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Bear-Baiting in the Caucasus: Dangerous and Downright Stupid

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Before it recedes, mercifully, into history next January the Bush Administration and their Democratic enablers (Obama’s V-P candidate, Joe Biden is only one; Obama himself is sounding like another) would appear to be trying to force the Russians into a confrontational situation. Military confrontations between nuclear powers are inherently more dangerous than others.

The bear is the symbol of Russia. Bear-baiting was a popular sport in England during the late medieval and early modern period. In this most “civilized” of sports, a chained, and more or less defenseless bear would be set upon in an arena by trained dogs . The unfortunate bear was then slowly torn and bitten to death by his canine tormentors, to the delight of the human audience. Elizabeth I was, reportedly, an aficionada of this savagery.

Unfortunately for the aggressive and bullying Bushies in Washington, the Russian bear has escaped its tether. It has proven it can and will use its own power to defend itself and what it considers its vital interests.

Lest it be forgotten, it was the Georgian government who began the latest Caucasian war when, in early August, it began shelling the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, after which they invaded. Hundreds (Russia claims 2,000) of Ossetian civilians were killed along with more than a few Russian military personnel, there as peacekeepers undera previous agreement between Russia and newly independent Georgia, that settled an earlier armed conflict from the early nineties.

The Russians, of course, responded with undeniable ferocity. Regular army troops entered South Ossetia in August and decimated the invading Georgian army, which actually panicked, threw down its weapons, and fled in disgrace. The Russians pushed further into Georgia proper, occupied several cities, destroyed what they could find of Georgian military equipment and more or less laid waste to Georgian infrastructure.

The French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, then negotiated a ceasefire which the humiliated Georgians were forced to sign. They had no choice. The Russians agreed to withdraw to positions held before the conflict began, and despite what the Americans and their British clones are saying, have adhered to the agreement, if a bit more slowly than the Georgians and Americans would desire.

As I wrote in an earlier column  the Americans would like to portray this conflict as one of an aggressive expansionist Russia crushing a small, defenseless democracy unfortunately located on its borders. Actually, the opposite is true.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early nineties, the Americans have been relentless in pushing their influence eastwards, to the point where Russia felt that it was being surrounded, threatened and that its legitimate security concerns were being ignored by the gang of unilateral, aggressive bullies that dominate the American government. Until a few years ago Russia was simply not in a position to do anything about this. Now they are. The times have changed, and the Russian bear has escaped its tether.

As I explained in my earlier column on Georgia, there are two issues here that are being obscured by American propaganda which, unfortunately, is time and again accepted at face value by the major media. The first of these is the assertion that Mikhail Saakashvili’s Georgia is some sort of pristine liberal democracy in need of defense against Russian aggression. The second is that the sacred territory of the Georgian people has been violated by Russian imperial power. Nonsense!

I will say again, the Russians are not angels, nor is their policy with regard to the right of self-determination as consistent as they would like to make it sound. What is consistent is that the Russians are now vigorously pursuing what they perceive as their national security interests and are able to bring power to bear to support those interests. The Americans would like to convince the world that they (the Americans) are the purveyors of objective international morality and have no selfish interests. More nonsense!

Like many so-called democrats around the world, Mikhail Saakashvili was a fervent supporter of democracy when he was in the opposition. In power, however, Saakashvili’s devotion to popular rule has waned. Heard that before? Confronted by large scale opposition demonstrations almost a year ago, he accused his opposition of treason and anti-Georgian behavior. The opposition movement was crushed, activists arrested and media outlets confiscated.

With the exception of the recent (provoked) Russian invasion, the territorial integrity of the current Georgian state has never been violated. The so-called enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were autonomous territories within the Soviet Union, attached to Georgia only for administrative reasons under the complex and often contradictory Soviet nationality system. When the Soviet Union ended in 1991 those two ethnically distinct peoples (the Ossetians and the Abkhazians) decided they would rather be Russian than Georgian. And they had good reason to do so.

The newly independent Georgian state under then president Zviad Gamsakhurdia advocated a virulent Georgian nationalism that promised ethnic cleansing and the “Georgianization” of these two heretofore autonomous enclaves. Naturally, the Ossetians and Abkhazians resisted. There were vicious little wars of resistance. The Russians brokered a ceasefire which they protected and enforced until last month’s attack by Georgia. Saakashvili, using much the same rhetoric as his predecessor, Gamsakhurdia, violated that agreement by initiating the attack on Tskhinvali.

The reason? Easy! Saakashvili, the noted democrat, wanted to stir up nationalist frenzy to outflank his internal opposition. Virulent nationalism, he hoped, would make the Georgian people forget the corruption and malfeasance of his years in power. This is not an unusual tactic: to blame an external enemy to divert attention from internal difficulties.

Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, insists that Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia was encouraged by the United States. There are suggestions that such encouragement might have been done in order to influence the American presidential campaign. This may not be as conspiratorial as its sounds.

The week after the ceasefire, Republican John McCain sent his designer-suited wife, Cindy, to Georgia. She is, I should say, not the sharpest tack in the box. In the past few weeks Cindy has told us that her husband’s V-P candidate, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska for only sixteen months, was well equipped to deal with the Russians because Alaska was geographically closer to Russia than any other part of America. This passes for insight in Republican America.

Ms. McCain, who inherited a $100 million business from her father (a beer distributorship) and receives $6 million per annum in income from it, is often lost when it comes to matters of basic awareness. What does one expect? She’s been a Barbie Doll her entire life. Interviewed on CBS television last week, she appeared not to know her husband’s position with regard to a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Perhaps one can understand her uncertainty, as McCain himself has changed his position as often as the electoral winds change.

Just Republicans??? ‘Fraid not. Joe Biden, the “Sainted One’s” V-P candidate and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also paid his own visit to Georgia. Biden offered massive aid; a package worth $1 billion!!! If the Republicans (Bush, Cheney, McCain) and Democrats are this close together in such an issue, one might ask, in fact, what is the real difference between them. Vive la difference!

In the meantime, in a choice little bit of historical payback, Nicaragua announced this week that it was recognizing South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. Russia recognized the two states’ independence last week. It’s been nearly three decades since the Sandinistas expelled an American supported dictator from their country and tried to install a social democratic and nationalist regime. With Cold War ferocity and in violation of their own laws, The Americans, under Ronald Reagan, drove Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas from power. Now twenty years later, Ortega is back as president. He must have enjoyed sticking it to the arrogant gringos as Nicaragua announced its recognition of the two Georgian enclaves.

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  • Don Jarrett

    Why does the US bait the Russians?

    1. The US Military-Industrial Complex needs enemies.

    2. The politicians need money from the lobbyists representing the weapons makers.

    It’s that simple.

    But the simple-minded can’t see it.

  • cuervodeluna

    The US was checkmated by the Russians in the Caucasus.

    How many grand masters of chess does Russia have?

    Gringos don’t need no stinkin’ geopolitical skills.