Russia: Georgia as a payback to NATO and Western countries
At least in part, Russia’s actions in Georgia amount to payback for the West’s refusal to respect even the most basic Russian interests and an emphatic reassertion of its sphere of influence. Moscow appears to want two things: pre-eminence in its own region and treatment by the United States and NATO as a serious power whose wishes must be respected. Using military force as it did in Georgia is a crude way to make those points, but they were made effectively. The Bush administration’s vocal support for Saakashvili proved to be devoid of substance. Moscow demonstrated that it could coerce a small U.S. ally on its border, and Washington’s response was impotent. The response of NATO and the European Union reflected the same reality. For all the verbal bluster of those organizations, the Europeans, cognizant of their dependence on Russia for energy supplies (among other considerations), do not want a hostile relationship with Moscow.
(…) At the same time, Russia must be careful not to overplay its hand. That possibility arose in late August when Moscow sought an endorsement from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization—the association of Russia, China, and the Central Asian republics—for military intervention in Georgia and the subsequent recognition of independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Much to the dismay of Russian officials, the SCO refused to give its imprimatur. Indeed, the SCO statement expressed the importance of respecting the territorial integrity of countries. That should not have come as a surprise to Moscow. Several of the Central Asian countries have their own secessionist problems and do not wish to see the Kosovo and South Ossetia precedents spread. Even more important, China vehemently opposes secessionism, given its problems with Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan. The SCO summit was a test of will between Moscow and Beijing—and Russia lost.
We have more data now about what happened at the beginning of the Russian-Georgian war/conflict. NYT has published some excerpts of a Russian conversation held before Georgian attack that supposedly began the war via ExtremeCentre.org:
Georgia has released intercepted telephone calls purporting to show that part of a Russian armored regiment crossed into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia nearly a full day before Georgia’s attack on the capital, Tskhinvali, late on Aug. 7.
Georgia is trying to counter accusations that the long-simmering standoff over South Ossetia, which borders Russia, tilted to war only after it attacked Tskhinvali. Georgia regards the enclave as its sovereign territory.
The intercepts circulated last week among intelligence agencies in the United States and Europe, part of a Georgian government effort to persuade the West and opposition voices at home that Georgia was under invasion and attacked defensively. Georgia argues that as a tiny and vulnerable nation allied with the West, it deserves extensive military and political support.
Georgia also provided audio files of the intercepts along with English translations to The New York Times, which made its own independent translation from the original Ossetian into Russian and then into English.
(…) Russia has not disputed the veracity of the phone calls, which were apparently made by Ossetian border guards on a private Georgian cellphone network. “Listen, has the armor arrived or what?” a supervisor at the South Ossetian border guard headquarters asked a guard at the tunnel with the surname Gassiev, according to a call that Georgia and the cellphone provider said was intercepted at 3:52 a.m. on Aug. 7.
“The armor and people,” the guard replied. Asked if they had gone through, he said, “Yes, 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.”
Shota Utiashvili, the director of the intelligence analysis team at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, said the calls pointed to a Russian incursion. “This whole conflict has been overshadowed by the debate over who started this war,” he said. “These intercepted recordings show that Russia moved first and that we were defending ourselves.”
Meanwhile a Russian drone has been taken down in Georgia. Moscow has denied it.
(…) Russia considered South Ossetia Russian territory. After all, 9/11 was an attack on the US, on American soil.
Medvedev and Putin know, of course, that the comparison is off, but in a way they are right; namely, 9/11 was a scary event for America. It frightened Americans. Russia too was frightened by Georgia and then especially Western influence in Georgia; it was not the attack against South Ossetia that scared the Russians, it was all the talk in the preceding months about Georgia possibly joining NATO and NATO, therefore, coming increasingly closer to Russia’s border.