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A New Russian War Part Two

Russia is clearly seeking recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the criminal investigation initiated by the Russian law enforcement bodies into charges of "genocide" implies the responsibility of those who initiated the operation from the Georgian side, including its leaders.
by Ilya Kramnik
Moscow (UPI) Sep 10, 2008
In parallel with the Russian military operations in the former Soviet republic of Georgia last month, an information and diplomatic war was unfolding, as the Russian representatives at the United Nations and NATO, Vitaly Churkin and Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the Russian prime minister and president appeared on all channels defending Russia's position and substantiating its actions.

Combined with the practically unanimous position of the Russian press, it enabled Russia to avoid the unqualified defeat in the information war that has invariably happened over the past 20 years: Even some in Western Europe took the Russian side. In fact, only the United States, Britain and some East European countries unreservedly backed Georgia, and that support did not go beyond words of sympathy and demands that Russia immediately pull out its troops.

Thus the West demonstrated to the whole world that it was not united on such a fundamental issue as the "defense of a young democracy." And a new geopolitical reality came into being, a bloc -- if only a temporary one -- of Russia and Western Europe -- Germany, France, Italy and partly Spain -- against the United States and the East European countries.

Even Russia's traditional geopolitical adversary Turkey expressed support for Russia. The Turkish premier, who flew to Moscow for talks, backed Russia's efforts at pacification of the region. Later reports said that Turkey had refused to allow American naval ships into the Black Sea.

But despite these successes, Russia can hardly claim to have won the information war: The opposing flood of information is too powerful. Most likely the outcome of the information war can be described as a tie.

It is hard to predict how the situation will develop. The positions of the main players in the world arena -- in this case, unquestionably Russia and the United States -- look irreconcilable.

Russia is clearly seeking recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the criminal investigation initiated by the Russian law enforcement bodies into charges of "genocide" implies the responsibility of those who initiated the operation from the Georgian side, including its leaders. Neighboring countries also have been drawn into the conflict; one such country is Ukraine, where there are clear signs of a deepening political crisis.

While recognizing that any forecast in this volatile situation is sure to be inaccurate and most probably wrong, one can still try to predict the overall directions in which the situation may develop. Obviously, the past two weeks have changed the world dramatically: The contradictions between Russia and the United States that for a long time were hidden behind the veil of political correctness have come to the fore.

Neither Russia nor the United States intends to yield ground, which suggests a new spiral of the Cold War and global confrontation between the two powers from the post-Soviet space to Latin America.

The fact that the U.S. missile defense system is directed against Russia became obvious after Poland hastily agreed to deploy U.S. interceptor missiles in exchange for the delivery of modern air defense systems to protect against a hypothetical Russian strike. In turn, Russian officials reaffirmed their warning that in the event of a conflict the deployment sites of the missile defense systems would be the priority targets.

As for the region itself, one may expect to see another change of power in Georgia in the foreseeable future. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has lost the war and whose personal behavior was far from impeccable, is unpopular in his country and in the West.

One should not, however, entertain illusions that pro-Russian forces will win: Their present position in Georgian society is too weak to hope for anything serious.

One may also see a dismantling of the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States in its present form, as Russia's allies probably strengthen cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which may soon have new members.

(Ilya Kramnik is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Pentagon set on mission to rebuild Georgian military
Washington (AFP) Sept 9, 2008
The Pentagon said Tuesday it was sending a team to Georgia this week to assess needs for rebuilding its military, emphasizing that Tbilisi must be capable of deterring any new Russian attack.







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