Should We Fight for South Ossetia?


March, 2008

In an echo of Warren Harding's "A Return to Normalcy" speech of 1920, George Bush last week declared, "Normalcy is returning back to Iraq." The term seemed a mite ironic. For, as Bush spoke, Iraqis were dying in the hundreds in the bloodiest fighting in months in Basra, the Shia militias of Moqtada al-Sadr were engaging Iraqi and U.S. troops in Sadr City, and mortar shells were dropping into the Green Zone. One begins to understand why Gen. Petraeus wants a "pause" in the pullout of U.S. forces, and why Bush agrees. This will leave more U.S. troops in Iraq on Inauguration Day 2009 than on Election Day 2006, when the country voted the Democrats into power to bring a swift end to the war. A day before Bush went to the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, to speak of normalcy returning to Iraq, he was led down into "the Tank," a secure room at the Pentagon, to be briefed on the crisis facing the U.S. Army and Marine Corps because of the constant redeployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the Associated Press' Robert Burns reported, the Joint Chiefs "laid out their concerns about the health of the U.S. force." First among them is "that U.S. forces are being worn thin, compromising the Pentagon's ability to handle crises elsewhere in the world. … The U.S. has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan and 156,000 in Iraq." "Five plus years in Iraq," the generals and admirals told Bush, "could create severe, long-term problems, particularly for the Army and Marine Corps." In short, the two long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are wearing down U.S. ground forces of fewer than 700,000, one in every six of them women, to such an extent U.S. commanders called Bush and Dick Cheney to a secret meeting to awaken them to the strategic and morale crisis. This is serious business. With the Taliban revived and the violence in Iraq rising toward pre-surge levels, the Joint Chiefs are telling the commander in chief that the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are worn out.

Crunch time is coming. And what is President Bush doing? He is flying to Bucharest, Romania, to persuade Europe to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, which means a U.S. commitment to treat any Russian attack on Kiev or Tbilisi like an attack on Kansas or Texas. Article V of the NATO treaty declares that "an armed attack against one or more [allies] shall be considered an attack against them all." Added language makes clear that the commitment to assist an ally is not unconditional. Rather, each signatory will assist the ally under attack with "such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force." Yet, it was understood during the Cold War that if a NATO ally like Norway, West Germany, or Turkey, which bordered on the Soviet Union or Warsaw Pact, were attacked, America would come to its defense.

Can any sane man believe the United States should go to war with a nuclear-armed Russia over Stalin's birthplace, Georgia? Two provinces of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, have seceded, with the backing of Russia. And there are 10 million Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of that country, and Moscow and Kiev are at odds over which is sovereign on the Crimean Peninsula. To bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO would put America in the middle of these quarrels. We could be dragged into a confrontation with Russia over Abkhazia, or South Ossetia, or who owns Sebastopol. To bring these ex-republics of the Soviet Union into NATO would be an affront to Moscow not unlike 19th century Britain bringing the Confederate state of South Carolina under the protection of the British Empire.

How would Lincoln's Union have reacted to that? With a weary army and no NATO ally willing to fight beside us, how could we defend Georgia if Tbilisi, once in NATO, defied Moscow and invaded Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and Russia bombed the Georgian army and capital? Would we declare war? Would we send the 82nd Airborne into the Pankisi Gorge? Fortunately, Germany is prepared to veto any Bush attempt to put Ukraine or Georgia on a fast track into NATO. But President Bush is no longer the problem. John McCain is.

As Anatol Lieven writes in the Financial Times, McCain supports a restoration of Georgian rule over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine. He wants to throw Russia out of the G-8 – and talks flippantly of bombing Iran. Says McCain, "I would institute a policy called 'rogue-state rollback.' I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments." Wonderful. A Second Crusade for Global Democracy. But with the Joint Chiefs warning of a war-weary Army and Marine Corps, who will fight all the new wars the neocons and their new champion have in store for us?

Source: http://www.antiwar.com/pat/?articleid=12612

In other news:

U.S. House of Representatives backs Ukraine and Georgia NATO bids



Angry Ukrainians reject NATO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnOfSshnNzI

Bush Pushes Ukraine's Membership in NATO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTQ3D1a-j20

The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously expressed its support for a resolution calling for the acceptance of Georgia and Ukraine into the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). The resolution, which is not legally binding, reads that, "the United States should take the lead in supporting the awarding of a Membership Action Plan to Georgia and Ukraine as soon as possible." It also stated that "a stronger, deeper relationship among the Government of Georgia, the Government of Ukraine, and NATO will be mutually beneficial to those countries and to NATO member states."

Ukraine and Georgia have formally requested to join MAP, a program that prepares countries for accession to the Western military alliance but does not guarantee membership. U.S. President George Bush arrived in Ukraine late on Monday and following a meeting with President Yushchenko on Tuesday told journalists that, "I'm going to work as hard as I can to see to it that Georgia and Ukraine are accepted into MAP." Russia is concerned over the membership bids of the former Soviet republics. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said, "NATO's approach to Russia's borders is a situation that is unacceptable to us, and we will do all we can to prevent that from happening." "I will continue to make America's position clear: we support the MAP for Ukraine and Georgia," Bush also said.

Bush now heads to a NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4. He is then due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on April 6 for more talks on NATO's expansion and U.S. plans for a missile shield in Central Europe. Bush reiterated that Ukraine and Georgia's NATO bids were no reason for Russia to be concerned, adding however that, "Russia will not have a veto over what happens in Bucharest."

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20080401/102732967.html

Bush defies Russia over Nato membership

George W Bush has raised the stakes in a row with Vladimir Putin over plans by former Soviet states to join Nato.

The US president said during talks with Ukraine's leaders that the Kremlin would not be allowed to veto their ambitions or those of Georgia, another one of Russia's neighbours, to join the Western military alliance. Mr Bush's slap-down of the Russian president over the plan is likely to sour an important Nato summit which begins in Romania tomorrow. "Your nation has made a bold decision and the United States strongly supports your request," he told Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's pro-Western president, in the capital Kiev. "In Bucharest this week, I will continue to make America's position clear." During the three-day summit, which is being attended by 50 world leaders, Nato will decide whether to give Membership Action Plans (MAPs) - the first serious step towards joining the alliance - to the two countries. But Mr Bush was looking increasingly isolated in his efforts to reward the two states for their support of Washington's foreign policy in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

France joined Germany in publicly opposing membership after Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, effectively lent his support to the notion that ex-Soviet states should remain in the Russian sphere of influence. "France will not give its green light to the entry of Ukraine and Georgia," Mr Fillon said. "We think it is not the right response to the balance of power in Europe and between Europe and Russia and we want to have a dialogue on this subject with Russia." Mr Putin, who will attend the summit as guest of honour on Friday, has denounced Nato's expansion into eastern Europe as a provocation against Moscow. Previously healthy relations with the United States deteriorated sharply after massive post-election demonstration in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003 and 2004 overthrew autocratic and corrupt regimes backed by Russia.

The Kremlin claimed that both popular revolutions were orchestrated by the West in an attempt to weaken Russia and has punished both countries after they imposed western-style reforms. Today, senior Russian officials stepped up their campaign to scupper their neighbours' Nato ambitions with stark warnings of a serious security crisis in Europe if membership is awarded. "The admission of Ukraine into Nato will trigger a deep crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations," said Grigory Karasin, the deputy foreign minister. "This crisis will also affect pan-European security in the most adverse way." Given its determination not to lose Ukraine and Georgia to the west forever, it is unclear how far the Kremlin would be prepared to go in its response.

Georgia is arguably the more vulnerable of the two. Russia, which has imposed tough economic sanctions on Tbilisi in recent years, has already given unofficial military and financial backing to the two Georgian breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Analysts say that the Kremlin might retaliate to a MAP by formally recognizing both regions, a move that could be a calculated attempt to cause a war between Russia and Georgia. Russia may also be tempted to cut gas supplies to Ukraine again, potentially triggering an energy crisis in the European Union. With so much at stake, prospects for Georgia and Ukraine to join Nato appear to be fading. Mr Bush held out faint hope, however, saying that he had received assurances from other Nato members that Russia "will not have a veto over what happens next in Bucharest".

Both countries say they desperately need the security guarantees Nato affords in order to secure their sovereignty from Russian aggression, although a majority of Ukrainians actually oppose membership. This week, Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili warned Nato that forcing his country to fend for itself was tantamount to Western Europe's abandonment of Czechoslovakia after the Munich agreement of 1938. Mr Yushchenko also urged Nato countries to stand up to Russian intimidation. "You will forgive me, but I would not like to see the key, fundamental principle of the alliance's activity 'open doors' replaced by a veto for a country which is not even a member," he said.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main...wrussia101.xml

Putin says Russia will support Abkhazia and S. Ossetia


Russia will provide all the necessary support and assistance to Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Russian Foreign Ministry said quoting President Vladimir Putin. Georgia is seeking to regain control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which proclaimed independence following the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tbilisi accuses Moscow of encouraging separatism and interfering in its internal affairs. "The Russian president stressed that Russia is not unsympathetic to the aspirations and problems to the two republics' population, where many Russian nationals live," the ministry said.

Earlier the presidents of the two breakaway republics expressed in a statement to Putin their concerns over the "aggressive course by the Georgian authorities to destabilize the situation in the conflict zones, Georgia's militarization, the build up of offensive weapons and troops close to the borders of the [self-proclaimed] republics." The Russian president said that all Georgia's attempts to resolve the situation by applying pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia are senseless. "Any attempts to apply political, economic or especially military pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia are futile and counterproductive," the ministry said citing Putin. Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia, said in an interview with RIA Novosti that Putin's statement would "guarantee security for our republics. This is how I understood it."

Two weeks ago the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, proposed that the president and the government consider the issue of whether to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ex-Soviet breakaway regions have stepped up their drive for independence since Kosovo's declaration of independence on February 17. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova's Transdnestr, have since asked Russia's parliament, the United Nations and other organizations to recognize their independence. Peacekeeping in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone is currently carried out by collective CIS forces staffed with Russian service personnel. The Georgian-South Ossetian conflict area is controlled by joint forces also including Russian peacekeepers.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20080403/102935645.html

Lukashenko says NATO expansion inevitable


Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday that the admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO was inevitable, and that Belarus should strengthen its defense capacity accordingly. NATO members meeting at a summit in Romania have decided to postpone offering Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the alliance's Membership Action Plan (MAP). NATO's secretary general later said however that the former Soviet republics would eventually be invited to join. "The issue of Ukraine and Georgia's membership of NATO is merely a matter of time," Lukashenko, dubbed 'Europe's last dictator' by Washington, told a news conference in Minsk. "We need to think about strengthening our defense capacity," he added.

"Our armed forces are all the Belarus-Russia Union State has in the west," he said, adding that Belarus, as a party to a military agreement with Russia, would defend the Union's western borders should the need arise. "The treaty with Russia is sacred thing, and we will implement it without fail. Russia also fulfills its commitments and provides us with a reliable shield, including nuclear, in line with this treaty," Lukashenko said. The U.S. and the European Union have accused Lukashenko of clamping down on dissent, stifling the media and rigging elections. Lukashenko, who was re-elected to a third term in 2006, and other senior Belarusian officials have been blacklisted from entering the U.S. and EU. Tensions between the U.S. and Belarus heightened after Washington imposed sanctions last November against Belarus's state-controlled petrochemical company Belneftekhim and froze the assets of its U.S. subsidiary. The U.S. ambassador to Belarus also 'temporarily' left Minsk last month following an official recommendation that she leave the country.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/world/20080403/102909522.html

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