THE RUSSIA-GEORGIA CONFLICT
ROSH, THE RUSSIAN BEAR RETURNS
“The Sovereign Master, YHWH, says: ‘Listen! I am against you, O Gog,
chief prince of Rosh (Russia) ... I will turn you around, put hooks into
your jaws and bring you out with your whole army ... Persia ...Togarmah
from the far north (Turkey and the people of Central Asia) with
all its troops - many nations with you. Get ready; be prepared, you and
all the hordes gathered about you, and take command of them’.” (Ezekiel
GEORGIA ATTEMPTS TO
BREAKAWAY PROVINCE, BUT
BY ITS INVIGORATED
Georgia is a former Soviet state
situated between Turkey and Russia, and bordering the Black Sea. This
Caucasian nation was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries
preceding the breakup of the Soviet Union.
(Caucasian nations are those of
the region of SE Europe between the Black & Caspian seas, which are
situated around the Caucasus Mountain range.)
On August 7, the Georgian
government in Tbilisi launched an assault on South Ossetia in an attempt
to retake this small province that had broken away from Georgia in the
1990s. On August 8, after heavy overnight aerial strikes, Georgian tanks
and infantry captured Tskhinvali, the capital of the province. Dozens of
people were killed. South Ossetians fleeing to Russia said that Georgian
forces had burned their homes, forcing them to flee.
While the attention of the world
was taken up by the opening of the Beijing Olympics, Moscow responded to
Georgia’s attempt to reassert its authority in South Ossetia by sending
in thousands of Russian troops and tanks. According to Russian
President Dmitry Medvedev, the action was “to prevent genocide.”
The war soon widened to include
Abkhazia, a second and much larger breakaway region - in the NW of
Georgia. In the ensuing Georgian-Russian conflict many civilians died,
and up to 100,000 were displaced.
Villagers from in and around the
two enclaves fled en masse as Russian-backed militia pillaged homes and
set their villages on fire.
OSSETIA AND ABKHAZIA
South Ossetia with a population of
70,000, gained a type of autonomy after a war that ended in 1992, but it
has been a source of tension ever since. Moscow has supported the
breakaway movements in both Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Russian
peacekeepers have patrolled the provinces for the past 15 years.
Under the presidency of Vladimir
Putin, Russia granted citizenship and distributed passports to virtually
all of the adult residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Western nations have been
skeptical of the validity of Russia’s handing out passports by the
thousands to citizens of another nation.
There were four regions out of
Georgian control when President Mikheil Saakashvili took office in 2004,
but he restored two smaller regions, Ajaria in 2004 and the upper Kodori
Gorge in 2006, with few deaths.
Those victories gave him a sense
of momentum, and he kept national reintegration as a central plank of
his platform. In spite of Russia’s warnings, Mr. Saakashvili grew
bolder, and finally believed it was time to reclaim S. Ossetia.
Russia used overwhelming military
force against Georgia, including strategic bombers and ballistic
missiles, that was disproportionate to any threat from the former Soviet
On August 10, Russia poured an
additional 10,000 men and armor into South Ossetia, and after a 3-day
battle, Georgian forces retreated, and the Russian troops took over
Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.
Almost 40,000 refugees fled to
Russia in the first two days, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe.
Tskhinvali, was said to have been
‘almost destroyed’ in onslaughts by both sides. Bodies lay in the
streets and hospitals were overwhelmed with wounded.
Georgia denounced a “new
aggression” by Moscow in Abkhazia, the province on the Black Sea coast.
The conflict widened when the
Abkhaz leader called up reservists and ordered 1,000 troops to push
Georgian forces out of the Kodori Gorge, a strategic pocket of territory
The Abkhazian forces, backed by
the Russians, pushed out Georgian troops, and then moved deeper into
Georgia, defiantly planting a flag and laughing that “retreating
Georgians had received American training in running away.”
Russian jets widened the offensive
by bombing the central Georgian town of Gori – the birthplace of Joseph
Stalin. On August 13, Russian tanks rolled into Gori, and later pressed
deeper as they headed towards Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.
At least a week before Russian
tanks rolled into Georgia, the country had come under attack – in
cyberspace. Millions of simultaneous hits on the Georgian websites,
including President Mikheil Saakashvili’s site, overloaded the Georgian
servers, causing them to crash. Georgia was quick to accuse the Russian
Government of collapsing its servers.
Both sides accused each other of
ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia. Both may be right. The Georgians
wanted to drive the pro-Russian Ossetian rebels over the border into
Russian-North Ossetia. The Russians wanted to drive the pro-Georgian
Ossetians over the border into Georgia proper.
Foreign journalists witnessed an
air attack on the town of Gori, and the Georgian government claimed
Russian bombers had ‘completely devastated’ its Black Sea port of Poti.
Up to 11 Russian jets reportedly hit container tanks and a shipbuilding
plant at Poti.
Russia has reportedly started to
bomb civil and economic infrastructure, including the military base at
A DAVID & GOLIATH
Georgia’s war with Russia is a
David and Goliath battle that military experts say, the tiny Black Sea
state has no chance of winning.
The Georgians are outnumbered and
outgunned in every department. Russia has about 697,000 troops, while
Georgia has only 19,500 full-time regulars. And with Russia’s 1,200
combat aircraft confronting Georgia’s seven outmoded support planes, and
6,000 tanks against 100 ageing machines, there is no contest.
But even with international
diplomacy, Georgia may barely survive total subjugation, or at least
domination by the Russian Goliath.
Russia has had severe gripes about
Georgia from the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Currently …
1. Russia is angered by Georgia’s
pro-Western policies and its seeking of NATO membership — a bid Moscow
regards as part of a Western effort to weaken its influence in the
region. With NATO expanding and embracing former Russian-allies, Moscow
wants to prevent Georgia getting into NATO.
2. The action in Georgia is
Moscow’s payback for the US-NATO action to detach Kosovo from Serbia and
launch it on the way to independence – all of which Russia opposed.
3. Moscow is rankled by plans of
Western oil companies, including Israeli firms, to expand the BTC oil
pipeline that will route oil, not only from Azerbaijan, but also from
Kazakhstan, as well as gas from Turkmenistan, through Georgia and Turkey
to the Mediterranean coast - instead of hooking them up to Russian
(The South Caucasus Gas Pipeline
taking natural gas to Erzerum in Turkey runs alongside the BTC oil
pipeline.) Earlier, all Central Asian oil flowed through the Soviet
THE BTC OIL & GAS
More than the above concerns,
Moscow wants to reassert its dominance over the whole Caucasus
region which is strategic to Russia’s interests and access to the Middle
VLADIMIR PUTIN’S GOAL
The Washington Post
(Aug 11, 08) writes:
“This war did not begin
because of a miscalculation by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. It
is a war that Moscow has been attempting to provoke for some time. The
man who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘the greatest
geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] century,’ has re-established a
virtual czarist rule in Russia and is trying to restore the country to
its once-dominant role in Eurasia and the world. Armed with wealth from
oil and gas; holding a near-monopoly
over the energy supply to Europe; with a million soldiers, thousands of
nuclear warheads and the world’s third-largest military budget, Vladimir
Putin believes that now is the time to make his move.
THE DEEPENING OIL
On the surface, the Russians are
backing the separatists of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia as payback for the
strengthening of American influence in Georgia with its 4.5 million
But more immediately, the conflict
has been sparked by the race for control over the pipelines carrying oil
and gas out of the Caspian region.
Russian ships blockaded the Black
Sea coast of Georgia. This, with the general offensive, threatens the
flow of oil from Azerbaijan, via the western-built Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC)
pipeline. This is the only pipeline in the region that avoids both
Russia and Iran.
Energy experts say that the
hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to
gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when
booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil
to record highs.
“The Russians treasured the fact
they had a monopoly on oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia, as it
gave them considerable clout,” said Marshall I. Goldman, a senior
scholar for Russian studies at Harvard. “By agreeing to have an oil
pipeline, Georgia made itself more vulnerable.”
On August 13, the BTC pipeline was
shut down after it was hit by an explosion in Eastern Turkey. Kurdish
separatists claimed responsibility, although it remains unclear what
caused the blast.
Jerusalem owns a strong interest
in Caspian oil and gas pipelines that reach the Turkish terminal port of
Ceyhan, and avoid the Russian network.
Intense negotiations are afoot
between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan for
additional pipelines so that Central Asian oil flows to Turkey and
thence to Israel’s oil terminal at Ashkelon, and on to its Red Sea port
of Eilat. From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far
East through the Indian Ocean.
The Israel-Georgia connection is
estimated to be worth $1 billion.
With the eruption of fighting
between Russia and Georgia, Israel has found itself in an awkward
position as a result of its arms sales and support to Georgia. Israel is
now caught between its friendly relations with the Caucasian state, and
its fear that continued sale of weapons will spark Russian retribution
in the form of increased arms sales to Iran and Syria.
Under the pressure of Russian
threats, Israel’s Foreign Ministry recommended suspending the sale of
all weapons and defence-related equipment to Georgia. New contracts were
not approved and arms sales were scaled back. Georgia’s request for 200
advanced Israeli-made Merkava tanks was turned down.
Aug 10. In a “sharp warning” to
Israel, Russia bombed a Georgian military plant near Tbilisi, in which
Israeli experts were upgrading SU-25 jet fighters for the Georgian
military. A fighter jet bombed runways inside the plant.
UKRAINE’S WARNING TO
Aug 10. Ukraine warned Russia it
could bar Russian navy ships from returning to their base in the Crimea
because of their deployment on Georgia’s coast. (The Crimea is the
peninsula of South Ukraine, extending into Black Sea.)
The statement reflected a strong
Ukrainian support for Georgia and is certain to anger Moscow, further
straining Russian-Ukrainian relations.
A 1997 agreement between Russia
and Ukraine lets the Black Sea Fleet remain in Sevastopol up to 2017.
Ukrainian officials have said they want it out after that.
Both Ukraine and Georgia have
sought to free themselves of Russia’s influence, and to integrate into
the West and NATO.
Five allies of Georgia who were
former Soviet nations - Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine
- appeared together with the Georgian President near the end of the
first week of the war.
THE EU & NATO’S
Although Georgia is an ally of the
West and Israel, and it is an applicant for NATO membership, in this
crisis, the EU and NATO were unwilling, or unable, to do much more to
help Georgia than to issue some warnings, and demand a ceasefire. They
were compelled to accept the fact that the northern bear was clawing
back an erring cub into its own domain, and that Russia was regaining
its former Soviet superpower status.
When the Russians targeted the
Caspian Sea pipeline and mined Georgia’s oil exporting facilities in
Poti, a Georgian port on the Black Sea, the EU “suddenly remembered it
had other things to do.” (Poti is one of Europe’s principle oil supply
When NATO realized that Russia had
no intention of backing down, it reminded the Georgians that NATO had
only committed to admitting them — they weren’t members yet. So NATO was
under no treaty obligation to come to Georgia’s defence.
SARKOZY’S EFFORT TO
Of course, French President
Nicolas Sarkozy, as current EU chief, made a trip to Moscow and Tbilisi,
and managed to forge a “peace agreement.” He arrived back home with a
piece of paper, acclaiming peace in our time, but the one-sided
ceasefire agreement not only left the Russian military in place in the
disputed enclaves, it allowed them freedom to continue operations inside
An analyst writing in The
Times commented: “This, remember, is the same EU that wants to take
over foreign and security policy from member states, an institution that
is always eager to pump itself up at the expense of democratic
institutions in those member states, but which crumbles into puny
submission when faced with authoritarian bullying overseas.”
Earlier the Russian president,
Dmitry Medvedev, announced: “I have taken the decision to end the
operation to force Georgian authorities into peace. The security of our
peacekeepers and civilians has been restored.
The aggressor has been
and has suffered very significant
losses. Its military has been disorganised.”
Speaking at a joint news
conference with Sarkozy, Medvedev insisted
his forces would remain in
South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“That has been the case and
that will continue to be the case,” he said.
Eduard Kokoity, the leader of the
South Ossetian separatist movement, said that following the conflict he
would redouble his efforts to have his province
unified with the Russian
region of North Ossetia.
EU foreign ministers agreed to
send peacekeepers to help supervise the fragile Russia-Georgia peace
process, putting off discussions on potential diplomatic sanctions
against Russia until next month.
THE U.S. RESPONSE
Russia is following Iran’s example
in exploiting Washington’s current inhibition to advance its goals by
force. Putin knows the US will not go to war to defend Georgia, or the
Ukraine, or any of the former Soviet Union states.
Moscow disdains Washington’s lack
of muscle, and this will further encourage Tehran and its terrorist
proxies to defy the international community, and the US in particular.
But after a muted timid response,
the Bush administration seems to have been goaded into stronger action
by Sarkozy’s disastrous piece of diplomacy.
AUG 14. After six days of
dithering, President Bush responded to the crisis by sending US Navy
ships and Air Force cargo planes to deliver humanitarian aid to the
As the US ships will need to
challenge the Russian ships, the move is seen as an act of brinkmanship.
The presence of US military planes and ships is intended to send a
powerful assurance to all involved, that Washington will stand by its
allies, and that US forces can and will operate in Russia’s backyard.
It’s a message that will intensify the deepening tension and divide
between the US and Russia. Already Russia has warned Israel about
One immediate US action was to
call off a joint NATO-Russian military exercise scheduled for Aug 15-23.
That exercise was to involve warships from Russia, France, Britain and
Washington also threatened Moscow
with diplomatic retaliation for its military operations on Georgian
territory, and has hinted that it would push for a ban on Russian
participation in high-level international forums such at the Group of
Eight and the World Trade Organisation, if Moscow does not cooperate
with attempts to reach a lasting cease-fire.
The Bush administration has, at
last, dropped its love affair with Vladimir Putin, and has raised the
stakes by direct assistance to Georgia.
Behind the scenes the future of
the G8 group of nations is under threat. Britain, Canada, France,
Germany, Italy, Japan, and the US may decide to disband the group by
removing Russia from future talks.
The US and EU can make life very
uncomfortable for Putin, as Russia’s prosperity depends on its
continuing integration into the global economy. Moscow prizes its
valuable seat in the G8, and it wants to join the WTO and also the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But inflicting punishment on
Moscow will hurt the US and EU also, as Russia could cause trouble over
Iran. Besides, Russia holds an alarmingly large quantity of US official
debt. Moreover it could play havoc with the West’s energy supplies.
Russia, like Iran, believes it has
some powerful trump cards in its hands.
On August 14, Russian foreign
minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that Georgia could “forget about” getting
back the two separatist regions in Georgia.
Lavrov also called Georgia’s
leadership “a special project of the United States.” “At some point,” he
said, “the US will have to choose either support for a virtual project,
or real partnership [with Russia] on issues that demand collective
President Medvedev met with the
leaders in the Kremlin this past week, raising the prospect of Moscow
absorbing the two regions, even though the territory is internationally
recognized as being within Georgia’s borders.
Russia’s action in Georgia is also
a warning to former Soviet nations against opting to line up with the
US, EU and NATO in areas which Moscow deems part of its strategic sphere
Russia, which is flush with
petrodollars because of the rise in the price of oil, has not been
afraid to flex its muscle in recent years to bring its neighbors in
Two years ago, Gazprom,
the national oil
run by Dmitry A.
now the Russian president, cut off
natural gas supplies to Ukraine in the winter because of a price
Aug 15. As the US secretary of
state arrived in Tbilisi to reaffirm Washington’s support for Georgia,
doubt remained about whether Russia will honor the agreement to pull
back its forces.
Russian troops were still blocking
entrance into the city of Gori. The Russian troops’ presence there
effectively cuts the country in two.
On August 17, Russian forces dug
foxholes along a hill and took up positions only 30 minutes drive from
the Georgian capital.
Sergei Lavrov said Russia would
not withdraw troops until Moscow was satisfied security measures allowed
under the agreement were effective.
But on August 16, President Bush
had warned that Russia cannot lay claim to the Georgian provinces of
South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
An article in The
euobserver.com (18 August 08) says …
TO TEACH THE WEST 3
Lesson one: No matter how
democratic, enthusiastically pro-American and EU-aspiring a country, if
Moscow considers it to be in its sphere of influence, it will not be
allowed to shape its own destiny. This extends to Ukraine.
Lesson two: No matter how much the
US and its European allies attempt to increase their energy security by
seeking new routes to Caspian oil and gas resources not controlled by
Russia or Iran, Moscow will do its utmost, even to killing thousands in
a war, to block Western access. And Russia’s increasing dominance of
Europe’s energy imports, overwhelming stake in world natural gas
supplies, and designs for a ‘gas OPEC,’ should not be challenged.
Lesson three: In the context of a
post Group of Eight summit call from Moscow to fundamentally over-haul
global security and economic institutions that are too dependent on ‘one
country and one currency,’ Russia’s invasion of a small neighbouring
country is a demonstration of contempt for a world order that does not
respect Russia as it should.
In September, President Dmitry
Medvedev intends to unveil a new security paradigm for Eurasia, with an
aim to replace NATO.
CHANGING INTERNATIONAL ORDER
The Caucasian standoff has
profound ramifications for the Middle East and Persian Gulf, and for the
Along with other recent signs and
stresses, the conflict has forced the West to reassess its security
concerns vis-ą-vis the resurgent, aggressive Rosh.
All over Eastern Europe new
assessments about the benefits of friendship with the West are now being
At the same time, much
international opinion has hardened against Russia.
On August 14,
Poland and the US
signed a deal for Poland to accept a missile interceptor base as part of
a system the US says is aimed at blocking attacks by rogue nations.
Moscow, however, feels it is aimed at Russia’s missile force.
The next day, a top Russian
general said Poland’s agreement to accept a U.S. missile interceptor
base exposes the ex-communist nation to attack, possibly by nuclear
weapons. “Poland, by deploying the system is exposing itself to a strike
The statement by Gen. Anatoly
Nogovitsyn is the strongest threat that Russia has issued against the
plans to put missile defence elements in former Soviet satellite
Escalating tensions between Russia
and the West over the war in Georgia are also raising
concerns in Israel
that broken relations with Moscow might jeopardize international efforts
to block Iran’s
And Russia could seriously complicate an Israeli air strike against
Iranian nuclear facilities if Moscow goes through with a deal to supply
Tehran with advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles.
Russia’s resurgence is due largely
to the billions it earns from oil and gas exports, but, like Iran, it
has a selfish interest in
keeping oil prices high.
It also has bigger goals than merely overthrowing the pro-west President
of Georgia - it wants to dominate Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, as
well. It is bent on dominating the Caucuses as part of a revived Russian
imperialism that sees the future of the country tied into pushing
southward and linking up with Islamic allies throughout the Middle East.
In June, Vladimir Putin compared
the US to a “frightening monster.” But now there’s
a frightening bear also on
A battle of wits, wills and
brinkmanship is now under way, with all its dangers and alarms.
Tensions that have been building up for some time are now giving way to
hostility. A new cold war is opening up which is likely to lead to World
War 3 – all in due time.
As the rift between East and West
widens, we get closer to Ezekiel 38 every day.
So my dear believing friend, let’s
keep on, looking up!
“Blessed is the one who reads and those who hear the words of
this prophecy, and take to heart, and guard and keep what
is written in it, for
the time is near!”