September 15, 2008

Blowback in Russia

Russia has a problem. Moscow’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia a few weeks ago has already encouraged some of its own disgruntled minorities to push harder for independence from the Russian Federation. Russia’s semi-autonomous republics of Ingushetia and Tatarstan have both ratcheted up their demands to secede.

Radical Islamists in Ingushetia, just across the Caucasus mountains from Georgia, have waged a low-level insurgency against the Russian government for some time now, though it has yet to reach the level of violent anti-Russian ferocity waged earlier by their cousins in neighboring Chechnya. A new group calling itself the People’s Parliament of Ingushetia has just surfaced after Russia’s adventure in Georgia with the stated aim of secession. More moderate opposition leaders also recently joined the cause of the radicals. Rebellious Ingush are not only emboldened by Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they’re enraged by the assassination a few weeks ago of prominent anti-Kremlin journalist Magomed Yevloyev.

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of various nationalist groups known as the All-Tatar Civic Center in Tatarstan announced that they likewise want out. They also cite the Abkhazia and South Ossetia precedents. “Russia has lost the moral right not to recognize us,” said Rashit Akhmetov, editor of the Zvezda Povolzhya newspaper in Tatarstan’s capital.

Read the rest in COMMENTARY.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 15, 2008 3:04 PM
Comments

Ah, the dilemma of the Russian Empire! Does that empire use law to rule or does it use raw power?

Silly me, that empire uses what it will, as it wishes, to it's best effect! Please submit now or else!

Posted by: BHRC Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 3:20 PM

Now Russia has Abkhazs and Osetins to rely on. There is nobody in the region who has more to lose than them. If Ingushs will start something so will Chechens and quite possibly Georgia. Russia will fight it very hard and very brutal though. It places their entire access to Kavkaz and Black sea in jeopardy. Not to mention having possible Al-Qeida state (Chechnya/Ichkeria) at their border.

Interesting situation is with Tatars. They used to live in Crimea before Stalin forced them to Siberia. Which territory will they want as theirs? But you are right, they are probably too isolated to have real chance and they understand it (so I hope).

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 7:04 PM

Leo,

The Tatars in question are the ones that live in Tatarstan, pretty much in the middle of Russia and totally surrounded by Russia. Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, was conquered by Ivan the Terrible sometime in the 1500s. I think about 52 percent of the population of Tatarstan is ethnically Tatar.

I, for one, thought that the Chechens made it perfectly clear that they want to be independent and supported their independence after the First Chechen War. Unfortunately, the Chechens with their own actions could not keep that independence. I think Maskhadov was an honorable and brave Chechen patriot who tried to do his best. Alas, he could not control people like Shamyl Basayev. It was the actions of Basayev that gave Putin the excuse he needed to crush Chechen indepedence. During the fighting thousands were killed, including Maskhadov and Basayev.

Incidentally, Georgia's official story seems to be unraveling. More and more people are doubting Georgia's spin. Check this article:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,578273,00.html

"Five weeks after the war in the Caucasus the mood is shifting against Georgian President Saakashvili. Some Western intelligence reports have undermined Tbilisi's version of events..."

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 15, 2008 8:37 PM

I'm not sure if there is more than one spelling, but there are only two Google hits for "Magomed Yebloyev" and lots for "Magomed Yevloyev".

Posted by: Freedom Now Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 4:22 AM

I am not sure but my bet it is "Yevloyev".
Even if he was born "Yebloyev" he probably changed it the very next day.
I think somebody tried to pull a joke on Internet.

"The Tatars in question are the ones that live in Tatarstan, pretty much in the middle of Russia and totally surrounded by Russia. Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, was conquered by Ivan the Terrible sometime in the 1500s. I think about 52 percent of the population of Tatarstan is ethnically Tatar."

I agree. Still. I am curios whether Crimean Tatars have aspirations of their own. Not that it is realistic.

Excerpt from the link:

"Even Washington is beginning to suspect that Saakashvili, a friend and ally, could in fact be a gambler -- someone who triggered the bloody five-day war and then told the West bold-faced lies. "The concerns about Russia have remained," says Paul Sanders, an expert on Russia and the director of the conservative Nixon Center in Washington. His words reflect the continuing Western assessment that Russia's military act of revenge against the tiny Caucasus nation Georgia was disproportionate, that Moscow violated international law by recognizing the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and, finally, that it used Georgia as a vehicle to showcase its imperial renaissance."

I agree with it. Especially bold parts.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 5:46 AM

MJT: It’s a long shot at best for these people, but that doesn’t mean Tatarstan can’t become a serious problem for Russia in the medium term

What do you mean by "medium term"? 6 weeks? 8 months? 10 years?

Posted by: Edgar Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 6:08 AM

could it be the CIA making good use of it's $30+ billion budget :) ? Not that the Ingush need it, but a few weapons could make their job easier.

The stock market will make Russia behave...at least by Russian standards:

-Russian stock market slides
-Russia's Micex Index Falls Most Ever; Exchanges Suspend Trading
-Russian stock market continues tumble as RTS index dips below 1300
-Panic as Russian market suspended
-Russian Stock Trade Halted In Biggest Drop Since '98
-Russian stocks plunge, govt weighs crisis measures

http://news.google.com/news?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=russian%20stock%20market&um=1&sa=N&tab=wn

Ours is down too, but we can handle it much better. Theirs is down more than 50% for year, oil price is down, and corruption scares investors.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 10:34 AM

Intellectually and factually interesting, plausible, and doesn't set off any red flags for analytical coherency or consistency. High marks.

I'm not the one to say it, but as I recall, there's a lot going on in Ingushetia, as well as Dagestan.

If you could get a visa out of the Russians, you could do some very, very, very interesting reporting there. Of course, there's an outside chance - although I think they almost exclusively save this for Russians - that they would try to have you killed. I'm pretty sure access to Dagestan and Ingushetia is controlled.

Posted by: glasnost Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 12:34 PM

Glasnost,

There are some very sinister people in the North Caucasus. Dagestan and Ingushetia might be sort of okay (I don't know) but I do know that Chechnya is still very much a no-go zone. Some visitors have been kidnapped and murdered by their own bodyguards. I'm not going. I don't require absolute safety (obviously) but I have to draw the line somewhere, and right now the North Caucasus is it. That might change for me at some point, but not now.

Russia in general, though, is a possibility. Depends on what else happens.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 12:58 PM

Incidentally, Georgia's official story seems to be unraveling. More and more people are doubting Georgia's spin.

KolyaV, Georgia's "spin" was never taken at face value. There is very little that is new in that article. It just contains more of a German attitude, which has always been ambivalent on this issue. You seem very anxious to make Georgians the bad guys, and (by default) the Russians the good guys. The events on the ground speak for themselves. We all get to make up our own mind about whether actions were justified. Or, even legal. Russia violated the UN charter in my opinion. What happens to veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council when they violate the UN Charter? And does obnoxous or aggressive behavior of a neighboring state, justify wars of aggression? The UN says "no". What does KolyaV say?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 1:03 PM

"What does Kolya V. say?"

In my own mind Russia was justified in attacking Georgia and taking control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And yes, in this specific conflict (August 2008) I put the blame mostly on the Georgian side. This is not say that I Russia did not try to exploit this issue to its own advantage (which state doesn't). In addition, there were several Russian and Ossetian actions that I don't condone. Also, I do not think that Russia was the "good guy" and Georgia the "bad guy". Things are not as starkly black and white in the real world and in such wars there are no clean hands.

It's beyond my competence to opine on the legality of Russia's actions, the UN Charter and all that. I know that there are plenty of lawyers and diplomats that can credibly argue both sides of the issue.We still life in an imperfect world in which international law and the UN are used as convenient tools by the side that will benefit the most from it. Sometimes, though, it is better for a country to disregard such laws. Israel, for example, has at times acted correctly even when not in accordance to such laws.

Okay, with this I'm leaving....

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 1:41 PM

The real "blowback" is economic. Russia has been dealing with Tatar demands for independence for a long time. A simple glance at a map will tell you why it's unlikely to ever happen, at least militarily. But meanwhile, Russia is being drained of capital. The Russian stock market collapsed today. Putin is going to have deal with a lot of very angry oligarchs. And if oil prices continue to drop over the near term, Russia won't be able to finance many more of these adventures. What the Georgian war has shown really is just how weak Russia is now. The army is an undisciplined underfunded mess, the fiscal resources aren't really there to support these adventures, the economy can't take the strain of being battered by the West. Russia is done. The Chinese are probably preparing plans for occupying the Russian Far East as we speak.

Posted by: Dyadya Vanya Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 2:15 PM

It's beyond my competence to opine on the legality of Russia's actions, the UN Charter and all that. I know that there are plenty of lawyers and diplomats that can credibly argue both sides of the issue.

Fair enough, KolyaV. But the UN Charter is written in very simple and very clear language. I don't think the intention was that only lawyers and diplomats would be able to make sense of it :)

many people have compared the situation in Georgia to the situation in the Balkans. There is one clear and obvious difference, though. The UN itself voted to intervene in the Balkans. That is the process for military intervention as it is defined in the UN Charter. Any unprovoked and unilateral military action by one state against another that has not been approved by the UN is technically a violation of the UN Charter. And is technically illegal, therefore. The debate over the legality of the Iraq war, for instance, revolves around whether or not it was indirectly authorized by the UN as a result of the UN's approval of the first Gulf War, and Iraq's failure to comply with ceasefire terms. There is no such legal argument to make when it comes to Georgia.

However, I will agree with you that some interventions that lack UN approval have been the right thing to do, at the time they were done. I suppose that whether or not this is the case in Georgia is a matter of perspective.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 16, 2008 2:39 PM

Regarding the UN Charter: from my own readings a few years back due to curiosity about how the UN would see a succession from Canada by Quebec, I believe succession from a member state was deemed a bad thing, as it violated the sovereignty of member states as defined by the UN.

We've talked about this here before. I suspect the reasoning behind the Charter was that supporting this kind of national breakup added to political uncertainty, and made the risk of war greater. As the UN was primarily created to prevent war, this was in keeping with their mission statement.

As we've seen, this kind of succession does create political uncertainty and cause war. They may have had a point.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at September 17, 2008 10:25 AM

DPU -- I would argue that secession creates political uncertainty and causes war only when the area that wishes to secede is multi-ethnic, or when the country trying to prevent the secession is intent on remaining a "prison-house of nations." (The old name for the Russian empire.) I suppose that occasionally there are resource considerations as well - I understand that the Russian parts of the Ukraine have all of the oil. But the artificial state of Czechoslovakia broke up very nicely, because there were no Czechs in Slovakia, and no Slovaks in the Czech Republic.

If the right to seccession, or at least the right to signficant autonomy, were internationally recognized, larger nations would treat their minorities better, and there would be fewer foolish, short-sighted efforts to tear differing groups away from their roots, and force them to live together in the great prison-house of globalism-consumerism-hedonism-secularism-multiculturalism that the world's current great powers have prescribed for EVERYONE.

Posted by: markus Author Profile Page at September 17, 2008 1:51 PM

Good conclusion, Marcus, (but some 50 000 Czechs were in Slovakia, and some 500 000 Slovaks in the Czech Republic; plus some 300-500 000 Hungarian Slovaks in Slovakia.)

One of the tricky issues is that of a 'local majority' in a region where they're otherwise a minority.

Abkhasia should NOT be 'rewarded' for their brutal ethnic cleansing of the Georgians -- altho the Czechs were treated OK when they ethnically cleansed the Sudetenland Germans (who would have, if allowed to, remained with Germany after WW I).

What if San Diego local majority Hispanics decide they want to succede? Would the US allow it? The Slovaks would NOT allow local majority Hungarian Slovaks to.

But in both cases I think they should ... which would certainly lead to more vigorous border enforcement and assimilation policies for immigrants.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 9:08 AM

I would argue that secession creates political uncertainty and causes war only when the area that wishes to secede is multi-ethnic, or when the country trying to prevent the secession is intent on remaining a "prison-house of nations."

What about when a neighboring hostile power encourages succession in order to weaken the parent nation? What about a situation like Canada, in which the separation of a significant portion would weaken the integrity of the nation as a whole?

The global balance of power at the moment is based on the stability associated with the modern nation. Should that model change significantly, as we're seeing it doing, then the result will be a great deal of war.

I support the aims of ethnic autonomy and people's right of self-determination, but I think that we need to find a safer way to do it than the current method of blowing things up and shooting people. We can wish all day that national governments would do the right thing, or that the world was a decentralized federation of autonomous ethnic enclaves, but that isn't reality.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 10:59 AM

The IISS - an influential geo-political and military think tank in London is doubting the value of admitting Georgia to NATO

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7623240.stm

...and I must say, I agree. It would be absolutely disastrous to admit a country with active irridentist ambitions into a collective security organisation.

I heve been to Georgia, S. Ossetia and to Abkhazia in the past (although not during this war), and much as Mr Sakashvilli would like to posit his country as the eastern most bastion of Western European democatic Christendom, outside of the metropole of Tbilisi, this is an Asiatic country. And it does not have a strong dem,ocratic tradition -- "Slick Mick" might look the part in his nicely cut suits, with his legion of spin doctors -- but ask any member of the Georgian opposition about his democratic tendencies and you'll see a ratehr different picture emerge.

TGLD.... what would you think if Mexico formed a strategic military alliance with Iran? Took on Revolutionary Guard "military advisors" and so on? It would be unacceptable.... that's how the Russians feel about the unfettered eastern expansion of NATO.

Allowing Russia its spheres of influence might not be fair on the plucky little Georgians, but guess what.... life ain't.

Posted by: Microraptor Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 11:39 AM

Microraptor, I'm not Tom, but I can't help commenting on this one anyway!

what would you think if Mexico formed a strategic military alliance with Iran? Took on Revolutionary Guard "military advisors" and so on?

I wish they would! I seriously do! I bet it would only take a few weeks for the US government to miraculously discover that they actually can control the southern border, after all :)

And in my view, unrestrained and illegal immigration across that border is a far larger threat than Iranian influence in Mexico could ever be.

It would be unacceptable.... that's how the Russians feel about the unfettered eastern expansion of NATO.

What you say is true, but it never stopped the Russians from trying to drive wedges into America's traditional spheres of influence, did it? The Soviets started messing about in Latin America and the Caribbean long before the US reciprocated. They still are. Bolivia, Honduras, Venezuala... and just when things were starting to improve for Latin America, after all these years.

Allowing Russia its spheres of influence might not be fair on the plucky little Georgians, but guess what.... life ain't.

Yes... it was very unfair when the Soviets lost the Cold War, as well. Perhaps they have to lose it, again. And again. And again. Until it either becomes a "hot" war or the Russians learn to have neighbors that aren't vassals.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 1:43 PM

Russia ratchets up US tensions with arms sales to Iran and Venezuela.

Seems the "life ain't fair" file is growing thicker by the minute.

Ho hum.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 4:10 PM

I believe that NATO does not have any intentions to attack Russia. That's why I think Russia's fears of NATO are somewhat irrational. Moreover, I can see why countries bordering Russia would want to join NATO. On the other hand, as Microraptor noted, if I were NATO I would not want a country such as Georgia as a member. Irrespective of Russia, since its independence Georgia has been beset by corrupt and inefficient governments with very questionable democratic credentials ad methods. Why do you think that in their 2007 Democracy Index the Economist and Freedom House (a conservative NGO) classify Georgia in the same "Hybrid Regime" category as, among others, Russia and Venezuela? Actually, according to the Democracy Index both Russia and Venezuela are slightly more democratic than Georgia. We can quibble here and there with those classifivations, but the fact is that Georgia has a ways to go to be considered a bona fide democracy.

http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/Democracy_Index_2007_v3.pdf

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 7:42 PM

"Quibble." Amusing. Yea, we might "quibble," Kolya.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 18, 2008 10:57 PM

Microraptor,

You spent great deal of time trying to explain to us how unfair it is to Russia to be doing whatever it is we are doing and after all this effort you had to say this?:

Allowing Russia its spheres of influence might not be fair on the plucky little Georgians, but guess what.... life ain't.

Are you kidding?

BTW, I personally think, Russia is in desperate need to become member of NATO. It is the only way for them to keep China off.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 5:12 AM

KolyaV,

"Actually, according to the Democracy Index both Russia and Venezuela are slightly more democratic than Georgia. We can quibble here and there with those classifivations, but the fact is that Georgia has a ways to go to be considered a bona fide democracy."

You know very well they just started.
Granted, Saaakashvili in not perfect but next one will be better and on, and on, ...
And comparing Georgia to Russia and Venezuela. Tell me, please. Which one of three is in decline and which one is in incline as far as 'democracy level' goes.
Accepting Georgia into NATO is good for Georgians, gives them security, and good for us, give us greater sphere of influence. Obviously it has to be discussed how much of its ambitions (Abkhazia, SO) Georgia will have to sacrifice to be accepted.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 5:25 AM

The Soviets started messing about in Latin America and the Caribbean long before the US reciprocated.

If memory serves me correctly, military containment of the USSR began directly after WWII by NATO as the cornerstone of western strategy. Iran's government was overthrown in '53 and a pro-American dictator installed on the USSR's southern border near their primary oil reserves. Turkey joined NATO in '52 specifically as a missile and bomber base near USSR targets in the same region.

The USSR was certainly not a saint by any stretch, but c'mon, let's not rewrite history.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 9:34 AM

Leo, it's a no-brainer that Georgia wants to be part of NATO. If I were a Georgian I would want that very much. I'm not at all sure, though, that it is good for NATO to accept Georgia as a member. Maybe after a few years, if Georgia proves to be a stable and democratic country. In my view NATO would be making a mistake if it somehow fastracks Georgia's acceptance. I think such a step will end up weakening the significance of NATO. Either way, though, it's to NATO to decide and I don't care that much about it.

About the Democracy Index: first, remember that it was compiled by two conservative entitities (The Economist and Freedom House.) Georgia's democratic outlook started to trend positively in 2004 and then took a downward turn in 2007.
Personally, I was happy that Saakashvili became Georgia's president in 2004, only to realize, a few years later, that he's another demagogue. Venezuela had fairly strong democratic credentials from 1959 to 1999, and Chavez (so far) has been unable to become a dictator. Maybe he'll succeed, but maybe he'll fail. Last December he lost a referendum and this November his party may well lose the elections. In other words, Venezuela is not like Russia: despite Chavez's best efforts, the opposition has a real chance. So all in all, I think it's perfectly fine to place Georgia in the same category as Russia and Venezuela.

Perhaps a silver lining to the Georgia crisis that Saakashvili precipitated is that as a consequence of it Georgia will once again start trending towards more openness and democracy (in order to meet Western conditions), but it's too early to tell.

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 10:07 AM

Me: "The Soviets started messing about in Latin America and the Caribbean long before the US reciprocated."

DPU:

If memory serves me correctly, military containment of the USSR began directly after WWII by NATO as the cornerstone of western strategy.

Wasn't that when the USSR over-ran eastern Europe and Central Asia? The containment policy by the west was a pretty miserable failure then, wasn't it? lol.

Iran's government was overthrown in '53 and a pro-American dictator installed on the USSR's southern border

On what planet was Iran on Russia's southern border? And at what point in time was Iran ever in Russia's "sphere of influence", and vital to Russia's security concerns?

near their primary oil reserves.

Iran's oil belongs to Russia, is it?

Turkey joined NATO in '52 specifically as a missile and bomber base near USSR targets in the same region.

And now it is Turkey that is/was in Russia's sphere of influence?

The USSR was certainly not a saint by any stretch...

Really!? :D

but c'mon, let's not rewrite history.

Isn't that what you just did?

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 2:24 PM

PS to DPU:

Iran's government was overthrown in '53 and a pro-American dictator installed on the USSR's southern border...

I know you are going to point out you were talking about the Soviet Union's borders, and not Russia's.... but there is a little problem with that. The Iron Curtain kept moving outwards from Russia. Most of Western Europe was also on the USSR's borders. As was Japan. And China. And the United States (Alaska). And Afghanistan. And Korea. And Mongolia.And Pakistan. The Iron Curtain would have kept enveloping other "neighbors" forever. Until somebody stopped it. Wouldn't it? In fact, if Mossadegh had been allowed to retain power in Iran, then Iran would have been on the other side of the Iron Curtain by about 1960, in my opinion. Maybe sooner.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 2:35 PM

PC: In fact, if Mossadegh had been allowed to retain power in Iran, then Iran would have been on the other side of the Iron Curtain by about 1960, in my opinion.

I'm not sure why you're discussion the rationale. I brought it up as counterpoint to "The Soviets started messing about in Latin America and the Caribbean long before the US reciprocated." The reasons are irrelevant to the counterpoint.

Wasn't that when the USSR over-ran eastern Europe and Central Asia?

Again, what does that have to do with Latin America and the Caribbean?

And at what point in time was Iran ever in Russia's "sphere of influence", and vital to Russia's security concerns?

At the point when it was on the USSR's borders.

And now it is Turkey that is/was in Russia's sphere of influence?

Could there be some confusion about the term "sphere of influence" here?

Iran's oil belongs to Russia, is it?

What on Earth are you talking about? I was referring to the location of the USSR's primary oil producing regions, which was not far from Iran.

You seem to be all over the place here.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 3:22 PM

"About the Democracy Index: first, remember that it was compiled by two conservative entitities (The Economist and Freedom House.) Georgia's democratic outlook started to trend positively in 2004 and then took a downward turn in 2007.

"Personally, I was happy that Saakashvili became Georgia's president in 2004, only to realize, a few years later, that he's another demagogue. Venezuela had fairly strong democratic credentials from 1959 to 1999, and Chavez (so far) has been unable to become a dictator. Maybe he'll succeed, but maybe he'll fail."

Far too reductionist, incurious and unprobative a gloss.

Firstly, that The Economist's democracy index may have been put together by what can be characterized as "conservative" outlets (itself variously debateable, e.g., The Economist's reporters and editors are not doctrinaire "conservatives") is largely beside the point. The Iran/Venezuela alliance, personified in Chavez/Ahmadinejad, cannot be airbrushed and cannot be properly or in any sense commensurately compared to Georgia's own, but differently problematic situation. Similarly any comparison with Putin's Russia and Georgia - no matter how helpful the index might be for yet other purposes.

It's likewise amusing that Saakashvili is typified as merely "another demagogue," while Chavez is depicted as someone who has not achieved dictatorial status over the state, while Putin and Ahmadinejad are not mentioned at all. Saakashvili, whatever the issues and problems he reflects, cannot be characterized as merely another demagogue. Both Saakashvili and his associates in govt. are educated at places such as Duke, Southern Methodist, Indiana and Tel Aviv. More importantly still, they have, as a group, evidenced a strong inclination toward advanced, democratic forms of governance. That doesn't excuse any mistakes or poorly conceived fundamentals, but it serves as a contrast with both explicit and likely, more implicit interests as is variously reflected in Putin, Ahmadinejad and Chavez.

Posted by: Michael_B Author Profile Page at September 19, 2008 5:07 PM

KolyaV,

Michael_B answered to your post in similar way I would've done.
Thank you, Michael_B.

Just to stress it again.
Democracy in Russia and Venezuela are in decline, whatever the reason. Just because Russia, Venezuela and Georgia happened to end up in the same neighborhood in this respect does not mean Georgia is in the same predicament as other two.
As to Gerogia's desire to become NATO member. I would not be so certain they absolutely want to after results of war of 8/8/8.
Georgians are having a dilemma right now. Whether to exchange national pride for safety and security or not. Whether to accept loss of Abkhazia and SO as final (I suspect it will be condition for becoming NATO member) or forgo NATO membership. And I am not 100% sure Georgians will go for NATO option.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at September 20, 2008 2:44 PM

PC: In fact, if Mossadegh had been allowed to retain power in Iran, then Iran would have been on the other side of the Iron Curtain by about 1960, in my opinion.

DPU: I'm not sure why you're discussion the rationale. I brought it up as counterpoint to "The Soviets started messing about in Latin America and the Caribbean long before the US reciprocated." The reasons are irrelevant to the counterpoint.

So you are arguing semantics? In any case, how was the US supporting the shah of Iran in 1953 relevant, to anything at all? I'm really working hard on understanding your thought processes. You think blocking the Soviets from extending the Iron Curtain was in effect "meddling" with their vital security interests? lol.

PC: Wasn't that when the USSR over-ran eastern Europe and Central Asia?

DPU: Again, what does that have to do with Latin America and the Caribbean?

Still working hard at understanding your mentality, DPU. You introduced an irrelevancy to refute a claim I made... then accused my aside of being not relevant to my own initial claim? Are you just trying to confuse me or what? Is that your debate tactic? :P

(re Iran and Turkey)

Could there be some confusion about the term "sphere of influence" here?

I don't know. Could there be? You think Iran and Turkey are now or have ever been in Russia's sphere of influence? I could name dozens of countries that fit the bill better, and aren't even close to any border the Soviet Union ever had.

What on Earth are you talking about? I was referring to the location of the USSR's primary oil producing regions, which was not far from Iran.

How is that relevant? You think the Soviets feared an invasion, from Iran? Again, on what planet do you live?

You seem to be all over the place here.

You're the one who set the tone. I'd like to request that next time you reply to me, you try to refute my claims with something at least remotely pertinent. Or don't bother. I think it ends up being annoying to both of us.

Posted by: programmmer_craig Author Profile Page at September 22, 2008 12:06 PM

Leo and Michael B,

I find it rather pathetic that Russia is so upset about Georgia wanting to belong to NATO. I also understand why a Georgian would want to be part of Georgia. And if NATO decides to have Georgia as a member, well, that's NATO's prerogative. Knowing Georgia's post-Soviet lack of stability and internal problems, if I were NATO I would not be in a hurry to admit Georgia. I would give it more time. But it's no skin off my back either way NATO goes.

I already wrote more than once, than I don't like Putin and I'm unhappy about where he's taking Russia. Nonetheless, my personal opinion is that in this particular case Russia was justified in attacking Georgia. I also think that neither the Abkhaz nor the South Ossets should be forced to be part of a state they don't want to be part of and from which they were de facto independent for 15 years or so, an independence they fought for and paid for in blood. It could well be that some of the South Ossetian irregulars defending their capital were teenagers that have never been under the Georgian flag.

I do think that, roughly speaking, Georgia, Russia and Venezuela belong more or less in the same category of very imperfect democracies. This does not mean that they'll be in the same grouping in, say, five years from now. As I wrote in my previous comment, there could well be a silver lining for Georgia in this crisis. If this reign in Saakahsvili's demagogic tendencies and forces his government to become more accountable and open. (By the way, democratically elected leaders who never become tyrants can also be demagogues.)

I stand by everything I wrote about Venezuela in my previous comment. I know the country well. I lived there for several years. Chavez is a disaster and a wanna-be dictator who admires Fidel. He's not a dictator, though. Not yet. And maybe never. Democracy, despite Chavez's wishes, may still prevail. By this January perhaps we will have a clearer picture (by then we'll know what happened in November--how free were the elections in Venezuela? was there fraud? did Chavez respect the results? and so on.) Frankly, I'm not at all concerned about Chavez's relationship with Iran and Russia. Moreover, Venezuela's military is of very low quality. In other words, Chavez's rhetoric is very obnoxious, but he has little bite.

So long....

Posted by: KolyaV Author Profile Page at September 23, 2008 5:38 PM
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