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.
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.
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.
Der Spiegel is noticing a change in Germany’s relationship with Georgia in light of the Russian invasion last month. Never a warm ally of Georgia and not a fan of NATO membership, it now seems the Russian’s have overplayed their hand such that Angela Merkel is now being forced closer to Georgia whereas she was once Russia’s best contact in Europe
The Russians had won the short war and were now rolling their tanks through the Georgian heartland. Merkel watched the TV with dismay as Russians looted and did everything they could to destabilize the country.
Her attitude changed. It was no longer dominated by annoyance over Saakashvili. Now she was enraged at the highhandedness of the Russians. It seemed to her that they wanted to oust the Georgian president from office. Merkel is extremely sensitive to the issue of regime change. She knows how long and difficult it was to bring democracy to Eastern Europe. Merkel sees Saakashvili, for all his faults, as a democratically elected, legitimate president. Georgia became for the chancellor a country that has to be helped.
Nevertheless, she remained skeptical when she flew to Tbilisi. She spoke with Saakashvili, and something must have happened during their two-hour meeting because, afterwards, Merkel gave a press conference that made headlines around the world.
Just another example of former Eastern Europeans (Merkel is from East Germany) being a bit more worried about the Russian’s actions than some in the West.
By now you’ve probably heard the USS McFaul has arrived in port in Georgia as part of a three ship convoy of humanitarian supply ships. What I didn’t know until checking the website of the vessel is that both the Captain and Executive Officer on the McFaul were graduates of Ohio State. Not entirely sure if that is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, they are probably used to dealing with a lot of stubborn jerks (i.e. their fellow students) so that will help with some of the attitudes they may encounter from the Russians, but on the other hand they might have graduated from the OSU on the ‘football plan’ and gotten most of their academic credits for things like “light bulb replacement theory” and “Ikea Wicker Basket management” or something.
Interesting to note one of the next ships in port will be the USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the 6th fleet and which is a command and control and Intel vessel. One suspects the leaders in Washington would like a little more on the ground intelligence coming back from the region rather than hearing about things second-hand.
Mount Whitney can receive and transmit large amounts of secure data from any point on earth through HF, UHF, VHF, SHF and EHFcommunications paths. This technology enables the Joint Intelligence Center and Joint Operations Center to provide the timely intelligence and operational support available in the Navy.
In other news from the region,
* A train full of fuel blew up after hitting a mine left on the railroad tracks.
Russian tanks smash over the border into a satellite state. NATO at a loss to explain why or how, or more importantly, what to do about it. You think Georgia / South Ossetia was the first time this has happened? Not hardly.
This week is the 40th anniversery of the of the Prague Spring that was crushed by Russian tanks crossing the border and replacing the more liberal minded government with one more to their liking. The Spiegel magazine has a good reexamination (in English) of those events, utilizing documents from the NATO archive that show just how unprepared the West was for this event.
When it was over, Western officers, awkwardly, seemed surprised. Against their will they had to admit the camouflage hiding the march of Warsaw Pact troops into Prague had been “good,” and the speed of their divisions “impressive.” The way the Kremlin led units out of the western part of the Soviet Union “unnoticed” was also noteworthy. The enemy, in short, had scored a “tactical victory.”
This was the verdict on Aug. 27, 1968 from NATO headquarters in Brussels on “Operation Danube” — the suppression of the legendary Prague Spring. A week earlier, 27 divisions of Soviet Russians, Poles, Hungarians and Bulgarians — around 300,000 men, armed with 2,000 heavy cannons — marched into the small state of Czechoslovakia to end the experiment of “socialism with a human face.” It was the largest military operation since the World War II, and the West was caught off guard.
It’s a pretty good article outlining the failures of the West and the success of the Russians. Worth a review if you are still wondering what happened then (or now).
We’ve been questioning the ‘2,000 dead’ claim by Russian media, and to date they haven’t come up with any reliable numbers about just how many were killed in South Ossetia. It does appear clear the Russian media was way out of the ballpark with the claim of 2,000 dead, by a factor of about 40 or 50 times the actual death toll.
Researchers for Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy group, had similar findings as McClatchy about casualty numbers in Tskhinvali. A doctor at the city’s hospital told the group’s researchers that 44 bodies were brought by and was “adamant” that they represented the majority of deaths there because the city’s morgue was not functioning at the time.
“Obviously there’s a discrepancy there, a big discrepancy,” Rachel Denber, deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said about the apparently inflated casualty figures. “It’s not clear to us at all where those numbers are coming from.”
Like any battle, there is a definite fog of war that shrouds the events. We may never know the full timeline of events.
A U.S. official familiar with intelligence from the region said the administration could not put a time on the Russian move into South Ossetia. “It’s not clear,” the official said. “You’d have to have had somebody there with a stopwatch, and something overhead at precisely that moment.”