Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russia, Georgia and Armenia 

I'm beyond hope that the situation there will resolve in anything other than the replacement of the current government of Georgia with a puppet regime run by Russia. This has been, after all, the model employed in Armenia to disastrous effect. Unilateral ceasefires and pullouts from pointless alliances are all the Georgian government has left. It has even sunk to blaming NATO for not providing quicker membership; that would have only made the Russians move faster. Ralph Peters points out correctly that this has to have been planned for months now. Stratfor notes this morning on Russia's call for a withdrawal:
The Russians have achieved the desired psychological effect with the West, shattered Georgian self-confidence and set in motion recalculations by other countries in the region. The pacification of Georgia was not on their agenda.
Global Voices has a special page on South Ossetia that should be required reading; GV uses local bloggers and independent reporters for its information, and the news is not filtered. There I found a report that reminded me of a phone call to Hugh Hewitt's show that I thought he handled too cavalierly: the Kosovo precedent. The argument has been brewing almost from the moment Kosovo became independent in February. Contra Austin Bay, it does not really matter whether the country from which the government which to separates is like Milosevic's Serbia.

In Nagorno-Karabakh there was an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan. With help first of Armenia and then of Russia, it has been an area of Russian influence (through the Minsk Group of the OSCE) since 1994. As such it has insisted on maintaining a presence in both Armenia and N-K, not dissimilar to its role in Abkhazia. It is as Tom Barnett notes:
...whenever something breaks off from something larger, you always find this littler bit inside the smaller entity that identifies more with the larger entity. Saw--and still see--this in the Balkans. Ditto for the Caucasus. Go back a bit farther and you see that Stalin set this up purposefully in many instances, shifting borders just so to trap a chunk of one historical state within another, also purposefully settling Russians for the same effect. Go back even further and you see the Russian empire using the pretext of the "fellow Slavs" needing protection to expand its borders ...

What I see here is Putin working familiar Russian themes for both domestic consumption and signaling to the West that Russia is once again a full-spectrum great power that defends its perceived interests like any other (admittedly, South Ossetia isn't exactly Iraq, but that's what a Russia can muster at this point). Timing is good (end of Bush term, Olympics, Iraq winding down but Afghanistan winding up). Man knows how to pick his moments.

What saddens me today is that Armenians look to Russia as "this littler bit ... that identifies more with the larger entity." We have Armenians and diaspora cheering Russia on, apparently without care that this may doom Armenia to being a satellite of Russia forevermore. We are more worried about sticking it to the Turks (and their Azeri brothers) still than about creating our own nation.

Michael Totten is traveling to Azerbaijan, and links to this excellent background piece on South Osseita by Joshua Kucera from this past spring.

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