Moscow was apoplectic the other day when reports filtered in that a Russian soldier had been captured by Georgian forces inside South Ossetia. They demanded his immediate return claiming he was being held against his will.
Following the Russian invasion of South Ossetia, US military officials headed over to Georgia to do a thorough review of the Georgian military. The report, leaked to the NY Times, paints a rather unflattering picture of the military in Georgia.
Georgia’s armed forces, the report said, are highly centralized, prone to impulsive rather than deliberative decision making, undermined by unclear lines of command and led by senior officials who were selected for personal relationships rather than professional qualifications.
Moreover, according to the report, Georgia’s military lacks basic elements of a modern military bureaucracy, ranging from a sound national security doctrine to clear policies for handling classified material to a personnel-management system to guide soldiers through their careers and prepare them for their jobs.
Expect to hear more of this as Obama deals with Russia in the early days of his administration.
Regulators halted trading at midday (9am BST) on Russia’s main stock indices – the rouble-denominated Micex and the dollar-denominated RTS – following a similar suspension yesterday.
Russia has been badly affected by the global financial crisis, and has suffered as stocks have sunk in Europe and Asia. But it has also been hit by the rapid fall in oil prices and the flight of foreign investors since the war in Georgia.
Of course had we not bailed out AIG last night, we could have seen something similar in the US, UK, Tokyo etc as a number of institutions fell apart. I was watching shares in my local bastard monopoly electric company Consolidated Energy Group (CEG) yesterday. CEG was tied to Lehman and rumors had some exposure to AIG that would have dragged them through the mud. Their company, which has about $15 billion worth of nuclear power plants suffered from some massive shorts and saw the stock drop from about 60 to 13 in a matter of minutes, then up again, then down. It was really strange.
More excitement today as I deal with a quick sale of Washington Mutual stock (WM).
Apparently Russian commandos raided Georgian airbases that were hosting Israeli spy drones, used to look at the nuclear facilities of Iran. This was the result of a secret agreement between Georgia and Israel to allow Georgian military facilities to be used in any attack on Iranian nuclear weapons plants. However, the Russians seized the drones and turned them over to the Syrians and Iranians after the invasion of Georgia.
The USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the Sixth Fleet (and heavily laden with intelligence gathering gear) has arrived in the city of Poti, despite the presence of Russian forces at checkpoints outside the city.
The USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, is the latest of three vessels sent by the US to deliver blankets, hygiene kits, baby food and other supplies to Georgia after its brief war with Russia.
“I can confirm it has arrived in Poti. Anchoring procedures are still ongoing but it has arrived,” said a US naval official quoted by the AFP news agency.
The Russians are still annoyed that we are using warships to delivery aid.
The New York Times is reporting that Georgian military officials are already planning for the next war, with a military shopping list that includes some higher technology weapons. Pentagon officials are reviewing the lists but have yet to make any decisions just yet.
Defense officials in Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, said that at a minimum they hoped to re-equip the army’s four existing brigades with modern equipment, and increase the size of the country’s air force. Georgia’s military now includes 33,000 active-duty personnel.
Georgia also hopes to acquire an integrated air-defense system that covers the country’s entire airspace, to arm its land forces with modern antiarmor rockets, and to overhaul the military’s communication equipment, much of which was rendered useless by Russian jamming during the brief war.
Of course if they had just blown up the tunnel they might have a better time at things trapping many Russian forces on the other side of the border.
You may remember a few years ago a Russian plane crashed because an air traffic controller in Switzerland issued some incorrect orders. You may also remember that a Russian father who lost his children in the crash travelled to the tower later and slashed to death the air traffic controller he found. Victor Kaloyev was his name, and he served eight years for that murder before being released and named a ‘Hero of Ossetia’.
When the Georgia crisis got underway, Victor took his sense of ‘revenge’ and drove into Ossetia to take part in the battle.
“You have to understand,” he told a reporter from the German newspaper Die Zeit after returning from the brief war. “Whoever hits me, is hit back.” The Caucasus is ruled by the principle of justified blood revenge: no-one trusts the police, the courts or the state. Justice is personal.
Growing up in the KGB you’d expect someone to be a bit paranoid. Hell growing up in Russia you’d be paranoid. But a good intelligence officer usually has the ability to separate fact from fiction, and take the propaganda with a grain of salt.
That’s not the case with Vladimir Putin.
Putin seems to live in his own little world in his mind. Surrounded by like minded and equally paranoid advisors, Putin has a history of making rather strange comments over the years, despite first-hand knowledge in many cases that they were false. So it should come as no surprise that today he said the entire operation in Georgia was orchestrated by the United States for the benefit of one presidential candidate. Of course he didn’t specify which one, nor is he aware that most people couldn’t find Georgia on a map if they tried, but when you’re a bit off to begin with, things like this don’t really matter.
“Why… seek a difficult compromise solution in the peacekeeping process? It is easier to arm one of the sides and provoke it into killing another side. And the job is done.
“The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US president.”
US officials responded diplomatically but with a growing sense of ‘get this guy some mental help’:
“To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate – it sounds not rational,” White House Spokewoman said.
“Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”
We, the Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom,condemn the action of our fellow G8 member. Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia violates the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and is contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions supported by Russia. Russia’s decision has called into question its commitment to peace and security in the Caucasus.
We deplore Russia’s excessive use of military force in Georgia and its continued occupation of parts of Georgia. We call unanimously on the Russian government to implement in full the six point peace plan brokered by President Sarkozy on behalf of the EU, in particular to withdraw its forces behind the pre-conflict lines.We reassert our strong and continued support for Georgia’s sovereignty within its internationally recognized borders and underline our respect and support for the democratic and legitimate government of Georgia as we pursue a peaceful, durable solution to this conflict
Russia continues to ignore most of the world’s call for a troop withdraw. They’ve pretty much given up on WTO membership but the threat of expulsion from the G8 might resonate a bit with those in Moscow who like international organizations. China issued a rather curt statement against the Russian actions today. Russia thought they could find a supporter with the Chinese, apparently oblivious to the fact that China has several regions of their own that wish to be independent.
A US Coast Guard cutter will be arriving in the Georgian port city of Poti despite the presence of Russian forces throughout the outskirts of this Georgian city. Russians have called this plan ‘devilish’ and the amount of aid being delivered comparable to what you could buy ‘in a flea market’.
Stars and Stripes reports the Cutter Dallas is in the area and delivering aid, and while officials haven’t said which ship will goto Poti you can probably surmise there are not a lot of US Coast Guard ships in the region. The Dallas dates back to Vietnam where it shelled sampans with her five inch guns and also took part in US operations in Kosovo. The Dallas has also trained with many of the Naval forces of countries in the Black Sea so she has some familiarity with operations there.
Still, this is going to be an interesting few days.