15 August 2008
What lessons should Russia learn from her S. Ossetian mistakes?
Russian troops are being withdrawn from Georgia according to the Robert Gates, the American Defence Secretary, so that appears to be that as far as the conflict is concerned. It does leave the question open as to why they were there in the first place, because having Russian troops roaming about inside Georgia has certainly given western Russophobes a talking point, so why did they do it?
The answer that we can give is pure speculation, but it may turn out to involve nothing more complicated than the fact that they could. The Georgian army ran like frightened rabbits all the way from Gori to Tblisi when faced with nothing more substantial than a rumour that the Russians were coming. Given that situation on the ground, you can just imagine quite junior Russian commanders deciding to mount "forward patrols" just to ensure that their fronts were clear - or whatever the excuse was that they thought up to enable them to go and do a bit of sightseeing and freelance looting in Georgia. If you couple that with the official Russian desire to wreck as many Georgian military bases as possible, then you can quite conceivably imagine a situation where soldiers are wandering about, and it is going to take a couple of days to get them all back.
Whatever the reason, it was a major mistake on Russia's part that allowed it to happen. Your friendly old Exile can think of three good reasons why Moscow should have done its utmost to prevent those incursions.
The first is that as we have already mentioned, it provides an excuse for the globalists to use Russophobia as agitprop. To a certain extent it really doesn't really matter what second-rate minds, teaching third-rate students at fourth-rate "universities" argue. So when the likes of Mark O'Attila Hoare start rambling on about how Putin ordered the 1999 Moscow bombings that led to over 300 deaths, a ramble that he presents as fact, but which is based on nothing more than a third-hand account of a drunken conversation in London, then the rest of us can just sit back and smile. That said, not all such propagandists are as bovine as Mark O'Attila, so Russia should avoid giving them free ammunition to use against her. As O'Attila's writings show, they are quite capable of making shit up all on their own.
The second reason why Russia should have kept out of Georgia proper has to do with the political crisis that should be racking the country at the time of writing. Georgia lost a war and lost it badly. The economy is wrecked and political institutions may not survive the post-war storm. People should be looking for the guilty men, aided of course by an attentive opposition that wants to take power. None of that is happening because the Georgian government can use the presence of Russian troops on Georgian soil to divert attention. By the time all those troops have left, probably over the weekend, then the American aid will have started flooding in and the situation may stabilise.
If Russia had only kept her army out of Georgia then she would have bought herself instability in the country, and instability is something that she could have used to her own ends. A general wants to mount a coup, but needs funding? The Swiss bank account is ready. A politician has mounted a series of demonstrations that may lead to something, but the government is claiming that he is too close to Russia? President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin will jointly condemn this anti-Russian individual. The possibilities are endless, but for any of them to work, what Russia needed was the one thing that her actions have conspired to prevent: post-war political and social turmoil in Georgia.
Finally, as this blog reported last Friday, any number of Cossack hosts and Ossetian and Chechen militiamen have just flooded into South Ossetia to join the local militia that was already there. Together they now seem to be roaming around Georgia having the time of their lives. On one level this is understandable, since the Georgians are widely disliked. Furthermore, Georgia has been in receipt of millions of dollars of American aid, and that has helped create a fairly large parasitic middle class. The place probably looks like one giant supermarket to the peasant boys from the mountains, so now is their chance to go and grab that 30 inch TV that will look really great on the mud wall of their hut back home. That and killing a few of the men before having their knobs polished by the women that is.
It is the Caucasus, when all is said and done, but since Russian troops are mixed in with those irregulars, once the full scale of their activities comes out then Russia is going to carry a lot of the blame for what they did. It may turn out that Russian troops were actually not at fault, and as we saw on Wednesday, there are reports that at least one Russian unit advised people to keep out of site when the Militias arrived, but that is not the point. Had Russia stayed out of Georgia then it would all have been the fault of the Georgian government, and an army that ran before it was even attacked. Russia could have just sat back and watched it all on TV, secure in the knowledge that it wasn't their problem.
None of these problems are exactly insurmountable for Moscow, but it does irritate Russia's friends that she created them for herself. Hopefully, the lessons will be learned before the next conflict arises.