My friend at Closer View commented on the American humanitarian aid delivered to Georgia:

In the Georgian town of Pti, Russian troops arrested 22 Georgian uniformed men. After interrogation, the men said that they were supposed to receive humanitarian help from the U.S. ships. As it turns out, their packages included assault weapons, rocket launchers, and plastic explosives. The Georgian soldiers were driving nearly brand new HUMVEE’s, whose odometer showed not even 400 miles. On the windows of the vehicles there were still stickers with “U.S. Property” printed on them.

The official explanation is that the Humvees “were awaiting shipment back to the United States after taking part in earlier U.S.-Georgian military exercises”. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said “these Humvees are U.S. property and should be returned. It’s that simple”.

“We don’t have any assurance at this point that they’re prepared to do the right thing and return them,” Whitman said of Russia’s forces. He declined to specify the exact number of American vehicles in Russia’s possession, calling it “a handful.”

Another report says the vehicles were flown to Moscow:

According to witnesses, five Humvees with the letters USMC — the initials of the US Marine Corps — emblazoned on them were taken by Russian forces. A Russian newspaper said the vehicles contained sophisticated satellite communications gear and they had been flown to Moscow to be examined.

Advertisements

Given the current status of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, we have been hearing many comparisons on South Ossetia and Kosovo, and on the Russian intervention with that of NATO in 1999.

I found a very good compilation of the reasons why South Ossetia is not Kosovo, thus making Russia’s case very flimsy.

But take this quote:

With its decision to recognize both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent republics, Russia is bound to become a strong delusion in the eyes of those who thought that its opposition to Kosovo’s independence was based on principles.

I still cannot understand how people insist on believing that foreign policy is made on “principles”.

President Dmitry Medvedev has declared that Russia formally recognizes the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The move follows a vote in both houses of parliament on Monday, which called on Moscow to recognize the regions.

Given the recent conflict and the bad blood involved, we are probably going to see massive migration from georgians south, out of the russian-friendly regions.

Amidst heavy western criticism, Russia clearly does not care:

Soaring oil and gas prices have put nearly $600 billion in its hard-currency reserves. Many Russians reckon that in the end the big European countries that matter will decide that they care more about trade ties and reliable energy supplies than they do about Georgia.

Closer View has been covering the Georgia-Russia conflict and has made some interesting points. I do, however, disagree with this:

“It is only in U.S. and E.U. interests to have Georgia fight the Russians in an open conflict. Contrary to what the naive Yuschenko may be saying, having Ukraine part of NATO is still best for the West only. “

From the western point of view, Georgia breaking up this fight was a silly mistake, a case of jumping the gun. Even though it seems clear that pretty much any opposition to Russia in the Caucasus, slowing down the enormous Russian influence, is beneficial to western interests, an open conflict would only be interesting if stalemate was guaranteed. Having Georgia invaded, or its pro-West government overthrown, are not welcome options.

Instead, Georgia gave to Russia all the reasons for the same old excuse of “protecting its citizens“. Russian response was overwhelming as expected, taking advantage of a unique composition of factors: Georgia has no powerful allies in the region, has not yet joined NATO or EU, President Bush is a lame duck, and western countries are in waiting mode until US elections. Oh, and yes, everybody is watching the Olympics.

If Georgia was part of NATO, things could have been different. Since its inception, no member has ever been attacked by another nation (with one silly exception). The treaty would ensure military protection and would probably force Russia to continue its policy of undercover support to South Ossetian rebels.

Which brings us to Ukraine. I think Ukraine, after the Georgia debacle, will place its diplomatic forces in overdrive, trying to hurry up its NATO membership.

The Economist chose this sentence as a subtitle: “A war between Russia and Georgia appears to be under way“.

As in any war, the first victim was the truth. Contradictory accounts come from both sides, and reality is probably somewhere in between, lost in the fog of war. But military activities are in full course:

Georgian soldiers, tanks and fighter-planes struck Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, on Friday. Parts of the city were reported to be burning as Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that his forces had “freed” much of the area from separatist control.
[…] 150 Russian tanks were reported to be entering South Ossetia on Friday. Georgia’s government says that Russian planes have dropped bombs outside of South Ossetia including on the edge of Tblisi, the Georgian capital.

So why did they choose to say “appears to be”? Maybe because official war declarations are old-fashioned and disused. Recent conflicts seem to start by sheer use of force, there was no time to have an official war declared against Afghanistan, or Iraq. War isn’t declared anymore, it just happens.

Very quietly, Georgia and Russia escalated their war in South Ossetia. After the air raids of yesterday, today Russian tanks are closing in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

Former president, now prime-minister, and acting tzar Putin admitted: war has started.

Georgia is a key western ally and a much-needed pathway for pipelines linking the Caspian Sea region to the western, bypassing Russia.