Thursday, August 21, 2008

Georgia / S.Ossetia / Russia / US Crisis

Georgia/S.Ossetia/Russia/US Crisis

August 19, 2008

Dear CCI friends and funders,

Many of you have called and emailed regarding the Georgia/S.Ossetia/Russia debacle. We've followed the happenings day and night - at times over a hundred emails a day arrived from analysts and experts on Russia. These events occurred right after I arrived from Russia, so this is the first time I've had to write - though I hope you have checked our blog, for analyses of NYT, WP, and other articles on these issues.

This following piece is unforgivably long. If you have little time to read, please just scan the following bullets.


* Georgia made an unprovoked military attack on S. Ossetia on August 7 - a fact which is virtually ignored by U.S. media - most reference it as the "invasion by Russia into Georgian territory." This tells us something. Why is the invading country not being faulted? Bush/Rice have castigated Russia for a "disproportionate" response. Can you think of a response to any invasion which has been "proportionate"?
* Russia counter attacked on August 8 after 1400 civilians and Russian peace keepers had been killed. The city was in shambles, with refugees streaming toward Russia to seek refuge.
* Since Georgia became a free state in 1991, S. Ossetia has had de facto independence and have operated as an autonomous area. Our media reports as though these facts don't matter.
* Josef Stalin drew the dividing lines between the two Ossetian communities and placed half of the Ossetians in Georgia, and the other half in Russia. It made no sense. What need is there today to honor Stalin's whim about carving up ethnic groups.
* Ossetians are a totally different ethnic group, they are not Georgian. Many Ossetians are Russians - and many hold Russian passports.
* Ossetians despise and distrust Georgians and want nothing to do with them.
* The South Ossetians fought a vicious war with Georgia in 1991-93 after first Georgian President Gamsakhurdia, a rabid nationalist, stripped them of their autonomy and sent militia in to establish Georgian dominance. The Ossetians finally won and since then have governed themselves with a president and a constitution.
* Russia to date has insured their autonomy for which South Ossetians are grateful.
* Russia has kept a "peace force" in Ossetia for years which was originally approved by Georgia, the US and others, to keep peace in the micro-region where tempers flare frequently.
* Ossetia's autonomy was approved in 1993 by presidents Yeltsin and by Shevardnadze, the then head of state of Georgia. Nothing about this fact has changed since.
* There has been continuous low-level sniping and firing between both Ossetian and Georgian villagers for decades.
* It would be impossible for Georgia to manage a successful takeover of the Ossetians. They would have to raze Ossetia to the ground to beat them into submission.
* U.S. and Israeli military have been stationed in Georgia, providing military hardware and training Georgians in battlefield tactics for some time now.

Despite US media coverage, this situation is not about a "big bad nation" (Russia) beating up on an "innocent little nation" (Georgia). Georgia initiated this all-out war, which they and US advisors could have predicted would turn ugly in a hurry.


The question is: why would Georgia's president Saakashvili invade a sworn enemy which has a Russian peace keeping force stationed there to defend Ossetia's autonomy? It would appear to be a suicide mission.

Likely reasons: Either Saakashvili was totally deluded, and/or he gambled that Russia would not stand behind their word to the Ossetians, and/or he believed that the U.S. would support him and Georgia in a war against S. Ossetia and possibly Russia.


Since the implosion of the USSR in 1990, elements in Washington have encouraged and financially supported the independent states of the former USSR, to align with the the U.S. and Europe, and to forego their former relations with Russia. Some states welcomed this support, since they bristled under USSR rule (Baltic states, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Georgia). Others, part of the Russian Empire, weren't interested in breaking relations. Russia provided incentives to these states and they remain in good political and trade relations.

Why has the U.S. been interested in dividing Russia's neighboring states from Russia? To: 1) to insure that collectively they wouldn't get strong again and become a threat; 2) to help bolster America's hegemony and dominance in the world; and 3) to insure America's energy future - oil and gas supplies along with the pipelines that carry it out to the west. Georgia, one part of this strategy, doesn't have oil or gas, but they do have pipelines, rails and ports and are considered strategically located.


1. In the 1990's when Russia underwent their debilitating transition to a private economy, the country was in massive debt to international lending institutions, and had no choice but to tolerate whatever major powers did, including the beginning of the bitterly resented NATO expansion. Russian leaders and citizens suffered this fate at the time, but not gladly.
2. After 2001 when Putin emerged as Russia's new leader, Russia became stronger by the year, paid off her debts, essentially nationalized the oil and gas industry and became more active in rebuilding Russia's economic interests.
3. By 2003 Putin's power was felt in internal politics and nation rebuilding. Khodorkovsky was imprisoned on tax evasion, but more because of his anti-Putin political ambitions. His incarceration helped rein in other oligarchs. Elements in Washington and US media were hyper critical and into actions seeming to Russia to destabilize her internal interests. U.S. money supported "opposition" politics in Russia and other states of the former USSR, which bristled the Russians. They began to push back.
4. By 2004/5, Georgia's Rose Revolution and Ukraine's Orange Revolution occurred (due to support from American NGOs and exiled oligarchs) which galled Russians since they were increasingly 'encircled by unfriendly nations.'
5. Russia became predictably reactive, clamped down on media, visas and in other spheres. They stopped subsidizing oil and gas to former USSR republics who joined the west, turned their 'portion' off when they refused to pay market prices. Ukrainians pilfered gas for themselves from the pipelines - but cut off contents destined for Europe. This created a squall of "oil politics."
6. By 2007, Putin, at a Munich meeting of heads of states, unveiled Russia's position on the U.S.' unipolar role in global politics - and made Russia's case for a multipolar world. This was a turning point in US-Russia relations - it alerted Washington that Russia no longer accepted their concept of sole superpower status (geopolitically, not militarily). Elements in DC next initiated the effort to put missile systems and monitoring devices on Russia's borders in Poland and the Czech Republic. This was the next-to-last straw for Russia.
7. August 7, 2008 Georgia attacked S. Ossetia's capital with full force. This was the last straw. Russian military responded to the attack within 15 hours, quickly moved down into Georgia proper to destroy military caches, cut off bridges and interrupt transit routes - to the shock of western media.

Ignoring who started the war, who was behind it, the devastation that occurred in S. Ossetia, and the history between the two ethnic groups, western media has spun a story line that looked convincing at first, but doesn't hold water once the facts are known.

Unfortunately, it is clear now that a resurgent Russia is back - and that they will do what is in Russia's best interests in the future - as any country in control of its destiny would.


In the 1990s and even up to 2007, Russia and Russians, more than anything, wanted to be friends with America and to be accepted into the trans-Atlantic world community. As a country, we missed thousands of opportunities by being amazingly arrogant, pushy, resistant and totally insensitive to Russia's plight as it dug out of communism and tried to form a new nation. We at CCI were on the scene ad intimately involved with these years. We watched every little detail and rankled at the behaviors and attitudes we were observing.

The second Cold War really started years ago. In 2001 I began a folder of US newspaper articles which was labeled "The Rebuilding the Cold War" - articles that were demeaning to Russia, forcing them into situations that were "salt in the wounds." Why???? I asked myself, why would we go there again? Surely, we wouldn't! But we did.

It appears that elements of U.S. foreign policy makers and the U.S. media, were never able to let go of 'cold war mentality' and instinctively distorted any situation related to Russia - and often used standards to which they didn't hold other countries and trading partners around the world.


On Sunday I watched CNN reporting on the Georgian/S. Ossetia crisis. They did a terrific piece on CCI in 2007 when we brought 100 Russians to DC to talk with Congress members re the US-Russia policy. But this morning I was stunned and disappointed to see how CNN sidestepped the evidence surrounding the Georgia/S.Ossetia/Russia events in subtle nuanced ways the audience would not normally register. For instance:

1. CNN chose only on-ground reporters sitting in the capital of Georgia - none sitting in South Ossetia - where on-ground newscasters reported the worst damage to have occurred. Footage of grim Georgian victims were shown, but no Ossetian tragedies mentioned. Would Russians have let CNN into S. Ossetia's capital city? With pleasure, to show the damage sustained there.

2. CNN chose Zbigniew Brzezinski as the hour's lead foreign policy specialist. This anti-Russia, Polish-American foreign policy specialist can be safely predicted to produce negatively-skewed opinions on anything Russian. Other similar choices of interviewees followed throughout the hour. There are dozens of equally or better-known Russian experts which could have been chosen for interview had facts and balance been of interest (Ambassadors to Russia, National Security Advisors on Russia, high-level academicians).

3. CNN chose for their last interview, Richard Holbrooke, who always has a one-sided view against Russia. He has been used extensively by the networks over the past ten days. At this point I turned off the television.


Friends, it seems not long ago that I wrote thousands of you during the build up to the Iraq War. I warned that the hype we were hearing day and night was based more on fiction and lies than reality. In January of 2001, I went to Washington to try to get an open ear. Options to war were offered, such as sending neutral Rotary or other American delegations to Iraq to learn if there were ways we could deal with them, rather than war. It was useless - the momentum for war, on both sides of the aisle, was too great by that time. The media bombardment, truthful or not, had been overly successful. For my efforts and strange thinking, I was labeled "unpatriotic." Months and now years have passed. We have slowly faced the truth about how we were taken into that war. And again in 2008, I am registering panic that we are going in that same dangerous direction again.

I fear the underlying intentions of this current situation are all about oil and gas, global dominance and hegemony - which means a show-down for any who might get in the way. Russia is in the way.

Unfortunately for us, Russia will no longer back down - like she was forced to in the 90s. Today she will go toe-to-toe if pushed; and will probably "over react" due to years of having had NATO shoved up to her borders; neighboring states turned against her; missiles and hi-tech invasive monitoring placed on her periphery; years of having been refused Jackson Vanik trade advantages; living with the endless info-war leveled at her; on and on and on.

The specter today is extraordinarily dangerous. Russia still has thousands of nuclear weapons. With cowboy mentality and brinksmanship in vogue in international politics, it's not inconceivable that WWIII could be launched over such an insignificant little place on earth as South Ossetia.

The only light in this tunnel is that there will be new leadership in Washington in a few short months. Let us hope and pray that which ever candidate wins, they will assess the ominous writing on the wall and create a radically new type of American foreign policy - that they will realize that we are in a totally new 'world-in-the-making' - and that the warring politics of the 20th century won't work in the 21st century - and that we face either change... or extinction.


I will greatly appreciate your comments on the above. If you are comfortable this point of view, I urge you to send this message to your e-lists.

All the best, --

PS: If you know a local newspaper editor, please ask them if they will print an OpEd on the Georgia/Ossetia/Russia crisis. If so, let me know quickly - I will send one.

PS: Do check our blog, for the latest in analyses of NYT, WP and other major papers on the Georgia/Ossetia/Russia issues. You will see the full articles as they appeared in our key newspapers, the criteria by which the contents are judged, and the factual information behind often slanted comments or paragraphs.'

*** Excuse rough writing, no editors are present....


Excuse me while I eat my tie...

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