Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

King Abdullah II of Jordan to Visit Russia on 21 to 24 August

Filed under: diplomacy,Holy Land,politics,Russian — 01varvara @ 00.00

King Abdullah II of Jordan (1962- ) (left) with President Dmitri Medvedev (1965- ) (right)

King Abdullah II of Jordan will visit Russia on 21-24 August, the Kremlin press service said on Wednesday. The monarch will hold talks with President Dmitri Medvedev on 24 August. An agreement on the visit was reached in July, when Medvedev and Abdullah II met in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. King Abdullah II last visited Moscow in February, to discuss the situation in Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East with then-President Vladimir Putin.

20 August 2008




General Nogovitsyn says that Russian Troops Continue to Withdraw from Georgia

Russia continues to withdraw its troops from Georgia despite the tense situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, a senior Russian military official said Wednesday. “The Russian forces are acting strictly in accordance with international agreements and continue the withdrawal of troops to places of previous deployment”, said Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff.

Russia began pulling back troops from Georgia on Monday in accordance with a six-point plan drawn up by the Russian and French presidents. It criticised Georgian troops for not following orders to leave the South Ossetia conflict zone. General Nogovitsyn said tensions in the area were being exacerbated by NATO’s role in rebuilding the Georgian army. “We consider such ‘peacemaking’ [on the part of NATO], when the aggressor, which was earlier abundantly armed, is being restored, a clear factor provoking a new blitzkrieg”, General Nogovitsyn said. He warned that the Russian military would take “appropriate measures” to neutralise such a threat.

Russia will also insist on creating no-fly zones for Georgian aircraft and giving its peacekeepers the right to carry out reconnaissance missions, Nogovitsyn said. “If the zone is under the control of peacekeeping forces, nobody else should fly there”, he said, adding that another Georgian unmanned aircraft was downed in South Ossetia on Tuesday.

Asked about Russian military losses in South Ossetia, Nogovitsyn said 64 service personnel were killed and another 323 wounded. “The number of those killed was revised downward, from 74, as announced on 10 August, to 64”, he said, without elaborating. Georgia lost 215 of its nationals in the conflict, including 13 policemen, 133 military personnel, and 69 civilians, said Givi Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament’s defence and security committee. Mr Targmadze said 1,469 Georgians were wounded and 70 servicemen were currently missing. The number of missing Georgian civilians has not so far been disclosed. The government of South Ossetia said Wednesday that 1,492 of the province’s residents were killed in Georgia’s 8 August military offensive, according to revised data.

20 August 2008



Russia Rejects UN Draft on Georgia

Russia blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, saying the document contradicts a previously agreed peace plan. The draft, submitted by France on Tuesday on behalf of the European Union and backed by the United States, did not go to a vote at the Security Council, where Russia has the power of veto. Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said, “The Russian Federation cannot support this… Putting it to a vote would be a waste of time”. He said the draft omits four parts of the six-point peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow, while distorting the remaining two points. “Taking separate parts of the Moscow plan and reinterpreting them for political propaganda, this is not a constructive route”, he said. Notably, the Moscow plan recognised Russia’s right to take necessary security measures, and did not call for an “immediate” withdrawal, Mr Churkin said.

Earlier on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who also visited Moscow to mediate in a peace deal after Russian troops entered Georgia following Tbilisi’s offensive in South Ossetia, accused Moscow of breaking its promise to withdraw troops. Explaining the new draft, French Deputy Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that while Paris still backs the plan agreed by Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, “in order for this plan to be implemented, there is an essential prerequisite which is the withdrawal of Russian forces”. The draft also calls for Georgian forces to return to their positions before the conflict, which broke out in the early hours of 8 August when Georgia began a major ground and air offensive on South Ossetia, in which Russia says 1,600 innocent civilians were killed.

The draft would have committed Security Council members to “the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders”. However, Russia has said that South Ossetia, along with Georgia’s other rebel province Abkhazia, must be allowed to make their own decisions on their status. The Security Council’s emergency session came hours after NATO froze ties with Russia, saying “business as usual” could not continue until a complete Russian withdrawal from Georgia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back at NATO’s statement on Tuesday, calling it “biased” and aimed at supporting Georgia’s “aggressive régime”. “NATO is trying to turn an aggressor into a victim, is attempting to whitewash a criminal figure and save a fallen régime, and it is taking a course toward rearming the current Georgian leadership”, he said.

The Sarkozy-Medvedev six-point plan stipulated renouncing the use of force, halting all military action, providing free access to humanitarian aid, the return of Georgian forces to their permanent bases, the return of Russian forces to their positions prior to combat, and the start of international discussions on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and on ways to ensure their permanent security.

20 August 2008



South Ossetian Standoff: Results and Forecasts

Chechen fighters of the Russian army at the site of a rout of the Georgian forces

The Russian “peace enforcement” operation on the territory of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Georgia has met its goals. The country’s political leaders and military commanders announced that they are withdrawing troops from the conflict zone. It is still too soon to speak about an end to the conflict between Georgia and the unrecognised republics, but, the results of Russia’s military operation can already be summed up. Likewise, one can sum up the results of some world processes and consider possible future developments.

So, the tensions that have been building up between Russia and the West, especially with the USA, since the late 1990s erupted to the surface, the masks of beatific political correctness and cooperation in the global war on terror are off. We witness the start of a new spiral in history , once again, the history of confrontation between two superpowers, each trying to shape the world to its liking. Like every avalanche, this one began with a speck of sand, Georgia’s attempt to establish “constitutional order” in South Ossetia. That operation merits a closer look. The omnibus term “establishing constitutional order” can mean almost diametrically opposite things at different historical junctures. Nonetheless, though, there are some basic characteristics that must be present in any operation that claims that name.

To what extent did Georgia’s operation to restore constitutional order in South Ossetia meet these characteristics? The first characteristic is selective fire on illegal armed units and minimisation of civilian casualties. Obviously, this operation does not qualify, Georgian artillery shelled Tskhinvali and surrounding villages, and many instances of murder and violence against civilians are known. The second and no less important characteristic is the humanitarian component, namely, a commitment to early restoration of law and order and life support for civilians in the zone of operations. That component takes the shape of deployment of a network of medical aid centres, field hospitals, and stocks of food, water, and other necessities in the area to ease the suffering of innocent civilians in the context of a military operation. Georgia did none of these things.

On balance, Georgia’s actions before and during the invasion of South Ossetia suggest that the aim of the Georgian leadership was to exterminate South Ossetia’s non-Georgian population or cause it to flee to Russia. Under the Russian Criminal Code, such actions are described as genocide. In addition, Georgia directly violated international norms by opening fire on Russian peacekeeping units, and what is more, Georgian peacekeepers took part in firing. Based on these combined characteristics, the Russian response to the shelling and subsequent invasion by Georgian troops which began in the early hours of 8 August 2008 was absolutely legitimate; the troops of the 58th Army of the North Caucasus Military District moved in to help the peacekeepers. As early as the night of 8 August, there were reports of air strikes on Georgian troops. Many military experts believe that without these raids the South Ossetian militia would not have beaten off the first assault on Tskhinvali. After midday, Russian ground troops began to be deployed in the city area and the first military groups approached Tskhinvali and engaged in fighting. A “distribution of roles” took shape, the fighting in the towns and villages was done by the local militia and volunteers, whilst Russian troops only engaged with the more-or-less organised Georgian army groups that were more than a match for the militia. Russia also undertook to suppress Georgian artillery and the Russian Air Force launched strikes on Georgia’s logistical infrastructure.

Monument to Iosif Stalin in his birthplace of Gori in Georgia. There is no difference between Stalin’s treatment of minority nationalities and the methods of Saakashvili… I take that back, I agree with Mayor Luzhkov of Moscow, he said that Saakashvili is to be compared with Hitler, as he intended to kill off an entire people.

Russian special ops units were set the task to counter Georgian commando raids. According to available information, Russian special ops units prevented Georgian saboteurs from blowing up the Roki Tunnel, the main link between Russia and South Ossetia. The destruction of the tunnel would have greatly complicated operations, as the capacity of the other roads is not sufficient for military movements. Fighting in the Tskhinvali area lasted for three days and nights, by the end of which time, Georgian artillery was either destroyed or had left its positions from which it could shell the city, and Georgian ground troops pulled out of the city. Throughout the operation the Russian Army was bound by a number of political restrictions that prevented it from using heavy weaponry against populated areas, which seriously limited its capacity to neutralise artillery batteries.

Throughout the operation, until 12 August inclusive, the Russian Air Force bombed Georgian military infrastructure to prevent its Armed Forces from continuing the war. The Navy was also involved in the operation; a group of Black Sea Fleet ships patrolled the coasts of Abkhazia and Georgia. By 11 August, the Georgian Army ceased to exist as an organised force; pictures of the flight of Georgian troops from South Ossetia, Gori, and other regions were shown throughout the world. The troops escaped to the south, mainly to the Tbilisi area, abandoning their vehicles and equipment. Meanwhile, the Russian Armed Forces, jointly with Abkhaz and South Ossetian units, took the fighting into Georgia proper, seizing abandoned equipment and destroying what remained of the military infrastructure. On 12 August, President Medvedev announced that the operation was complete.

The five-day war revealed both the Russian Army’s strengths and weaknesses. On the one hand, the speedy deployment, the methodical and planned way in which it suppressed Georgian artillery and infrastructure, the success of its anti-sabotage actions, and the quick disintegration of the Georgian Army are to the credit of the Russian command and staff structures at all levels. On the other hand, some shortcomings were revealed, the Georgian air defence systems were not fully neutralised, army units lacked modern weapons and vehicles, and its communications were obviously obsolescent. The Russian military command admitted some of the shortcomings, Colonel General Nogovitsyn, who covered the Russian actions for the press throughout the operation, admitted that the loss of a Tu-22MR bomber exposed shortcomings in the Air Force personnel training.

In parallel with the military operation, an information and diplomatic war was unfolding, as the Russian representatives at the UN and NATO, Vitaly Churkin and Dmitri Rogozin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the 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 USA, Britain, and some Eastern European countries unreservedly backed Georgia, and that support did not go beyond words of sympathy and demands that Russia immediately pull out its troops.

Russian forces in Gori in Georgia, destroying military equipment and buildings at a military base. The Georgian forces fled without firing a shot well before the Russian forces arrived in the area.

Thus the West demonstrated to the whole world that it was not united on such a fundamental issue as the “defence of a young democracy”. Moreover, a new geopolitical reality came into being, a bloc, if only a temporary one, of Russia and Western Europe (Germany, France, Italy, and, maybe, Spain) against the USA 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 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 USA, look irreconcilable. Russia is clearly seeking recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the criminal investigation initiated by Russian law enforcement bodies into charges of “genocide” implies the responsibility of those who initiated the operation from the Georgian side, including its leaders. Neighbouring countries have also been drawn into the conflict, one such country is the Ukraine, where there are clear signs of a deepening political crisis.

Whilst I recognise 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 tensions between Russia and the USA that for a long time were hidden behind the veil of political correctness have come to the fore. Neither Russia nor the USA 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 US missile defence system is directed against Russia became obvious after Poland hastily agreed to deploy US interceptor missiles in exchange for the delivery of modern air defence systems to protect it 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 defence systems would be priority targets.

As for the region itself, one may expect to see another change of power in Georgia in the foreseeable future. Mikhail Saakashvili, who lost the war and whose personal behaviour is 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 CIS in its present form, as Russia’s allies will probably strengthen cooperation within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which may soon have new members.

20 August 2008

Ilya Kramnik



Editor’s Note:

The biggest loser in this war was the sickly successor-state known as “the Ukraine”. It is time for straight talk on this area and its people. Unfortunately, due to the fact that the Galician Uniate diaspora is disproportionately represented in the countries of the Anglosphere, distortions in this have been disseminated amongst the political classes in these countries.

Prior to 1991, there never was an organised and formal “Ukrainian” state per se. The Skoropadsky entity fell apart after the withdrawal of Central Powers troops in 1918, and the Nazi construct under Gauleiter Erich Koch was a colonial entity, not a state. Indeed, the very word “Ukrainian” does not exist in any real sense prior to the 19th century. What is now known as “Ukrainian nationalism” originated in the Hapsburg territory of the Western Ukraine centred on Lvov, an area that is still the stronghold of such sentiment. It was a tool of the Hapsburgs used to weaken the Russian state, and it was embodied in the Uniate Catholic church (a Polish construct of the period of the Commonwealth).

Improvised underground hospital ward in Tskhinvali during the Georgian siege. The hospital was directly targeted on the orders of Saakashvili. Yushchenko sold munitions to Georgia and flew to Tbilisi to support the thug Saakashvili, so, he shares his guilt (as do all Ukrainian nationalists and Condi Rice, as well).

The so-called “Ukrainian nationalists” are the biggest losers in the present war, and it is a sign that the notional “Ukrainian” state is not long for this world. Only 23 percent of the population of this state speaks” “Ukrainian” as their mother-tongue, the rest are Russophones, incorporated in this “state” due to Soviet borders. Do not be fooled by loud noises in the Western (especially English language) press. Yushchenko, the head of the Kiev junta, is making foolish accusations against his political rivals, especially Yuliya Timoshenko, which indicates a political crisis in the very near term. He knows what buttons to push with the Western chattering classes because he is married to an American-born woman, just as Saakashvili knew what buttons to push based on his American education. Both are unaware that realpolitik is going to have the same result… an American disengagement from a potentially dangerous confrontation with a revived, strong, and assertive Russia.

Many Russians have family names ending in “o”, rather than “ov”. It merely means that their families migrated from Little Russia at one time or another. We are all Russians, of the same nationality, of the same background, and of the same faith. There is no “Ukrainian” language, merely a South Russian peasant dialect that is dying out in the modern world. In short, there is no call for a “Western intervention” in the Ukraine, just as there was no call for such an action in the Caucasus.

If you thought the Caucasian imbroglio was an “interesting situation”, I assure you, there is more to come. The Empire is going to be restored, for the benefit of all the Russias. Furthermore, the American neocons are going to find they are as powerless to stop that as they were to stop this situation. They are nothing but King Canutes ordering the tide to stop flowing in. If I recall it rightly, the tides did not listen to King Canute… they flowed in, regardless of his order. Hmm…


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