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Russia: Still Second Rate And Unloved
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August 20, 2008: The Russian military demonstrated great resourcefulness and innovation during its recent campaign in Georgia. This includes the strategic planning, because the war was a set up. Russia used only one infantry division for the invasion, and had held training exercises in July. The increased border violence by South Ossetian forces caused the Georgians think they could retake the lost (in 1991) province. Less than a day after the Georgian forces entered South Ossetia, the Russian force of over 20,000 troops (including combat experienced Chechen counter-terror units and North Ossetian militia groups) came in. The Georgians were not prepared for this, even though the Russians had been making a lot of noise, for weeks, on the Internet about the growing "crises" in South Ossetia. By August 8th, the Russian Cyber War preparations became evident, as most Georgian media and government web sites were shut down by Russian attacks. It was the Internet version of the blitzkrieg, and a blow to military and civilian morale in Georgia. But on the ground, the combat experience of the Russian troops quickly translated in defeats for inexperienced Georgian troops. Despite several years of training under the supervision of Israeli and American combat veterans, the Georgians were still not as effective as the Russians (who have been fighting in Chechnya for over a decade). Although the Georgian anti-aircraft units brought down some Russian jets, the Russians basically ruled the skies and used that to constantly pick apart Georgian units. It was Russian air power the prevented the Georgians from mounting an effective defense.

Russia told the UN that it would veto any UN attempt to pass resolutions urging Russia to hurry up and get out of Georgia. The Russian success in Georgia was very popular inside Russia, where there has been growing unhappiness over Russias loss of empire and superpower status in the early 1990s. Nationalist politicians are talking about rebuilding the empire. This could get tricky, and is one reason the Russians get so excited when another of their neighbors talks about joining NATO. That organization is designed for mutual defense. You attack one NATO member, you attack them all, and two of them (France left NATO in the 1960s, but is considered an associate member) have nuclear weapons.

August 19, 2008: Russian troops began withdrawing from Georgia, slowly. It will probably take them weeks to complete the process. In the meantime, they will continue to loot,  and generally punish, the Georgians, in order to let everyone know who calls the shots in the Caucasus, and anywhere along the Russian border. But this punitive operation did not have the desired effect. The Czechs, Poles and Ukrainians all promptly agreed to work with the West to improve their defenses against Russia, and the possibility of becoming "another Georgia". There was much talk about a return to the Cold War. But this time around, Russia is hardly a superpower. Russia has nuclear weapons, but beyond that, their military is decidedly second rate. Against a third rate opponent like Georgia, that's sufficient. But against the West, not so much. Russia's European neighbors appear ready to side with the West, even in the face of Russian threats.

August 17, 2008: Russian politicians are working on establishing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations. These two provinces, populated by people who are not ethnic Georgians (the Caucasus has dozens of such groups, which is one reason this is such a violent part of the world) are not large enough to survive economically, and will no doubt eventually ask to become part of Russia. This will annoy the UN, as Russia will have, in effect, taken two provinces from neighboring Georgia, and gotten away with it. Russia has been doing this sort of thing for centuries, and considers it necessary to its national defense, and perfectly all right. This plays well inside Russia, not so well elsewhere.

August 12, 2008: Russia agreed to a ceasefire and ordered their forces to stop fighting. But it would be another week before Russian troops began leaving Georgia.

Next Article → AFGHANISTAN: Scary Monsters
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Lance Blade    a Russian anecdote   8/20/2008 6:38:09 AM
A sewer rat and a house rat are conversing, and the sewer rat asks the house rat:
"How come you live in warmth and comfort, get fed gorgeous food every day, have your fur all white and silky, while I live out here in the cold and wet, have mangy grey fur and fight for scraps that people throw away?"
The house rat looks at the sewer rat critically and says:
"I would say that you've got a P.R. problem."

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trenchsol       8/20/2008 11:25:40 AM
Still, Russian invading force included some paramilitary elements, volunteers from Nort Ossetia. From the first hand experience I know that such elements are responsible for worst war crimes (Balkan Wars). Some atrocities are described in this article .

I wonder why is that lesson so hard to learn ? Militias murder civilians and loot most of the time. Or, perhaps, they are deliberately sent there ? I don't think it serves any purpose to Russia. Russians are supposed to be "emotionally neutral" here, because neither Ossetians nor Georgians are related to Russians.

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Cannoneer No. 4    Plausibly Deniable Atrocity Troops   8/20/2008 1:24:49 PM
The engineer tape arm bands are the mark of  Russian schrecklichkeit truppen.  The Chechens are ostensibly under the nominal control of GRU.  The South Ossetians, so far as I can tell, aren?t under anybody?s control, but their cadres are ex-KGB and Spetsnaz and are unlikely to do things Moscow disapproves of.  When they annoy the Russian Army they are dealt with, otherwise they plunder and rape with impunity.  The Cossacks appear to me to be intermixed with the South Ossetians.
The good order and discipline of the unconscripted kontrakniki in the regular Russian Army cannot help but be degraded through association with brigands. 
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jak267       8/20/2008 5:09:22 PM
Time to put American troops in Georgia. And time to cut as many diplomatic and economic ties with them as possible - and with any countries that won't (like France and Germany).
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ker    A thousand psychic wars   8/20/2008 5:54:23 PM
747 is over watter and the right inboard engine dies. Pilot say it's ok we'll be one hour late.
Inboard left engine dies. Pilot says it's ok we'll be three hours late.
Passenger say's, "I hope we don't lose another engine or we'll never make it down."
So, Chechen vet goes on to fight in Georgia and say's, "I hope we don't fight another war like this or we'll never make contact with the Germans again.
Russia has communicated that it is far more interested in being intimidating than helpful.  The maxim that is is better to be feared than loved assumes that you are in control and can stay there.  It is within the Russians power to do banking and arts and programing at world class levels and succeed in the world economy.  That option would require a real middle class with individual initiative two way social mobility.  Free press and apolitical education and courts also. 
So, instead organized crime (the other globalization), intelligence operations and political establishment become team intimidation.  Putin would rather rule in hell that serve.
It's time to plant dragons teeth.  Artty scatterable anti-tank mines work better(and make a nice surprise) but the press pic of  rows of anti-tank obstacles would encourage the right national mood.  Self destruct charges in the road system slow things down too. It was a road and now it is an anti-tank ditch.  Again surprise and counter mobility.
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Lance Blade       8/21/2008 3:28:29 AM

Still, Russian invading force included some paramilitary elements, volunteers from Nort Ossetia. From the first hand experience I know that such elements are responsible for worst war crimes (Balkan Wars). Some atrocities are described in this article" target="_blank">link .

I wonder why is that lesson so hard to learn ? Militias murder civilians and loot most of the time. Or, perhaps, they are deliberately sent there ? I don't think it serves any purpose to Russia. Russians are supposed to be "emotionally neutral" here, because neither Ossetians nor Georgians are related to Russians.




That's my point, Russians still have a lot to learn in the art of playing the Information War game, and spinning the world media to their advantage. Right now I'd rate them down there with Israel... not a good position to be in.
Although by and large they did the right things, mistakes were made during this campaign, such as, as you've mentioned, allowing paramilitaries in. The way they could have done it better in my opinion, would have been:
1.) Having all their soldiers wear blue UN hats on television. Heck, they were there under a UN mandate, might as well advertise the fact!
2.) Not allowing "volunteers" in, as you've said, to tarnish their reputation.
3.) Moving more television cameras into Gori, along with their humanitarian aid. They've pulled that one off reasonably well, but they could have done better still. 
4.) Got more pictures of dead children and ruined buildings and sent them to Western news agencies. It still puzzles me why they haven't been flogging that angle to the full. 
5.) Interviewed pro-Russian Georgians for the Western television.
However, by and large, they did succeed in demolishing Georgia's military, utterly disrupting their advance, and all they have to do now is withdraw (slowly, eventually), and watch the already unpopular regime crumble to dust. As soon as Russian troops are out of there, Saakashvilli will have some serious explaining to do to his electorate.
Plus they managed to score some points. The incident with the South Ossetian girl on FOX News was simply brilliant. I bet most viewers didn't even ask themselves how a 12 year old girl from some village in the middle of nowhere, could speak such excellent, professional English.
So, live and learn, Russia, live and learn. Medvedev has done brilliantly on the domestic front, continuing in the proud tradition of Putin, who played domestic populism to get himself an 81% approval rating. Now all they have to do is really rub it in to the West by withdrawing from Georgia. Medevdev sure has a good mentor. 
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jlb       8/21/2008 10:05:52 AM
"France left NATO in the 1960s, but is considered an associate member"
I am amazed to read such a statement on Strategypage.
France never left NATO, and has always been a full-fledged member of the North Atlantic Council. The ca 3000 French troops deployed in Afghanistan were sent to comply with French NATO obligations.
What France isn't part of today is the integrated command structure, ie France does not assign troops to SHAPE on a permanent basis, does not get SHAPE  command slots and does not grant basing rights to NATO members on its territory on a permanent basis.
It does not mean that France is not a NATO member.
 Just for the record, the North Atlantic Treaty requires signatory parties to treat attacks upon a single member's territory as an attack on their own territory, which is not a light commitment.
Such a gross misunderstanding of such a basic element of current international diplomacy on Strategypage is disturbing to say the least.
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trenchsol       8/21/2008 1:45:51 PM
Lance Blade, I've seen your response, but I don't fully agree. If Russia does not manage to install their man in Tbilisi, they could have stayed at home as well. If Tbilisi remains defiant, Russia has only managed to send the message to their neighbors: "we are still here, if you don't comply we are going to give you some hard times". That's why they drag their feet on the way out.Territories of Ossetia and Abkhazia matter a little, except to the Georgians. Dragging feet and those "checkpoints" mentioned in agreement are just face saving.
That is in accord with Russian diplomatic message, repeated twice. The message says that West has to choose between the relations with Tbilisi and relation with Moscow. Without the change of government they accomplished a little.
Turkey is putting every effort in keeping equal distance to both sides. That made Russian position position even stronger and Georgian weaker,  but won't help Turkish efforts to join EU.


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trenchsol    Eduard Shevardnadze   8/21/2008 2:07:09 PM
I wonder what would have been the fate of those two patches of territory (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) if Eduard Shevardnadze, who is Georgian, was not there at the end of Soviet Union. He was a powerful and well connected at that time. Has he influenced the status of those provinces ?

What do you think ?
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CJH       8/21/2008 10:20:33 PM
Is there any chance that Putin was hoping the US would become distracted enough by the invasion of Georgia that he could invade Poland perhaps through Kaliningrad Oblast?
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