Georgia And The Failure Of American Diplomacy

by tristero

There is a truly brilliant short article about Georgia by George Friedman in the current NY Review of Books. It also includes a simple map [with a color scheme we colorblind folks can perceive, thank God] that makes it quite clear how serious the two areas of conflict - Abkhazia and South Ossetia - are for regional stability. Even for those of us who have no illusions that Bush foreign policy is in any way competent, the sheer stupidity of contemporary American diplomacy towards Russia is breathtaking. [And as noted earlier , the incompetent Rice has now been shoved aside by the dangerously incompetent Cheney.]

First, Friedman summarizes the recent conflict. Basically, Russia was baiting Georgia. Georgia, stupidly, bit. Then he asks the question everyone should be asking, but with rare exception, doesn't:
Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on August 7? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, such artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia's move was deliberate.

The United States is Georgia's closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government, and people doing business there. (The United States conducted joint exercises with Georgian troops in July, with over a thousand US troops deployed. The Russians carried out parallel exercises in response. US troops withdrew. The Russian maneuver force remained in position and formed the core of the invading force.) It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia's mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian border. US technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew that the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the deployments of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that Russia had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?

It is difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against US wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a huge breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the deployments of Russian forces or knew of them but—along with the Georgians—miscalculated Russia's intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when its military was in shambles and its government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s and 1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that they would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
Imagine Bush's surprise. No one could have anticipated, etc, etc, etc.

Read the whole thing. Much that is puzzling about this strange war gets clarified.