Sunday, 10 August 2008

"Did the U.S. Prep Georgia for War with Russia?"

by Nathan Hodge, Danger Room from

[...] Since early 2002, the U.S. government has given a healthy amount of military aid to Georgia. When I last visited South Ossetia, Georgian troops manned a checkpoint outside Tskhinvali decked out in surplus U.S. Army uniforms and new body armor.

The first U.S. aid came under the rubric of the Georgia Train and Equip Program (ostensibly to counter alleged Al Qaeda influence in the Pankisi Gorge); then, under the Sustainment and Stability Operations Program. Georgia returned the favor, committing thousands of troops to the multi-national coalition in Iraq. Last fall, the Georgians doubled their contingent, making them the third-largest contributor to the coalition. Not bad for a nation of 4.6 million people.

Leaving aside the question of Russian interference, the larger concern has been that Georgia might be tempted to use its newfound military prowess to resolve domestic conflicts by force.

As Sergei Shamba, the foreign affairs minister of Abkhazia, told me in 2006: “The Georgians are euphoric because they have been equipped, trained, that they have gained military experience in Iraq. It feeds this revanchist mood… How can South Ossetia be demilitarized, when all of Georgia is bristling with weaponry, and it’s only an hour’s ride by tank from Tbilisi to Tskhinvali?”

One of the U.S. military trainers put it to me a bit more bluntly. “We’re giving them the knife,” he said. “Will they use it?”

*source of photo


Anonymous said...

//the Georgians doubled their contingent, making them the third-largest contributor to the coalition. Not bad for a nation of 4.6 million people.// Not bad, considering the size of the whole Georgian army: less than 20,000 soldiers, and 2,000 of them busy themselves helping to destroy Iraq.

artmika said...

Here is info via BBC comparing mililtary potential of Georgia and Russia.

Total personnel: 26,900
Main battle tanks (T-72): 82
Armoured personnel carriers: 139
Combat aircraft (Su-25): Seven
Heavy artillery pieces (including Grad rocket launchers): 95

Total personnel: 641,000
Main battle tanks (various): 6,717
Armoured personnel carriers: 6,388
Combat aircraft (various): 1,206
Heavy artillery pieces (various): 7,550

Source: Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments

Anonymous said...

Remember the issue of Georgian reservists. When I was last in Tbilisi in June, I was astonished at the number of Georgian men who were part of that. Now I hear many (most?) of them have been called up and they're eager to go.

Not up to Russian standards, probably, and almost certainly not as well equipped, but Georgia has that extra-manpower anyway. Besides, Russia can't mobilize all of its forces and send them into Georgia.

Still, they probably don't need to. Air power is quite enough and formidable.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Bush put Saakashvilli up to this...It's a proxy war. Most conflicts in the region as well as the Middle East are.

Ani said...

Regarding Bush's role in this, me, there's also a strong (probably stronger) possibility of John McCain egging on Saakashvili. First, McCain made an extremely bold statement about Russia a week or so ago. And today's New York Times has a story about the statements of McCain and Obama about the conflict (, which includes this info:

In Mr. McCain’s case, he spoke to two people on Friday before making his statement: President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, whom he has known since 1997, and Stephen J. Hadley, the White House national security adviser. Mr. Saakashvili has been criticized for cracking down on demonstrators last year, but Mr. McCain has been a longtime ally.

Mr. McCain first heard about the crisis shortly before leaving Cincinnati for Des Moines on Friday morning, and to gather more information he made phone calls from his car on the way to the airport. To prepare a statement, he then relied on his foreign policy staff, including Randy Scheunemann, his chief foreign policy aide, whose firm has lobbied for Georgia for the past four years. Mr. Scheunemann, who has worked for Mr. McCain’s campaign since early 2007, took a leave from his firm, Orion Strategies LLC, in March of this year.
Both campaigns also used the crisis to engage in their now-daily political combat, which in this round focused on Mr. Scheunemann and his ties to Georgia.

“John McCain’s top foreign policy adviser lobbied for, and has a vested interest in, the Republic of Georgia, and McCain has mirrored the position advocated by the government,” said Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, who added that the “appearance of a conflict of interest” was a consequence of McCain’s close ties to lobbyists.

Ani said...

Here's a link for "Russia Today"s reporting of what McCain has recently said on Russia (August 4):

And another from July 29: I'll quote part of this one:

Russia has become an autocracy under Vladimir Putin and the Russian president-turned-prime minister has taken the country down a "very harmful" path, McCain said.

McCain said he believes Vladimir Putin is responsible for Russia’s destabilising role on the international scene.

"In the last week or so, look at Russia's actions," McCain added. "They cut back on their oil supplies to the Czechs, because the Czechs made an agreement with us. They have now thrown out - or forced out - BP out of Russia”, he said.

“They continue to put enormous pressures on Georgia in many ways. They're putting pressure on Ukraine. They are blocking action in the United Nations Security Council on Iran," McCain said.

"We want better Russian behaviour internationally, and we have every right to expect it," he concluded. "And I will do what I can to see that they reverse many of the behaviour patterns which have really been very unhelpful to peace in the world."

It's no secret that Republicans see wartime as favoring their side in November elections, maybe the only way they can win.

On Russia's side, they would like to resolve conflict in their favor as soon as possible, because of Sochi Olympics next door, and maybe they can prevent the Azeri-Georgia oil pipeline as well.

Once again, playing on ethnic hatred hurts the local people for possible benefit of the "big guys."

Unknown said...

Curiously, in the recent polls around the globe Obama was clear leader everywhere except Russia and Iran. These countries are interested in McCain continuing bushism, which will bring USA down.

Anonymous said...

To play off the McCain theme...

McCain calls for diplomatic action against Russia
Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Monday called for a multi-pronged diplomatic effort to force Russia to withdraw from Georgia, saying Moscow's actions could have long-term implications for its relations with the rest of the world.
"NATO's North Atlantic Council should convene in emergency session to demand a ceasefire and begin discussions on both the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia and the implications for NATO's future relationship with Russia," McCain said. He also urged NATO to reconsider its decision to withhold a "membership action plan" for Georgia, saying it "might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia."

McCain said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice should go to Europe "to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia."

He said the United States "should coordinate with our partners in Germany, France and Britain, to seek an emergency meeting of the G-7 foreign ministers to discuss the current crisis."

"Our united purpose should be to persuade the Russian government to cease its attacks, withdraw its troops and enter into negotiations with Georgia," McCain said. "We must remind Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world."
If McCain really promised Saakashvilli that the latter would be backed by the West if it stood up to Russia... then if I may, I have two words for him: Kataryal ANASUN.