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## Georgian - South Ossetian - Russian Conflict

 Quote by WmLambert For a good article explaining the political timing behind the South Ossetia confrontation, one of the most cogent articles I've seen is this one by Warner Todd Huston. He explains why Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili moved into South Ossetia at this time.
Oh yeah, this guy's a totally biased speculator who's a fat, out-of-shape (re:well kept) right-wing conservative giving his assumptions after getting a packet of cash from the McAin smear Obama campaign. Puleeez.

BTW: Val, in another forum, posted eyewitness reports in the local Russian, which I asked him to translate for us. I ran his Russian through a translator, but needed more:
 Quote by I — Я так понимаю, там всех уже зачистили? - 4 so ponimayu, there all did already clean? ("Do I understand correctly that all people there have already been killed?") — Да. То есть оттуда мирных жителей вывезли, там никого не было, кроме грузинских войск. А что касается мирных граждан, то в тех местах, где они еще оставались, мы, в отличие от войск Грузии, предоставили коридор и дали возможность мирному населению выйти. Но еще раз хочу вас заверить, что в этих анклавах фактически никого не было. Они заблаговременно всех вывезли — у нас были перехваты. Ведь грузинская сторона к агрессии серьезно готовилась. Они вывозили оттуда людей, они вывезли свое так называемое альтернативное правительство (прогрузинская временная администрация Южной Осетии во главе с Дмитрием Санакоевым.— "Ъ"). - Yes. I.E., they exported from there innocent civilians, there no one it was, except Georgian troops. But as far as peaceful citizens are concerned, in those places, where they still remained, we, in contrast to the troops of Georgia, granted corridor and they made possible to innocent civilians it left. But I again want you it certified, that in these the enclaves actually no one it was. They in advance all exported - the interceptions was. Indeed Georgian side for the aggression seriously was prepared. They exported from there people, they exported their so-called alternative government Progruzinskaya temporary administration of South Osetia headed by Dmitriy Sanakoyev. - - "7" — То есть грузинские анклавы фактически уничтожены? - i.e., Georgian enclaves are actually destroyed? — А что, надо допустить, чтобы нас оттуда обстреливали? Опять стреляли нам в спину и издевались над нашим народом? - A that, must it did allow so that us they would from there fire? Again they did shoot to us into the back and did jeer above I will sew by people? — Грузинских мирных жителей туда обратно пустят? - Georgian innocent civilians there conversely tyuey pustyat? — Мы не намерены туда больше кого-то запускать. Более 18 тыс. осетинских беженцев из Грузии сейчас находятся в Северной Осетии. Нам их нужно возвращать в Южную Осетию. " - we are not intended there more someone it started. More than 18 thousand Ossetic refugees from Georgia now nakhodyatsya to North Osetia. To us they necessarily returned to South Osetia.
[quote="Val"]Please see my explanation inside of your quote (I hope I wouldn't confuse you :) )

 Quote by WmLambert Thank you, Val for your post. Could you possibly clean up the translation from my Mac translator? ... 1. Basically, he said that they killed everyone who was there, "but there were no civilians, only Georgian troops, because they had been transported out of the area by Georgians before the attacks, ... but in the place there were some civilians they let them out". They also have no intention to let Georgian civilians back in their villages in S.O. This is an interesting way to say that they killed everyone ... but did not killed civilians, isn't it? 2. It was done not exactly by Russians, but by the Ossetin separatists. (See my links to wikipedia about South Ossetin autonomy inside of Georgia. In short, only part of the Ossetins living in Georgia, live in that autonomy, and slightly more than half of them lives (probably up to 30,000 from the top of my head, are under control of the separatists. This is an interview with their leader after they were "liberated" by Russian troops) It is not Russian regular troops who were noticed in atrocities, but so called "irregulars", which are the "separatists" apparently controlled encouraged and used by the Moscow government and, probably some special troops . Russian Regular troops mostly consist of young draftees, most of whom are average young people 18-20 years old, not specially prepared, just trained with the weapons for several months. ...
I realize it is all herky-jerky, but the gist is that the South Ossetian separatists were called "Russian Irregulars" by the Russians and were devastating the Georgians and non-separatist South Ossetians, causing the Georgian Peacekeepers to step in. Civilians ran away for safety, and the "drivers-awayers" were holed up in their vacant homes which were attacked. The Russians could righteously claim the Georgians killed everyone in the civilian area, without mentioning no civilians were killed.

"Who done what" is all over the place. There are South Ossetians, non-separatists and separatists, alike, who are now refugees in North Ossetia and elsewhere waiting to come back. Most Georgians who were forced out are refugees in Georgia, waitoing to return.

 Quote by Art Only recently Russia had asked Georgia to sign a non-aggression treaty committing all sides not to resort to force to resolve the issue.
No president of any country in the world would even consider signing a non-aggression treaty with a country that was stationing its troops on his soil. This is the equivalent of signing your country away. To claim that this represents a good-faith attempt by Russia to find a peaceful solution is absurd:

"Peacefully hand your country over to us!"
"No way."
"Well, we *tried* peaceful means..."

 Quote by Art Yes Russia had troops ready to intervene if Georgia were mad enough to attack South Ossetia because they suspected Georgia couldn't be trusted and would have hoped a show of force would act as a deterrent. Unfortunately for Georgia their president, who btw still refuses to answer reporters who ask if his attack on S Ossetia was at America's instigation, thought Russia was bluffing.
It's amazing how you know what all these people were thinking, and what motivated them. Too bad they don't call anyone else to share their most secret thoughts.

 Quote by Art Even after the Georgian onslaught started Russia tried to solve the situation diplomatically through the UNSC where a resolution they proposed calling on Georgia to ceasefire and withdraw to pre-conflict borders was blocked by the US and it's puppet state Britain (shades of Israel/Lebanon) which adds fuel to the suspicion that America was an instigator of the invasion and wanted to allow time for it's completion.
A silly supposition considering how badly Georgian forces were being trampled by the Russian onslaught. And speaking of the UNSC, where were Russia's efforts to build a truly legitimate, legal framework for resolving the crisis via the UN over the past 10 years? Oh, yeah, they didn't seem interested in that... but I guess denying them a fig-leaf of UNSC sponsorship for their invasion of Georgia somehow counts as war-mongering.

 Quote by Art It really takes a huge leap of imagination to see Georgia as the victims of this situation.
Then it's fortunate for me that I don't. The victims here are the civilians caught in the crossfire. What's really staggering is that so many people are determined to see *Russia* as the victim.

 Quote by Art they didn't bomb TV broadcasters in the capital (as NATO did in Belgrade) and they didn't hit government administrative buildings in Tibilisi either (as NATO did in Belgrade).
Georgia is not Yugoslavia. Even according to the most biased accounts, Georgian actions did not come close to the organized genocide that was underway in the former Yugoslavia.

 Quote by Art And they certainly didn''t reduce the country to rubble as America did in Iraq. According to Georgian figures they also killed a magnitude fewer civilians than NATO did in Serbia and a minuscule percentage of the civilians Americans killed in Iraq.
And these comparisons are relevant how...?

 Quote by Art Russia is now ringed by US military bases in what was it's former territory. One can only imagine America's reaction if Russia were to establish missile bases in Mexico, Canada and Cuba but I suspect it would not be one of apathetic indifference.
Funny, I didn't know that Mexico, Canada and Cuba were America's "former territory," although I like how you lend legitimacy to their brutal occupation of various countries by consigning them to the status of "Russia's territory." It just so happens that pretty much all of those countries weren't so hot on belonging to Russia, which is a big part of what pulled NATO so far east so quickly, and why Georgia bristles even today. Also, Russia *IS* trying to put bases in Cuba right now.

[QUOTE=Art;1840145]
Your contention that the west has learned from it's previous mistakes and inhumane behaviour and is now a paragon of virtue with no imperial ambitions is naive to the point of incredulity[QUOTE=Art;1840145]

Who said anything about "paragon of virtue" or "no imperial ambitions?" I just pointed out that slavery and Nazism were defeated and repudiated in a way that authoritarianism and imperialism in Russia were not. If you can't respond to that without putting words in my mouth, don't respond at all. Could it be that America's faults, whatever they may be, are not actually the most relevant factor when it comes to Russians and Georgians shooting eachother?
 Can you imagine how Americans would feel if after 9/11/01 leaders of Western countries were lining up in the queue to the Osama bin Laden's cave offering him and his organization membership in NATO, and America was threatened by various sanctions, because it allegedly "provoked" the attack by its Mid-Eastern policies? Make substitutions: Americans -> Russians Osama bin Laden -> Saakashvili Middle East -> Caucasus 9/11/01 -> 8/08/08 and you'll understand what is the mood in Russia right now. I don't think that the word "betrayal" comes even close.

 Quote by quadraphonics A silly supposition considering how badly Georgian forces were being trampled by the Russian onslaught. And speaking of the UNSC, where were Russia's efforts to build a truly legitimate, legal framework for resolving the crisis via the UN over the past 10 years? Oh, yeah, they didn't seem interested in that... but I guess denying them a fig-leaf of UNSC sponsorship for their invasion of Georgia somehow counts as war-mongering.
Okay, this single paragraph epitomises and exposes your total ignorance of the situation re Georgia in the past two weeks and the past 10 years. Perhaps you should read up on it first and then maybe we could have a discussion based on reality as I am not wasting any more time rebutting your fantasies.

 Quote by meopemuk Can you imagine how Americans would feel if after 9/11/01 leaders of Western countries were lining up in the queue to the Osama bin Laden's cave offering him and his organization membership in NATO, and America was threatened by various sanctions, because it allegedly "provoked" the attack by its Mid-Eastern policies? Make substitutions: Americans -> Russians Osama bin Laden -> Saakashvili Middle East -> Caucasus 9/11/01 -> 8/08/08 and you'll understand what is the mood in Russia right now. I don't think that the word "betrayal" comes even close.
Are you connected with people living in Russia ? If so, do people there think the US was involved in the Georgian decision to attack ? Or do they think it was a lone decision by the Georgian gouvernment ? (I assume most Russians do believe in the version that it was an unprovoked suprise attack by Georgia).

A little off-topic: Could you recommend one or two Russian news sources that more or less represent Russian "public opinion" ? Every now and then I have a look at "Argumenti i Fakti" (trying to learn Russian, but without much success) - is it popular in Russia ?

 Quote by Oberst Villa Are you connected with people living in Russia ? If so, do people there think the US was involved in the Georgian decision to attack ? Or do they think it was a lone decision by the Georgian gouvernment ? (I assume most Russians do believe in the version that it was an unprovoked suprise attack by Georgia).
Though I am an ethnic Russian I didn't live in Russia proper. I have a number of relatives there, though our contacts are sporadic and I didn't have a chance to ask them about latest events. I had some exchanges with immigrants from former USSR living and working around me.

I think it should be clear to anyone that Saakashvili (unless he is a complete madman) could not perform this stunt all by himself. He should have known better what the reaction of Russia would be. He was warned by Russians many times not to do exactly what he did.

My personal opinion is that he was encouraged by the US. The agressive American PR campaign in support of Saakashvili seems to confirm that. Perhaps Bush became bored with Iraq and Afghanistan which seem to go nowhere and decided to start a new game in his quest for domination? Perhaps he has a big geopolitical plan of dividing the world into opposing camps (Europe and America on one side, Russia and China on the other) in preparation for the Armageddon? I have no idea.

Or perhaps things are not so apocaliptic and Saakashvili "simply" decided to retake South Ossetia by force. He could have succeeded if Russians hesitated to respond for a couple more days.

 Quote by Oberst Villa A little off-topic: Could you recommend one or two Russian news sources that more or less represent Russian "public opinion" ? Every now and then I have a look at "Argumenti i Fakti" (trying to learn Russian, but without much success) - is it popular in Russia ?
"Argumenti i Fakti" was extremely popular during "perestroika". I think they even got to the Guinness Book of Records as a periodical with the highest circulation in the world.

I am not a political junkie, and I didn't pay much attention to the current Russian press before this event, which made me furious. You can try www.yandex.ru for compilation of articles from different sources (including US and Georgian). A good source of video footage and commentaries in English is www.russiatoday.com. I have 6 Russian TV channels at home from DirecTV, but I pay smthng like 60/month for that. Some would say that Russian media is not credible, because it is state-controlled. But I can say with some authority that most Russians agree with what they see on TV during last 11 days. What is that? The media accurately reflects people's opinion? Or the population is brainwashed by the media? I would vote for the former. For a strong anti-Kremlin and pro-Western stance you can try Garry Kasparov's www.theotherrussia.org in English. Mentor  Quote by Art Some parts of the Western press are freer than others. Ireland for example is ranked no. 1 in Reporters Without Borders annual report whereas the US domestic press only makes no. 22 a long way behind former communist countries such as Latvia and Estonia whilst US press freedom in Iraq is ranked at 108th. Not the sort of positions the self appointed leader of the free world should be proud of and indicative that Americans should be suspicious of what they see and hear in their media. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11715 The US may be in the low-end of western countries on that scale, but it is still in the range for western countries. I'm proud of the progress the former soviet republics have made and their recent conversion is part of the reason they are so close to the top. I hope they keep their idealism towards democracy a long time before socialism starts creeping back in. The point is that Russia, on the other hand, is near the bottom of the entire scale. Staggeringly low for a country that supposedly has freedom of the press. Their press shouldn't even be consulted, much less trusted as a source of news.  Quote by russ_watters The US may be in the low-end of western countries on that scale, but it is still in the range for western countries. I'm proud of the progress the former soviet republics have made and their recent conversion is part of the reason they are so close to the top. I hope they keep their idealism towards democracy a long time before socialism starts creeping back in. The point is that Russia, on the other hand, is near the bottom of the entire scale. Staggeringly low for a country that supposedly has freedom of the press. Their press shouldn't even be consulted, much less trusted as a source of news. Interesting, why your independent and trusted media sources do not attempt to go to Tshinvali and see for themselves what is the situation on the other side (I am currently browsing CNN and BBC websites and see that all their operations are inside Georgia proper)? If (as you perhaps may claim) Russian authorities do not let them in, why don't they cry outloud and demand the entry? This makes me to suspect that Western media just doesn't want to see the scenes of devastation in Tshinvali and doesn't want to talk to the residents of the city. This doesn't fit into their convenient black-and-white picture.  Quote by meopemuk Interesting, why your independent and trusted media sources do not attempt to go to Tshinvali and see for themselves what is the situation on the other side (I am currently browsing CNN and BBC websites and see that all their operations are inside Georgia proper)? Well, why don't you take a look at the Los Angeles Times website: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...,5306223.story Or the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/world/eur...ss_at_georgia/ Or the Kansas City Star: http://www.kansascity.com/451/story/753677.html Or ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2...17/2337791.htm Or the International Herlad Tribune: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/...d-Laborers.php Or the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/wo.../18tblisi.html If you want to ignore Western media, that's your prerogative, but don't try to twist your own ignorance of its contents into an argument that it should be ignored.  Quote by meopemuk I think it should be clear to anyone that Saakashvili (unless he is a complete madman) could not perform this stunt all by himself. He should have known better what the reaction of Russia would be. He was warned by Russians many times not to do exactly what he did. My personal opinion is that he was encouraged by the US. The agressive American PR campaign in support of Saakashvili seems to confirm that. Perhaps Bush became bored with Iraq and Afghanistan which seem to go nowhere and decided to start a new game in his quest for domination? Perhaps he has a big geopolitical plan of dividing the world into opposing camps (Europe and America on one side, Russia and China on the other) in preparation for the Armageddon? I have no idea. Or perhaps things are not so apocaliptic and Saakashvili "simply" decided to retake South Ossetia by force. He could have succeeded if Russians hesitated to respond for a couple more days. I think it's important to recall that war is a fundamentally political act, and so its goals and success or failure must be judged in political, and not solely military, terms. While it is possible that Saakashvili thought he really stood a good chance of retaking South Ossetia by force, it's unlikely that such a simple, risky move was the primary object of the war. Whenever a small state sandwiched between superpowers acts, it acts as much to affect the disposition of the surrounding powers as to win the actual battles in question (which are necessarily very limited in scope). That said, I think that an important part of the backdrop here is NATO's rejection of Georgian membership (under European objections) at the recent NATO summit. This presumably left Saakashvili with the impression that the EU was lukewarm about eastward expansion of NATO, and without much sense of urgency or unity on the question of the security disposition of Georgia (and Ukraine). If so, a confrontation with Russia, which was bound to make Russia look bad in Europe, is just the thing. If he can grab South Ossetia and hang onto it, so much the better, but he must have calculated that his alliance with the US, and support from NATO, would allow him to at least preserve his polity and some semblence of the status-quo-ante. He'd have been crazy to expect a direct American intervention against Russia, and the surprised response from the US seems to be pretty strong evidence that America did not anticipate this move. So, judged on those terms, it seems that Georgia has actually won this war: it lit a fire under Europe's *** on the question of his country's security disposition, with NATO now aligned in Georgia's favor, and other Eastern European states scrambling to strengthen their defenses over Russian objections (see Poland). Meanwhile, Russia's stock market took a massive hit, is suffering isolation from various prestigious international organizations, and is widely perceived as an aggressive, violent power. Expect Europe to intensify efforts to lessen dependence on Russian energy, and become more supportive militarily of the Baltic and other Eastern European states. Meanwhile, gas prices have leveled off, and American troops are expected to begin leaving Iraq within the next year, which will put that much more pressure on Russia. Sure, Georgia lost the battle for South Ossetia, but so what? They didn't control South Ossetia prior to the war, and it's not like everyone didn't already know that the Russians could easily crush them if they so chose. In the end, this looks like a win for Georgia and a loss for Russia.  Recognitions: Gold Member Science Advisor Staff Emeritus Human Rights Watch: http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008...ussia19620.htm  Quote by meopemuk Though I am an ethnic Russian I didn't live in Russia proper. I have a number of relatives there, though our contacts are sporadic and I didn't have a chance to ask them about latest events. I had some exchanges with immigrants from former USSR living and working around me. I think it should be clear to anyone that Saakashvili (unless he is a complete madman) could not perform this stunt all by himself. He should have known better what the reaction of Russia would be. He was warned by Russians many times not to do exactly what he did. My personal opinion is that he was encouraged by the US. The agressive American PR campaign in support of Saakashvili seems to confirm that. Perhaps Bush became bored with Iraq and Afghanistan which seem to go nowhere and decided to start a new game in his quest for domination? Perhaps he has a big geopolitical plan of dividing the world into opposing camps (Europe and America on one side, Russia and China on the other) in preparation for the Armageddon? I have no idea. Or perhaps things are not so apocaliptic and Saakashvili "simply" decided to retake South Ossetia by force. He could have succeeded if Russians hesitated to respond for a couple more days. "Argumenti i Fakti" was extremely popular during "perestroika". I think they even got to the Guinness Book of Records as a periodical with the highest circulation in the world. I am not a political junkie, and I didn't pay much attention to the current Russian press before this event, which made me furious. You can try www.yandex.ru for compilation of articles from different sources (including US and Georgian). A good source of video footage and commentaries in English is www.russiatoday.com. I have 6 Russian TV channels at home from DirecTV, but I pay smthng like60/month for that. Some would say that Russian media is not credible, because it is state-controlled. But I can say with some authority that most Russians agree with what they see on TV during last 11 days. What is that? The media accurately reflects people's opinion? Or the population is brainwashed by the media? I would vote for the former. For a strong anti-Kremlin and pro-Western stance you can try Garry Kasparov's www.theotherrussia.org in English.
Thanks a lot for the links, meopemuk. I think that irrespective of the question how credible Russian media are, the way that they make the Russian public perceive reality will be a very decisive factor for the Russian - US/European relations during the next weeks. I just hope they will not deteriorate any further, but I'm not optimistic at the moment.

 Quote by quadraphonics Well, why don't you take a look at the Los Angeles Times website: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...,5306223.story Or the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/news/world/eur...ss_at_georgia/ Or the Kansas City Star: http://www.kansascity.com/451/story/753677.html Or ABC News: http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2...17/2337791.htm Or the International Herlad Tribune: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/...d-Laborers.php Or the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/18/wo.../18tblisi.html If you want to ignore Western media, that's your prerogative, but don't try to twist your own ignorance of its contents into an argument that it should be ignored.

Thanks for the links. After these accounts (which definitely cover just a small portion of the whole picture) are you going to blame Russia for starting the conflict? Should the president sending "Grad" rockets and tanks against (what he claims to be) his own people be considered a "beacon of democracy" or a "mass murderer"?
 Recognitions: Gold Member Science Advisor Staff Emeritus meopemuk, I don't know if you read those articles. Most of them say that Russian claims of around 2000 deaths in Tskhinvali seem to be highly exaggerated (some speculate the exaggeration was intended to spur the S. Ossetians towards taking revenge). HRW also says that 2000 deaths is unlikely - and it's not in their interests to underestimate loss of life (on any side of the conflict).

 Quote by Gokul43201 meopemuk, I don't know if you read those articles. Most of them say that Russian claims of around 2000 deaths in Tskhinvali seem to be highly exaggerated (some speculate the exaggeration was intended to spur the S. Ossetians towards taking revenge). HRW also says that 2000 deaths is unlikely - and it's not in their interests to underestimate loss of life (on any side of the conflict).
I don't think that a few journalists and observers can perform a full body count over vast territory of South Ossetia. HRW is careful to report only things they saw by their own eyes. I think that there will be official figures supported by documents and witnesses soon.

The doubts about the number of casualties mainly come from the testimony of a doctor in the Tshinvali hospital who had only 40 recorded deaths in her log. However, keep in mind that there are also credible accounts about residents trapped in their basements for three or four days. They couldn't dare to go outside even to get fresh water at the risk of being shot. So delivering death bodies to the hospital for proper registration was, understandably, not their first priority. (On www.russiatoday.com there was an interview with a mother who spent 3 days with the body of her killed son in the basement. Can you imagine that?) And after several days passed in the summer heat, bringing the corpses to the hospital didn't make much sense either. So, they were mostly buried in backyards.

Let us however assume (just for the purposes of discussion) that the number of civilian deaths is measured in dozens rather than in hundreds. Does it make Saakashvili actions more acceptable? Does it mean that Russians should have sitten on their hands waiting for the body count to exceed some magic threshold? What is this threshold?

If I remember correctly, 2006 Israel-Lebanon war started from killing 3 Israeli soldiers and abducting 2 (note, they were soldiers not civilians). This was followed by a full-scale Israeli invasion, bombardment of infrastructure, and (estimated) 1000 civilian deaths. Israel is still a darling of US administration as it always was.

There are also suggestions that Russia could have solved the crisis by peaceful means. What? Convene an international conference? It is immoral (and probably illegal) to waste
even a minute of time when people are dying and crying for help.
 There is interview with another doctor of the same Tshinvali hospital, who says that 2000 is a credible estimate of casualties. http://www.kp.ru/daily/24147/364201/

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