza has taken a central role, despite his title. A deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, he has been Washington’s point man on territorial disputes in the Caucasus since the beginning of President George W. Bush’s first term.
He also oversaw U.S. efforts to break Moscow’s stranglehold over Central Asia’s oil and gas supplies to Europe, a project for which Georgia is essential. That project suffered a setback after Russia apparently tried to bomb oil pipelines in Georgia.
The affable Mr. Bryza has developed a reputation as a hard-liner on Russia’s actions towards the former states of the Soviet Union and a staunch defender of both Georgia and the 40-year-old Mr. Saakashvili, with whom he has a close personal relationship.
Critics say that has complicated the U.S.-Georgian relationship, possibly diluting State Department warnings to Tbilisi against engaging in a military confrontation with Russia. Some say there were signs for months that Russia was laying a trap for Mr. Saakashvili.
Lt. Col. Robert Hamilton, who headed the Office of Defense Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi until last month, said Russia took a number of steps that appeared designed either to spark a war or force a “creeping annexation” of the two disputed provinces at the center of the conflict.
Col. Hamilton said he was particularly concerned about Russia’s deployment in April of hundreds of “railroad workers” to reconnect transportation links between Russia and Abkhazia, which U.S. officials now believe was preparation for the conflict. “In every case, Georgia appealed for international assistance,” he said.
Mr. Bryza said Washington has been firm with Tbilisi. He said that for at least four months, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well as other U.S. diplomats had repeatedly delivered the same message to Mr. Saakashvili: that the Georgian leader should “avoid an unwinnable confrontation with Russia.”
Though he acknowledges a close and long relationship with Mr. Saakasvili, Mr. Bryza says his diplomatic role is not about friendship. “This is not about any one leader, it’s about democracy,” he says.
He noted that in November, when Mr. Saakashvili cracked down on opposition protesters using tear gas and rubber bullets, shutting down an opposition television station, he was the one who took a “very tough” message to the Georgian president. “We’ll support you as long as you are a democrat,” Mr. Bryza says he told Mr. Saakashvili.
This time around, he has expressed firm public support for the Georgians. Arriving in Tbilisi Monday to try to negotiate a cease-fire, Mr. Bryza blasted Russian forces for what he said were their premeditated military actions in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also challenged Russian claims that Moscow’s offensive inside Georgia was akin to Washington’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, essentially an act of self-defense.
“Saddam Hussein was not a leader who transformed his country into the world’s leading economic reformer,” Mr. Bryza told reporters at Tblisi’s international airport. “President Saakashvili and his government are democratically elected.”
Mr. Bryza, who speaks fluent Russian and Polish, was based in Poland from 1989 to 1991. From 1995 to 1997, he served in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and monitored the Russian legislature and the Communist Party as a political officer.
The U.S. diplomat must manage a widening crisis with a Georgian leadership remarkably short of international experience. Defense Minister David Kezerashvili is just 30 years old, and many of Mr. Saakashvili’s other top aides have yet to hit 40. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is 55.
“You had this massive generational change in Georgia’s leadership in recent years that gave young officials enormous responsibilities,” says Cory Welt, who directs Georgetown University’s Eurasian Strategy Project. “This can lead to mistakes.”
In recent days, Mr. Bryza and Ms. Rice, who visited Tbilisi Friday, have worked to safeguard Georgia’s democratic transition by trying to hammer out a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia and a plan for the deployment of international peacekeepers into disputed regions. The U.S. has also worked to ferry humanitarian supplies into Georgia as international relief agencies say there are now more then 100,000 displaced peoples in the country.
Mr. Bryza says there may be a silver lining to the conflict. “This need not be the defeat that many people in Georgia perceive it to be,” he said. “The situation is serious, make no mistake,” he added, but with Russia’s international reputation “back on its heels, Georgia has an opportunity to reshape the international mechanisms around the frozen conflict zones.”
Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com & Marc Champion at marc.champion@wsj.com
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Russia truly represents a threat to an independent Ukraine.
EDITORIAL: Kyiv Post, Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug 14, 2008
Russia’s successful blitz through South Ossetia, Abkhazia and other parts of Georgia was a rude wake-up call. Other than Tbilisi, the capital most in shock is Kyiv.
Just over a week ago, the thought of Russia invading Ukraine to solve territorial or political disputes — such as the simmering one in Sevastopol over the Russian Black Sea Fleet — was ludicrous. After the events in Georgia, it is not so laughable.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be disconcerted by the ineffectual European, American and world response to the crisis. While Russians bombed and paratroopers rolled into Georgia, the West bombarded the Kremlin with diplomatic dispatches.
Ukraine finds itself in a precarious geopolitical situation. Russia truly represents a threat to an independent Ukraine. Moreover, Ukraine – like Georgia – is facing this threat on its own. The nation’s leaders must finally realize their isolation and vulnerability.
After wasting 17 years on political squabbles fueled by the redistribution of Soviet-era wealth, the nation is not secure. Ukraine, stuck between Hitler and Stalin in World War II, doesn’t have a favorable geographic position or friendly neighbors. Instead, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is reported to have openly sneered at the idea of Ukraine being a sovereign nation.
Russia’s adventurism in Georgia was meant to send the bluntest of signals to its neighbors: “Don’t get too cozy with the West, because we rule this region.” The fossilized communists and other Kremlin toadies all too willingly obey. But such a subservient response will only take Ukraine backwards. 
To the contrary, the solution is for Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military alliance. Ukraine will have a better fate with NATO, a grouping of 26 democratic European and North American countries, rather than with Kremlin autocrats.
“NATO now!” should be the new rallying cry for all politicians in Ukraine. But as we have seen, the Kremlin-friendly Party of Regions and ex-Prime Minister Victor Yanukovych are determined to block and delay.
The desire of France and Germany not to irritate Russia, which supplies a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, is blamed for the April decision at the NATO summit in Bucharest to delay the membership applications of Ukraine and Georgia.
Ukraine’s political divisions and the ambivalence of average Ukrainians also contribute to wariness from the West. It’s all the more unfortunate because, outside of the three Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia are the only two relatively bright spots for democracy among the 15 former Soviet republics.
Ukraine needs to take a couple of other steps as well.
Faced with a resurgent Russia, Ukraine’s military needs billions of hryvnias to improve its readiness and bring it closer to NATO standards. Ukraine’s leaders should also press for an earlier exit of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet from the nation’s territory than 2017, the year the current agreement expires.
It’s hard to say exactly who is to blame for the start-up of the hostilities between Georgia and Russia. Did South Ossetian separatists provoke Georgia with violence? Or did Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili blunder by invading the separatist province without anticipating the fury of the Russian response?
Either way, Ukraine and the Caucasus have similar circumstances that make them ripe for provocations.
Ukraine has a large ethnic Russian population that the Kremlin courts in its unyielding opposition to attempts at Western integration and NATO membership. Crimea has plenty of Russian troops and Russian passport holders, creating the opportunity for Kremlin leaders to justify an invasion as essential to protecting its citizens, as they did in South Ossetia.
Ukraine can start with a public education campaign on the benefits of NATO membership. With all the disinformation out there, such information is essential. But a campaign will take time and money to change public opinion.
Western leaders, meanwhile, should recognize that their ambivalence to Ukraine and Georgia is encouraging Russia to menace and threaten beyond the Caucasus and Black Sea.
[return to index] [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]
If you are receiving more than one copy of the AUR please contact us.

Please contact us if you no longer wish to receive the AUR.    
You are welcome to send us names for the AUR distribution list.
If you are missing some issues of the AUR please let us know.
A Free, Private, Not-For-Profit, Independent, Public Service Newsletter
With major support from The Bleyzer Foundation
Articles are Distributed For Information, Research, Education, Academic,
Discussion and Personal Purposes Only. Additional Readers are Welcome.
If you would like to read the ACTION UKRAINE REPORT- AUR,
several times a month, please send your name, country of residence,
and e-mail contact information to morganw@patriot.net. Information
about your occupation and your interest in Ukraine is also appreciated.
If you do not wish to read the ACTION UKRAINE REPORT please
contact us immediately by e-mail to morganw@patriot.net.  If you are
receiving more than one copy please let us know so this can be corrected. 
Mr. E. Morgan Williams, Director, Government Affairs
Washington Office, SigmaBleyzer, The Bleyzer Foundation
Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group;
President, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
1701 K Street, NW, Suite 903, Washington, D.C. 20006
Tel: 202 437 4707; Fax 202 223 1224
mwilliams@usubc.org; www.usubc.org
Power Corrupts and Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.
return to index [Action Ukraine Report (AUR) Monitoring Service]

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized