There Are No Good Guys, But We Must Be Most Wary of Russia 13

Russia has no right at all to invade Georgian territory – which South Ossetia is. Russia’s actions are illegal. The US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. Georgia was acting lawfully but unwisely in attacking rebels in South Ossetia. But Putin is lying when he says Georgia was engaged in genocide, and Georgia’s attack was itself less devastating than Russian attacks on Chechnya – a precisely parallel situation. So Russia is also being hideously hypocritical.

But we cannot just say that all the major powers involved are behaving terribly. That is true but not enough. Lenin’s Tomb has an excellent analysis.

But it is marred by the tendency of the left to think anyone opposed to Bush must be a good thing, and so give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Putin has plenty of blood on his hands also, and not only in Chechnya.

The truth is that life for ordinary people in the ex Soviet countries which have had “Orange Revolutions” like Ukraine and Georgia, is much, much better than in those which have not, like Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. That is so evident as to be undeniable to anyone who has actually been there.

Yet resurgent Russian nationalism is a major threat to Europe, and so Georgia must be supported as Russia tries to increase its hegemony over the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s attempt to leverage its Russian minorities into political power has been most obvious in Georgia and remains a major threat in the Ukraine. Given its own opposition to separatism for the many ethnic areas within Russia, this is not a question of principle. I posted on this last week.

Most commentators have quite correctly picked up on the fact that this is in large part about control of oil and gas pipelines. Those who have seen me lecture know that I have been talking about Russian pressure on Georgia for the last four years. My professional eye on the diplomatic dances around the invasion shows me that, as I predicted, energy dependency has made Germany a Russian client state within the European Union.

Those in Poland and Scandinavia who have been campaigning against the Nordstream gas pipeline project are absolutely right. European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is not only an environmental abomination but also a major security risk. A Russian pipeline through Poland would be designated a major strategic national security interest for Russia – and for Germany. I can see easily see it becoming a cause for future conflict.

An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war for East Ukraine. Sadly, the West will learn the wrong long-term lesson. The answer is not to strengthen NATO. NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, not least with new missile systems, NATO has creaated the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.

The new NATO is the main symptom of the West’s chronic inability to create a new post cold war security structure. By clinging to and expanding NATO, we merely made the return of the Cold War inevitable – much to the benefit of the arms industry and military establishment. If our leaders had any imagination, they would realise that the answer is to wind down NATO and create new structures into which Russia should be drawn.

It is already a decade late for such thinking. With Bush and Brown at the helm and the military and arms industry in grater control than ever of policy in both the US and UK, it is currently impossible.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

13 thoughts on “There Are No Good Guys, But We Must Be Most Wary of Russia

  • kallekn

    I'm not saying there was a genocide in South Ossetia. I simply don't know. But how come you are positive there wasn't? Any evidence?

  • Craig

    Well, genocide is a huge charge. Putin is alleging that the government of Georgia planned the systematic physical destruction of the approximately 65,000 Ossetians in South Ossetia. There is no substantial evidence of large scale or systematic massacres by the Georgians – and Russia, which now controls the territory, would be flaunting that evidence. Where are the concentration camps or mass graves. I am not saying there have been no atrocities – there might well have been. But genocide? No.

  • Stephen Jones

    Sorry, Craig, but you're missing out some important information here.

    Firstly Russian troops are in South Ossetia under a UN mandate because of the 1992 ceasefire.

    Secondly South Ossetia only formed part of Georgia because the old Soviet Union didn't bother to ask people whether they wanted to join a foreign entity or not.

    I do agree that the idea of expanding NATO is absurd, and just leads to trouble.

  • ziz


    "An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted …"

    Please provide instructions how to apply this policy.

  • Craig


    The Russian peacekeeping mandate does not allow them to feed in unlimited troops, or to bomb or shell the rest of Georgia (or foment violence in Abkhazia).

    Whether South Ossetia ought to be part of Georgia long term is a different question. I tend to the view that self-determination must be allowed to geographically distinct separate groups should they want it – be they Ossetian, Scots, Chechen or Quebecois.

  • tinalouise

    It strikes me that any conflict now occurring is to be questioned for truth. Media seem to sell one side and I feel unable to decipher right from wrong.

    Maybe this is because it is 'government' that is evil, 'government' that has terrorist intent and 'government' that seeks to dominate, invade and win power… in every place it exists?

    NATO's, UN's, G8's, G7's etc. are gatherings of powers in odd circles that are in one group friend and in another, foe… standing together for one issue and attacking for another.

    In the meanwhile, 'we the people' get caught in the cross-fire and are manipulated with propoganda to support or oppose things we can't possibly have an informed opinion about – because we are un/ill-informed.

    From my naive perspective, it looks like the US provokes Russia by supporting/sponsoring/installing regimes around its borders and seeking to increase the membership and power of NATO… but I know nothing of the facts (no-one can, because we are given these second-hand and have no true knowledge) and yet from the nightly news, I get the sense that I am 'supposed' to see Russia as the 'bad guy'?

    I remain as perplexed as can be expected.


    Tina Louise

  • Stephen Jones

    —–"The Russian peacekeeping mandate does not allow them to feed in unlimited troops, or to bomb or shell the rest of Georgia"——-

    What do you expect them to do when the Georgians bomb their troops?

  • Stephen Jones

    —–"The Russian peacekeeping mandate does not allow them to feed in unlimited troops, or to bomb or shell the rest of Georgia"—-

    But what do you expect them to do when the Georgians bomb their troops and invade?

  • Craig


    I am sorry, but you are talking complete nonsense. Georgian troops at no stage invaded anywhere – they never moved outside of Georgian sovereign territory. That is not to say that Georgian actions were not overly aggressive and may have included individual illegal acts. But nothing to justify a Russian invasion of Georgia.

    Putin is a dangerous and ruthless nationalist who is no democrat. I am truly exasperated by those on the left who are willing to excuse any action in anyone opposed to George Bush.

  • writeon

    I feel we should also be wary of forming potentially dangerous alliances with nationalists in Georgia and the Ukraine, and for that matter in other parts of Eastern, or New Europe.

    I'm also unconvinced about how "democratic" they really are, especially in the Ukraine and Georgia.

    But what characterizes and unites these nationalists is virulent Russophobia. This is understandable given their histories, but whether we should become involved in countries that we really know so little about and understand even less, is, I believe highly debatable.

    After the collapse of the Soviet Union their were lots of "loose ends" and "frozen conflicts" left unsettled. There are now millions of Russians, consisting of substandtial minorities spread throughout these "border" regions. It is inconceivable that Moscow would simply abandon these people. This fear/paranoia exists and can of course be exploited by nationalists in Russia itself. So competing nationalisms feed off each other.

    The perception that the West wants Russia weak, "Saudi Arabia with trees", as one American official called it, is widespread in Russia, how do we show that we only wish the Russians well, if, indeed we do?

    Why can't Russia be offered membership of the European Union too, with all the advantages and protections this gives? Invite Russia to join NATO as well. This would undermine the arguments of the nationalists inside Russia, be a shot in the arm for democrats and integrate Russia into Western institutions and values.

  • Paul Anderson

    "Georgian troops at no stage invaded anywhere – they never moved outside of Georgian sovereign territory."

    That is a technical point, surely. If England were to invade Scotland, would you say it was not a British invasion?

    I ask you is the 12 year old girl a puppet or a liar, or what?; .

    It is not a matter of supporting Bush or Putin but telling the truth.

  • writeon

    The question of what really constitutes the "truth" in this conflict is difficult to unravel from the "lies".

    What does seem clear though is that we in the West, in Britain are presented with a very biased version of one sides "truth". If one examines the way the US press is covering this story the bias is even more striking and obvious to all but most obtuse. It's eerily reminisant the "balanced" way the US press covers the Israel/Palestine conflict. But clearly this doesn't mean they are necessarily distorting what's happening in Georgia.

    But, having said that, I don't think one can deny that there's a massive imbalance in the space and time given to Russian or South Ossetian veiws and pespectives. It's like we are accusing them and putting them on trial in the court of world opinion, yet we refuse them the right to defend themselves properly. The Western media, for the most part, has made up its mind already, and is busy making the rest of our minds up for us. As far as I can make out it's about a 95% to 5% split, rather like the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. But maybe the story of what's happened is so obvious that this spread of veiws is only natural and correct?

    There's also this exciting idea that this whole thing was a masterly Russian "trap" and Georgia just walked into it. But doesn't this mean that the Russians had massed troops ready to spring their trap and somehow the Georgians and their American advisors missed it? How is this possible given the level of US military involvment in Georgia and spy satelites and sophisticated listening devices directed at Russia communications?

    Surely we aren't being asked to believe that the Americans knew nothing about the Georgian plans to attack Ossetia? I mean, if the Russians knew, and had their trap ready, were the Americans just asleep?

    If the Americans knew about the attack why didn't they warn the Georgians? Why didn't they council caution? Did they in fact give a green light to the Georgian attack, giving them perhaps a few days or a window of opportunity to launch their offensive? If so, wasn't this a very reckless strategy to adopt and potentially disasterous? There are lots of questions here that require answers before one can reasonably apportion blame or guilt. What if it was a "trap" conceived by the Americans directed at the Russians? Draw them into a war with Georgia and create an international crisis that benefits the United States and its interests?

    Finally there is the concept of proportionality. One hears a lot about how the Russian response was massive and disproportionate. This I find difficult to understand. Russia is far stronger than Georgia economically and militarily. This cannot be a surprise to anyone surely? How is a very large country with a huge military supposed to react in a war with a smaller one? What would have been a proportional Russian response?

    In basic military strategy for thousands of years the whole point is disproportion, to attack the enemy with as much strength as one can muster at the precise point where he is weakest. That's how one wins battles and wars. Yet somehow we seem to think that Russia isn't fighting "fair" against little Georgia. This concept may prevail in the playground, but it's nonsense on the battlefield, a ridiculous concept. One the West doesn't adhere to itself. During the war to liberate Kuwait. The West lost around 250 fighting men. The Iraqi losses were probably at least 250,000, was that "fair" and "proportional"?

    Anyway wasn't a massive show of force the best way to stop the fighting as quickly as possible and end the conflict with the least loss of life, on both sides? If the Russians had only sent a token force into battle wouldn't the war still have been going on? Were the Russians supposed to only deploy just enough soldiers so they would lose, would that have been more acceptable to us in the West?

    This kind of argumentation is absurd, infantile and designed to obscure what exactly has been going on in this pathetic border dispute which really has nothing to do with us, unless we are merely using the dispute and the Georgian "pawns" in a far larger and more important struggle between the United States and Russia for hegemony over the resources of the Caspian Basin.

Comments are closed.