Sunday, August 17, 2008

Georgia v. Russia Redoux

When I visited T'blisi some ten years ago, Georgia was without question in the worst situation of any of the former Soviet Republics I had visited. Meat and basic food stuffs were difficult to find, the local Russian dominated Mafia controlled everything from the military down to the corner shops, and the people walked with their heads down so as to stay out of trouble. It was so bad, neighboring Armenians came to Georgia to buy clothing cheaply and then return with that clothing to Armenia to sell on the streets. You know your country is not doing so well when Armenia is using it like Californians use Mexico.*

The mountainous region in the northern portion of the country was spectacular however, and climbing in the Caucuses one could forget about the abandoned brick structures in Batum, the locals shitting in the same abandoned buildings because there was no plumbing, and the crime which made you fear walking around the streets of T'blisi. Granted even in remote outposts were Russian whores controlled by Russian Mafia, but that's no different than Taichung, L.A. or Macau I reckon.

But I guess times have changed and now Georgia is dealing with a bit of prosperity, based in no small part to their strategic position connecting the Caspian oil fields and the user friendly nation of Turkey. The Russian Mafia may have even left T'blisi, though I'm sure that they've been replaced by a Georgian version of the same. The United States has given military assistance, supported a Western educated president, and utilized Georgian forces in Iraq.

This link
provides the best summation of the conflict I have come across. For me, South Osettia and Abkazia were no go areas. I was able to sneak into Russia on the back of a truck and loop around Northern Georgia, but there was no entering the area from the Georgian side because they had declared de facto independence. It would have been as difficult as going into Nagorno-Karabagh in Azjerbjan/Armenia. So now, with the world watching the Olympics, the Georgians have tried to pull a fast one and reenter areas which had long ago abandoned the Georgian federation in order to restore territorial integrity. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong. But they have messed with a military far more powerful than their own with the expected western support nowhere to be found, meaning that gamble is looking worse by the day.

As the author points out in the article, it is a bit ironic that a nation which joined in an invading force in Iraq is now complaining about a similar invasion of their own homeland. Granted their participation in Iraq was probably more of a contract of adhesion than a willing choice to defeat tyrrany, but that hardly removes the irony.

*with the current depriciation of the dollar, perhaps the Mexicans will soon be coming to Laredo to spend their pesos.


Red A said...


Thanks for the post, I washopeing you would do on Georgia.Here is some stuff I have learned reading around a bit. YMMV.

Supposedly, there was shelling from the S. Ossetian side before the Georgians counter-shelled and then moved in. The fact that the Russian forces were so well prepared for a near-instanteous response, including naval blockade and bombing targets is somewhat suspicious, but Georgia knew who their neighbor was, too.

About 30% of S. Ossetia is Georgian ethnicity and there are pro-Georgian villages. (Those were the ones being shelled.) But the real reason Georgia wants to assert its sovereignty over this region (pop. 100,000) is because of the Roki tunnel. If they hold S. Ossetia they can effectively prevent Russian attack as the Roki tunnel is the only way to get troops over the mountains. (And thus you know why Russia wants to keep it.)

I'll try to find some links that were also good...I had a great Slate story about a journalist visiting S. Ossetia that was very illuminating.

Red A said...

I found the article:

Anonymous said...

Nice post Bread! Thanks for that!