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On Russia, Georgia, and Israel

Posted By Danny the Admin On August 24, 2008 @ 8:42 am In Russia | 10 Comments

The Russian-Georgian crisis put Sam Huntington to shame. In his Clash of Civilizations thesis, he asserted that similar cultures are unlikely to clash. To that proposition, he offered a number of tests, including Russia-Ukraine and Russia-Georgia. To Huntington, the fact that Georgia is a uniquely Christian country in Asia makes it Russia’s natural ally. That is incorrect on three points. One, besides sharing Orthodox Christianity, Russians and Georgians are very different and share a considerable dislike for one another. Two, there is no such thing as Georgians. Residents of Tbilisi are different from highlanders, who are different from Mingrels, and so on. While the highlanders are at least respected in Russia, Mingrels are commonly disliked. Three, common cultures do clash, and do so more often and more violently than alien cultures. European Christians fought two world wars among themselves, as well as countless others. The Jews hated Samaritans, who are as Jewish as a high priest. My rebuttal of Huntington’s argument is in the Samson Blinded Dar al Islam is not the enemy of the West [1] chapter.

The very fact of Georgian similarity and common Christian heritage made Georgia’s secession an affront to Russia. The subsequent alignment with America ensured the military confrontation. Divorce is bad enough, but the ex moving in with your enemy is too much.

Russia thus began subverting Georgian independence with the textbook colonial policy: settlement. The way of settling Georgia was ingenious: Russia issued massive numbers of passports to Osetians and Abkhazians, residents of two Georgian provinces. Russian passports offered them work opportunities and general mobility, and in a decade cemented the sense of belonging to Russia. Never mind that ethnic Russians are contemptuous of the Asiatic Osetians and Abkhazians.

Osetia and Abkhazia were not homogeneous, but included many ethnic Georgian villages. The issue of Georgian sovereignty there is moot: for the last two hundred years, the country itself lacked sovereignty and belonged to Russia. Georgians previously appealed to the precedent of Crimea: The Russian government recognized the Soviet act of ceding the peninsula to Ukraine; they claimed similar rights to Osetia and Abkhazia, which the Soviets incorporated into Georgia. Now that many Russian politicians frown upon the Crimea arrangement, that dubious precedent doesn’t hold.

In the current crisis, it is hard to believe that the Russians could react so swiftly; there are considerable rumors to the effect that the invasion had been planned for months. Both Russian troops and Osetian hospitals were unusually well-prepared. Osetia, the Russian client, started shelling Georgia—or so the latter claims—to which hot-headed Georgians, reassured by years of Israeli training, responded with invasion. Russia intervened, quickly routed the lackluster Georgian troops, took a day more to overrun its special forces, and all but occupied the American protectorate.

The conflict’s scope was minuscule: the Georgians had less than 200 killed, Russian troops less than 100. Osetian losses were somewhere in between those figures. Russian media hugely inflated Osetian losses, but judging by the mere hundreds of wounded who registered in local hospitals, the body count probably did not greatly exceed two hundred, largely the militia.

There are a few lessons. First, Russian clashes with Ukraine should not come as a surprise. Two, Medvedev follows in Putin’s footsteps: Putin started his reign with the Chechen war, Medvedev with the Georgian one. An empire such as Russia’s has to be constantly on the alert, always fighting someone lest its citizens pause to question the government’s policies.

The world had no problem with Russia and Georgia killing civilians, the only demands were for ending the publicized affair. Likewise, Israel can do anything to Arabs, as long as she limits her operations to a few days. That should be enough for the transfer.

The world has no problem with the secession of Georgian provinces or probable Russian annexation of them; the only thing on the agenda is the continued occupation of Georgia. Anything which is too long, and unacceptable to Western consciences, allows the media to jump in. Anything goes until the world knows—or rather is forced to admit that it knows. Even so, continued Russian presence in Georgia would not arouse the West. No one likes to make a helpless person of himself; once the US and EU politicians realized that they cannot change Russian policy, they would ignore it rather than reiterate their diplomatic failure. In the Israeli case, the civilized world accepted the Golan annexation presented as fait accompli.

There is also a lesson about friends. America provoked Georgia into acting against Russia, but didn’t supply it with meaningful arms to repel the invaders. The US Administration would protest Russia’s drastic moves but not the continuous carping at Georgia. American guarantees are worthless, especially the implicit ones. Russia has a better record of standing up for its clients, and its weapons are cheaper; Israelis should think about that.

Russia again embarked on the path of military confrontation with everyone else. Increased training and allocations to the Russian army, patrols by strategic nuclear-armed bombers, and new ballistic missile defenses and weapons upgrades show that the KGB/FSB regime wants its subjects to be patriotic—that is, anti-someone. The Russian military machine cannot rebound: previously, it relied on almost free labor and supplies, but cannot pay competitive salaries to scientists and purchase supplies at market prices. Even though Europe subsidizes its nemesis by buying Russian oil and gas at sky-high prices, that money is not enough to finance a modern army; the Russian military budget is below 2 percent of the American one in nominal dollars, 10-20 percent in purchasing-parity terms.

Russia, therefore, has returned to its beloved and inexpensive policy of making troubles for everyone in order to get respect. Georgia, Central Asia, and Ukraine suffer Russian meddling (not that they lack for American meddling). Angola, Algiers, Venezuela, Korea, Iran, Syria, Egypt, China, and India enjoy Russian weapons, so their neighbors suffer. The only way to stop Russia is Kennan’s way: firm opposition to every Russian move, arms sales to Chechnya, more support to opposition parties, ABM systems in Eastern Europe, a diplomatic vacuum around Russia, and isolating its clients so that they understand that dealing with Russia is unprofitable. Any attempts at appeasing Putin’s regime are counterproductive. Like Hezbollah, he takes the absence of a blow for encouragement.

After the Cold War, the international consensus for containment of Russia has faded. There is no need for it. Just as US-alone sanctions against Iran would be harsher than the consensual but ineffective UN sanctions, so the US-alone containment of Russia would work better than the watered-down US-EU opposition. It is unrealistic to expect the EU, addicted to Russian and Iranian oil and gas, to oppose either.

The next time you see a liberal, laugh at him. The Wild West world of power politics is alive and bad.

Article printed from Samson Blinded: http://samsonblinded.org/blog

URL to article: http://samsonblinded.org/blog/on-russia-georgia-and-israel.htm

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[1] Dar al Islam is not the enemy of the West: http://samsonblinded.org/titles/dar_al_islam_not_enemy_west.htm