walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
Feed
Features
Reviews
Podcast
Russia Blunders in South Ossetia

Russia’s 2008 campaign against Georgia secured the independence of the border regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but it has curried considerably less favor in the region since then. A New York Times article notes that Russia-backed candidates have lost recent elections in both countries, and only intervention by the Supreme Court prevented an opposition candidate from assuming the presidency in South Ossetia. The campaign’s end may not have been enough for Moscow:

The opposition movement leader in the mountainous enclave of South Ossetia had planned to be inaugurated as its rightful president on Friday in an unauthorized ceremony. Instead, she lay unconscious in a hospital with a possible rifle-butt blow to the head, her aides were under arrest and her organization was in disarray, crushed by police officers apparently acting on the Kremlin’s orders.

Putin is known as a coldhearted and calculating politician, but if the Kremlin was indeed responsible, this recent incident underscores the fact that Russia still isn’t very good at foreign policy (something Americans have often forgotten since the Cold War). To attack an opposition candidate in a small nation would raise eyebrows in the West while winning it few allies in the nearby regions it wants to keep close. Given the serious problems Russia faces domestically and internationally, such bullying overreach in a relatively small and isolated country is self-defeating, to say the least.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Why isn’t Obama or Clinton outraged over this? They should be screaming over this thuggish behavior.

  • Corlyss

    I like the story about some of Putin’s old KGB buddies killing that pesky female journalist for his birthday present. If you don’t like his tactics you have to admit they are effective.

    Re: the idea of Obama and Clinton protesting loudly over the instant outrage, Jackson, you should know that John Batchelor had to explain in Aug 2008 by way of an apostrophe to candidated Obama when he asked for climb-down on both sides, “Russian tanks = bad guys.” Obama has the typical lefty approach to conflict not their own: both sides are morally equal, therefore both sides should concede fault. Obama wouldn’t call an invasion “an invasion” if it rolled up on the White House lawn and deposed him.

  • Jules

    Given Clinton’s gloating over the lynching of Khadafi by American proxies following a US/NATO airstrike I don’t think she’s in a position to express outrage about such behaviour.

  • Kris

    To the extent that the South-Ossetians welcomed the Bear, …

  • Michael

    Hi, Walter;

    I meant to post this on your earlier thread on Putin’s veto of the UN sanction against Syria, but this is also a good place to post these.

    These are English translations of several articles authored by Putin in recent months. I post these, because, if we are going to analyze the intentions of other powers, I think it is important to understand what they THINK they are trying to accomplish:

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.nz/2012/01/russia-muscles-up-challenges-we-must.html

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.nz/2012/01/russia-national-question.html

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.nz/2012/01/economic-tasks.html

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.co.nz/2012/02/building-justice-social-policy-for.html

    I might add, that I wish America had political leaders who were as patriotic as Putin clearly is, and who could think as deeply and thoroughly about the problems facing America as Putin seems able to do about Russia. Like this man or not, he is a capable leader who identifies closely with his people. Such sentiments are NOT automatically incompatible with a desire for power (which Putin clearly also has, in cards and spades).

    America’s leaders, by contrast, clearly do not understand their own country very well (as you pointed out a few posts ago). I also question whether they are true patriots (lovers of their country). Rather, they project a fearful and hostile attitude toward “the masses” whom they seem to regard as livestock to be managed, or an inferior sub-species to be manipulated and kept at bay.

  • http://deconstructingleftism.wordpress.com Thrasymachus

    How is this a mistake for Russia? Who will condemn or punish them?

  • Corlyss

    @Jules

    Offended by the good guys expressing a little satisfaction that one of the bad guys now rots in Hell? Tsk tsk.

  • http://www.youtube.com/onthegulf Joe Mestas

    Your article is not factual. The Supreme Court in South Ossetia did nullify the election (Do you remember the Gore-Bush election going to the Supreme Court?)

    The opposition candidate, Alla Djioeva was not hit with the butt of a rifle. She was summoned to the proesecuters office to be questioned about a coup attempt. She was hospitalized for serious hypertension crisis. When she was stable, Alla made a news statement to that effect.

    I travel to South Ossetia every year and personally know all the key players and 100’s of residents.

    South Ossetia was brutally attacked in August 2008, by the so called president of Georgia (Saakashvili) during the opening of the Olympic Games in Japan. Saakashvili targeted women, children, elderly, residential areas, schools and hospital. It was not until two days later, that Russia intervened. If it were not for Russia, Saakashvili would have committed full Genocide of the Ossetian people. (Look at what was happening in Libya and now in Syria- no different than what Georgia’s Saakashvili was doing, except that the United States has been supporting the Saakashvili Regime.

  • Jbird

    I guess “summoned” is one way of putting it.

    “People with guns and in masks barged in, destroying the doors, furniture …and tried to take me away by force,”…“One grabbed me by the hands; others by the feet. They picked me up and dragged me like an old watermelon,” she told the website. Those in her office who tried to resist the OMON were beaten with rifle butts; some were arrested, she alleged. “I started to feel bad, from the humiliation… from everything that I saw, from the screams. I lost consciousness,”

  • Sam L.

    Oh yeah? Who’s going to call them on it? And make it stick?

  • Just some ignorant peasant

    Jules, those weren’t even American proxies in Libya. They were our sworn enemies that Obama helped to depose Daffy. We actually went to war without Congressional approval to help our enemies. That is how screwed up our foreign policy is.

    Everyone can ignore Joe. The Russians pay people to monitor these sites and post stuff like that. They were everywhere after the Russian invasion of Georgia. There are some willing dupes out there too just like we saw with the “nuclear free Europe” crowd but when all was said and done after the Cold War we found out even they were funded by the Soviets.

    The Russians have never liberated anyone to my knowledge and that includes the Germans who were desperate to surrender to anyone but the Russians because they knew what that meant.

    If Uncle Joe really does know the major players then you can be sure he is on the wrong side of the game. It really doesn’t matter in the long run. No one prospers under tyranny… even the ones at the top can only manage it for a short while. The Ossetians have made their bed.

  • george

    How do you actually know that this is not effective diplomacy? It’s not nice, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t effective.

  • John

    There is a narrative that the western press, liberal or conservative, tightly hold to with regards to Russia. Mr. Meade, whom I admire, unfortunately holds to this narrative as well.
    .
    If Mr. Meade would like to understand what is happening in South Ossetia, he should investigate promises made by Saakashvili in 2004 to take back South Ossetia, how Saakashvili’s oppponents disappear, the military build-up in Georgia from 2005-2008(aided by NATO and America), the big military parade he presided over in June of 2008, and how even a European commission’s investigation stated that indeed Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Russia prevented Saakashvili from wiping out the people of South Ossetia, a people that hate Georgia.
    .
    But we don’t here about this, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

  • Russ

    Professor Mead, the paid shills are here. In blogosphere terms, I think this is in indication that Via Meadia has truly “Arrived.”

  • Multitude

    President Obama and the American Progressives must be secretly laughing in amusement at the retrograde Putin who clumsily wields physical force to intimidate.

    Accomplished and competent statists don’t need actual force; the mere threat of it is sufficient to wield political power and extract submission by one’s opponents. President Obama’s direction to AG Holder for the dismissal of charges already successfully prosecuted against Philly Black Panther thugs, for instance, let every aware American know that the billy clubs won’t be held back if they don’t comply. Law in Obama’s nation is solely for the advancement of the Progressive agenda through force and its threat.

    Domestic drones are next, signifying to every American that while these variants are disarmed (unlike their foreign counterparts), it’s just a matter of an executive decree. The speed of the drone’s strike is such that you’d never see it coming, never knowing the threat was made real.

    Even major institutions are now feeling this threat; Catholics are learning that they had better willingly submit as the President merely decrees and directs the DHHS director and it becomes law. Make him angry and your Catholic institution will be required to abort babies.

  • Some Jerk

    RESET!

  • http://paterzplace.blogspot.com DonM

    The Supreme Court held, against the Obama administration, that religious institutions could select their own ministers. The Obamanation wanted to pick your minister. Such selection would of course be for your own good.

    Odd, how important it was for south ossetia to be independent from Georgia after the USSR fell, but how little importance that had while Georgia was ruled by the USSR, and how little importance is that south ossetia (or north ossetia) be independent of Russia.

  • buddy larsen

    The military map shows Russian military power bottled up on the north side of the mountains until it took the other end of the Roki Tunnel –in South Ossetia.

    South Ossetia contained an enclave of Russian-speaking and Russian passport-holding settlers and retirees (many military) and units of Russian soldiers as a UN peacekeeping force, in view of the SO seperatist (pro-Moscow) movement and the growing severity and number of anti-Georgia terrorist provocations that finally became intolerable and resulted in the Putin-cherished “Georgia started it” claim we see here in this thread.

    Now, the Russian military is in a whole new world. With sea support via having taken Abkhazia along with SO (together a third of Georgia), it is a straight drive through flat, dry (“tank country”) plains to the BTC pipeline supplying Europe with Caspian oil, the huge Caspian terminals in Baku, and the three-way borders of Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

    For info on other “frozen conflicts” (Putin’s term for them) also coincidentally strategic and also coincidentally resulting from the same “salting” –a program begun under Stalin –of Russian-speaking Russian-passport-holding enclaves, simply search “russians in moldova” (why? search “dnieper river” and see that through Ukraine is the only route of an army sent to relieve the russians in moldova, in the same scenario as relieving the russians in South Ossetia and Abkhzia).

    And “nagorno-karabakh war” (russian military on record as predicting another war is inevitable; Baku as the key to control of all Caspian oil is at stake and Moscow relief of a russian ‘left-behind’ military base in the n-k war-zone will be the same ’cause’ as was the Georgian move against the Muscovy terrorists in South Ossetia).

    Same potential exists in Muscovy enclaves in the Baltic nations –Latvia, Lithuania, all under the same threat in the same way for the same reasons.

    The Putin apologists on this thread should be asked what the Georgian military was drinking, before it jumped up and declared war on a military a hundred –a thousand? –times bigger and more powerful and always spoiling for a fight and bristling with nukes to boot!

  • Paul M

    “…such bullying overreach in a relatively small and isolated country is self-defeating, to say the least.”

    Sadly, this is only the case when there is condemnation and concrete action from Western countries. When the West is silent, the thugs can, and will, do as they please.

    It’s actually quite a well proven Foreign policy strategy. I understand that one can pick up lovely countries like Czechoslovakia in this manner for a song.

  • buddy larsen

    PS, a simple search shows that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are being heavily militarized at a rapid rate as we speak, and any ‘incidents’ able to set off ‘solutions’ to the other ‘frozen conflicts’ are only as far away as a memo from one desk to another over at KGB HQ, to let loose another false-flag special operation.

  • http://atlantarofters.blogspot.com The Sanity Inspector

    If Russia were trying to wield diplomatic influence, actions like this might well be counter-productive. But if it is what it seems–bullying, in the tradition of the Prison Of Nations–then they aren’t really trying to win friends anyway.

  • Subotai Bahadur

    The opposition movement leader in the mountainous enclave of South Ossetia had planned to be inaugurated as its rightful president on Friday in an unauthorized ceremony. Instead, she lay unconscious in a hospital with a possible rifle-butt blow to the head, her aides were under arrest and her organization was in disarray, crushed by police officers apparently acting on the Kremlin’s orders.

    Just as a matter of curiousity, what indications are there that Obama disapproves in any way of either the results or the tactics used to achieve them? Elections are so, untidy.

    Subotai Bahadur

  • gringojay

    Politics from the barrel of a gun, butt of a gun or, as in ye’ very olden times, at the end of a club reliably carries the day.

  • buddy larsen

    So, in view of this latest news, it appears that the twin elements of the story of Georgia starting a war with Russia in order to pacify the rebel majority in South Ossetia, a story long-known to be false on the first count, is also false on the second count too.

  • Kris

    Buddy and Subotai? We are being invaded by the Wretches!

    [Note to Herr Moderator: the preceding was not an insult.]

  • buddy larsen

    LOL –“wretches” –that has alas the heavy gong of truth –

  • thomass

    low expectations and double standards. I expect no idiot social democrat German, for instance, to no longer hope for closer relations with Russia and more distance from the USA.

  • buddy larsen

    Thomass, may I recommend to your comment selections from the archive of a very well-connected columnist by the name of J.R. Nyquist? Simply scan the column titles (they go back to 2002) as they well-reveal the topic of each of these source-containing three-minute reads.

    http://www.financialsense.com/contributors/j-r-nyquist

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2014 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service