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Georgia: The Russian Guessing Game

As the sun rises on the East Coast of the United States, another day is winding down in Georgia. A day of guessing, wondering -- what next? The Russians say they are withdrawing, but not only are there no clear signs of such, there is ample evidence of the Russians moving forward. Indeed, Russian troops sit but a few miles outside the capital, a pointed and extremely unsubtle reminder to Georgia and its leadership.

Russia continues a relentless propaganda campaign, and there are reports that cyberwarfare continues as well. This gives good cloak to true believers, as only a chronic defectives (or professors in the liberal arts at many institutions, though I admit there may not be much difference between the two population subsets) still buys the Russian line. Meantime, growing and very credible reports continue to come out of rape, robbery, murder, and even ethnic cleansing as Russia encourages/forces/worse those not of the right stripe to leave so as to further erode Georgian claim to the two territories. The latter isn't surprising, and the former has long been SOP for Soviet/Russian troops (see Berlin as just one example of many).

For the West, talk continues. Even as this is typed, Secretary of State Rice is holding a news conference during the NATO meeting in Brussels. Yet, this is now largely empty rhetoric since the Secretary of Defense made his comments the other day that unilaterally ruled out any military or other significant response, including -- from my read -- military supplies and related aid.

One does not helm the CIA and get the SecDef job and retain the level of political naivete that would allow one to make such statements in innocence. The SecDef's statements not only appear to go against the implied thrust of the Administration, they also removed several levels of diplomatic initiative from the table not just in the US, but for any number of nations friendly to Georgia. The degree to which these remarks are devastating can almost not be overstated, for without the implied possibility of a response, those seeking to negotiate are reduced to begging, making empty threats, or to considering economic and other actions that could have far reaching implications worse than a conflict. Again, I simply state Sudetenland.

An even more disturbing possibility is that the SecDef did indeed act unilaterally to deliberately force a particular policy on the administration. Whatever the reason, his comments have done real harm to efforts to end further bloodshed and support an ally, and on a personal note I will state that my respect for him is severely diminished, with the result that I would have to question any and all proposals, changes, and efforts initiated by him and those he has brought in.

While limited prisoner exchanges do give some hope, there are many good and valid reasons to be skeptical of Russian claims and actions. This article is well worth a read for strategic implications and background. This too is worth a read. I also highly commend John Bolton's piece in the Telegraph.

As a quick aside, I would very much appreciate it if chartwel and Texas Bob would drop me a line at wolf1 at laughingwolf and net.

There is a lot more out there, especially some back chatter. However, out of time. I continue to point out that much of what happens now, especially in light of the SecDefs reckless and ill-considered remarks, is up to Old Europe. Reports that Europe turned the gas blackmail back on Putin are interesting, but given the lack of spine shown to date I have to admit I am skeptical (but would love to be proven wrong). Watch Brussels today. Watch to see what really happens with any Russian troop movements. Georgia can still be saved, the question now is will those of the West do what is necessary to do so.

As always, here are links to sources of information:

Baltic Times
The Messenger Blog
The Messenger Newspaper
Scraps of Moscow
All About Latvia
Lex Libertas
foreign notes
Yezhednevny zhurnal
Global Voices
The 8th Circle
A Fistful of Euros
Nosemonkey's EUtopia
Wu Wei
SOS Georgia
Georgia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Blog

Here is a list of Blackfive posts dealing with the Russian invasion of Georgia:

This Can't Be Good!
US Troops in Georgia not in Harm''s Way...Yet
No, It'sNot Good At All
While the EU and NATO Fiddle...
The Devil Went To Georgia
For Georgia
Georgia On My Mind
The Lights Stay On In Georgia?
Georgian Soldiers In Iraq
Lights Flicker in Georgia
Who'll Stop the Rain
Aid for the Republic of Georgia
The Things Not Reported...
Stud Reporter
Perspective: A Different View of Current Events in Georgia

Here are some other milblogs that are covering this:

Milblogs (some excellent Kosovo analysis)


UPDATE: If you sent me a link to a source or news article, and don't see it here, please resend. Long days at work (up to 18 hours one fine day) have left me a bit, er, scattered. Also, thanks again to all those who post good and relevant links in the comments. They are much appreciated!

UPDATE II: First, I forgot to link to the Russian gas story referenced above on the reverse blackmail. Second, NATO has surprised me a bit with this story saying that normal relations will be dropped unless Russia withdraws. Will truly believe it when they begin implementing same, but it is a very good start. Rand Simberg outlines another potential casualty for Russia, and I for one will be pushing for it.

Update III: Reader Mike has started a blog to help with following Russian news via his his new site that will provide translations. Meantime, the Russians have upped the ante a bit by sending raids out to destroy various military facilities and equipment, including a Georgian missile boat that was at anchor, seizing Georgian soldiers as hostages/prisoners, and stealing U.S. HUMVEES that were in the process of being shipped back to the US after recent exercises. No word on what equipment may have been in those vehicles. Otherwise, no one is seeing much in the way of withdrawal, only digging in and raids such as the one above.

Update IV: Forgot to link this article recommended by Michael Totten who is over there (and hopefully reporting soon). As for Pat Buchanan, who takes him seriously? Personal opinion, he is in the population subset referenced above. As for the UN demand, I am sure the Russians are just quaking in their boots. Feh, a group of cranky Cub Scouts armed with half-eaten lollipops are more threatening than the UN (and my money would be on said Scouts should they decide to take on the UN).