Sun Aug 10th, 2008 at 08:06:46 AM EST
Crossposted from Daily Kos.
We should all be very worried. The small former Soviet Republic of Georgia has been something of apt pupil of our dear President, and has been very willing to embrace our government as a means to grow closer to the "West." Chief among the actions taken by Georgia to curry American favor was the decision to provide troops for the Iraq war. There are 2,000 Georgian troops in Iraq, and now they are urgently needed in their home country. And the US has agreed to take them there.
First of all we need to remove 1,000 guys from here within 96 hours, after that the rest of the guys," Colonel Bondo Maisuradze told The Times this morning.
"The US will provide us with the transportation," he added.
Georgia had said initially that it planned to withdraw just half of its contingent in Iraq.
The US military said that all transportation options were being explored, without confirming that it would provide the aircraft.
Wait, it gets better.
More on what's happening - afew
Far from being some sort of freak occurrence, the Georgian military assault against the autonomous region of South Ossetia appears to be blowback from bringing Georgia into the coalition of the willing. As a benefit of their willingness to send troops to Iraq, the Georgians have been the recipients of large quantities of military training and aid. Ostensibly this was intended to prepare Georgian forces for action in Iraq, but its likely that the Georgians had an ulterior motive.
As Sergei Shamba, the foreign affairs minister of Abkhazia, told me in 2006: "The Georgians are euphoric because they have been equipped, trained, that they have gained military experience in Iraq. It feeds this revanchist mood... How can South Ossetia be demilitarized, when all of Georgia is bristling with weaponry, and it's only an hour's ride by tank from Tbilisi to Tskhinvali?"
One of the U.S. military trainers put it to me a bit more bluntly. "We're giving them the knife," he said. "Will they use it?"
Wait, it gets better.
There's a difference between giving a man a knife that he might use to stab someone, and someone who basically telling you he wants to go cut some motherfucker who done him wrong.
That's the real reason to pay attention here. Since 2002, the U.S. military has been providing Georgia with a serious amount of military assistance, beginning with the Georgia Train and Equip Program in 2002. I first visited Georgia's Krtsanisi training range in fall of 2002, when the Georgian military was still little more of a militia, with some of the troops wearing sneakers and surplus Soviet uniforms. The U.S. trainers carried sidearms - mostly, as I was told later, to deal with the threat of wild dogs roaming the training ground.
When I returned to Krtsanisi in early 2006, the place had been transformed into a model base. It even had a sparkling new KBR-style dining facility. The Georgian troops were smartly decked out in U.S.-style uniforms; they were preparing for a troop rotation in Iraq.
Officially, SSOP was supposed to prepare Georgians for service in Iraq. But Georgian trainees I spoke to in 2006 at the Krtsanisi training range saw things a bit differently. A female sergeant told me: "This training is incredibly important for us, because we want to take back Georgia's lost territories."
In a way this makes me feel better, because it means that we only armed madmen. We didn't create them like some sort of Frankenstein by giving them guns. Nonetheless at this point the milk has been spilt. And the mess only looks to grow larger.
The ongoing conflict in Georgia isn't only a concern for the countries in the immediate region. It's ignited interest throughout the former Soviet World. And there's some indication that this fight could only grow more gruesome if the Georgians don't concede to the cession of territory. As Jerome a Paris noted yesterday over at the European Tribune, Georgia is host to several separatist regions. You'll have to pardon the French, but this map is enormously helpful in understanding the ongoing conflicts in the region.
This is Georgia. South Ossetia is the region in the center-north of the country. Abkhazia is another separatist region, located in the northwest of the country. Finally, Adjara is located in the southwest of the country and was previously under autonomous rule, but has recently fallen under more direct rule from Tblisi.
All of these regions have the potential to make the situation worse.
First off, Abkhazia has already escalated the conflict by entering on the Ossetian side.
The Abkhazian move was prompted by Georgia's military action to regain control over another breakaway province, South Ossetia, which began Friday, said Sergei Shamba, foreign minister in Abkhazia's separatist government.
He said that Abkhazia had to act because it has a friendship treaty with South Ossetia.
Both regions have run their own affairs without international recognition since splitting from Georgia in the early 1990s and have built up ties with Moscow. Russia has granted its passports to most of their residents.
I can think of a couple of other regional wars that started this. Once you start a fight, you can never tell when somebody's friend is going to try to jump you ass while your going at them. And it's not just Abkhazia.
Russian entry into the Ossetian conflict means that their friends now have a bone to pick with the Georgians. And vice versa. Reactions from various leaders in the former Soviet Union show that there's a split in how to respond to the situation. There have already been reports that Kazakhstan is considering sending troops to support Russia, and the responses from other leaders have been interesting. Just a few:
Nazarbaev criticized Georgia for not raising the alarm before hostilities broke out.
"I think the Georgian leadership has not done the right thing here, by not alerting anyone ahead of time, by not highlighting any rise in tensions. I think, in any case, that there is no alternative to a peaceful resolution of this issue," Nazarbaev said.
"Azerbaijan supports Georgia's territorial integrity, and the South Ossetia conflict should be solved only [within] this framework. At the same time, Georgia has [every] right to restore its territorial integrity, provided by the norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter. And therefore, all the steps taken by Georgia in this direction are in accordance with international law," Ibrahim said.
Ukraine's acting foreign minister, Vladimir Handogy, who was meeting with the Russian charge d'affaires in Kyiv on August 8, also expressed his country's support of Georgia's territorial integrity.
He said Ukraine is prepared to assist international efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution, and he urged Russia to not become a party to the conflict.
This has the potential to line up the post-Soviet world into rival, armed camps.
Belarus and Kazkhstan are supportive of Russia.
Ukraine, Moldova, and Azerbaijan are supportive of Georgia.
Armenia is trying to stay neutral.
And, the best for last.
Remember how the US has agreed to transport those Georgian troops home to fight the Russians?
If you look at at map of the Middle East, you'll see there's really only one way to do that. It's by plane, and through Turkish territory, most likely going through Incirlik airbase.
This gets real tricky. The entire Caucus region was a poorly defined boundary between the Ottoman and Russian Empires. This map, which I can only find in Spanish, shows how the situation was resolved in the 1920s.
The red lines mark the internal boundaries of the old Russian Empire. The whole Caucasus is a damn mess, and in addition to a portion of the old Russian Empire that went to the Turks, Adjara, a part of Georgia populated by Muslims was given autonomous status in the Georgian SSR. The Treaty of Kars that demarcated borders in the region gave Turkey a special role as the protector of these Muslims (much as Russia was a protector by treaty over Ottoman Christians) and ensured autonomy for the region.
Turkey agrees to cede to Georgia suzerainty over the town and port of Batum, with the territory to the north of the frontier, indicated in Article IV of the present Treaty, which formed part of the district of Batum, on condition:
That the population of the localities specified in the present Article shall enjoy a greater measure of local administrative autonomy, that each community is guaranteed its cultural and religious rights, and that this population may introduce in the above-mentioned places an agrarian system in conformity with its own wishes.
That Turkey be assured free transit through the port of Batum for commodities and all materials destined for, or originating in, Turkey, without customs duties and charges, and with the right for Turkey to utilize the port of Batum without special charges. For the application of this Article, a commission of representatives of the interested Parties shall be created immediately after the signing of the present Treaty.
While Adjara had been autonomous following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 2004 the Georgian government revoked much of that autonomy, and it's unclear the extent to which the are has been Christianized. Under the Treaty of Kars, Turkey has a protector role over Adjara.
Over the last year, Turkey has seen significant turmoil in its domestic politics, with elements of the secularist military threatening coup against the (democratically elected) Islamist government. Fortunately, Adjara is one thing that they might all agree on.
The problem is that they likely are going to see the situation somewhat differently from the US and Georgia. After all, if Georgia's going to get carved up, why shouldn't Turkey get control over the oil refineries at the head of the pipeline from Azerbaijan?
And how do you suppose that they are going to respond to a US request to transport Georgian troops home to put down separatist republics?
And even if they agree, what happens if a US plane transporting Georgian forces into the region is shot down?
We live in interesting times.
And remember that war is the gift that keeps on giving.
Thanks George and Georgia.........