Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Europe had better prepare itself for War with Russia
Sunday, August 17, 2008

by Ken Stremsky

Russia is concerned with being attacked by Europe and China at the same time. The less that Russia has to worry about Europe the less likely that China will consider attacking for land and resources.

Europeans should reduce their need for Russian energy via conservation, energy development, and new energy suppliers. Why fund Russia's military when Europe does not have to?

Europe had better prepare itself for War with Russia. The better prepared Europe is for War the more seriously it is going to be taken by Russia and others.

I recommend people read The Art of War by Sun Tzu translated by Samuel B. Griffith and the second revised edition of Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart which discusses, not only strategy, but military history.

Ken Stremsky
kstremsky at live dot com

NOTE: Mr. Stremsky was a candidate for the United States Senate from New Hampshire in the 2002 Republican Primary.

Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:

Well, as I wrote in my 14 August Commentary: Russia's- in effect- "ultimatum" to Georgia seems hardly likely to lead to a much wider general war.

Having said this, however: should it ever do so, such a "wider general war" would, of necessity, involve the United States as much as it would Europe (largely because of our obligations under the North Atlantic Treaty which governs NATO).

But here is an outline of the problem in light of recent history:

In front of me, as I type this, I have two maps unfolded- each published by the National Geographic Society (though I could say the same about any other major English-language mapping entity [Hammond, Rand McNally, Bartholomew, etc.])- in this case, exactly three years apart: one is dated March 1990 and is entitled 'SOVIET UNION'; the other is dated March 1993 and is entitled 'RUSSIA and the newly independent nations of the former Soviet Union'.

In the earlier of these two maps, each of the-then 15 'Union Republics' of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics are given a distinct color: for instance, the 'Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic'- the very political entity created as a direct result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917- is in green, while 'Georgia' (at the time, the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic) is in pink...

in the later map, meanwhile, each of these same, by now, all former Soviet 'Union Republics' (because, by 1993, they had all become internationally-recognized sovereign Nation-States [indeed, all had become member-states of the United Nations by early 1993]) are, likewise, given a distinct color: here, the 'Russian Federation' is in pink, while Georgia is in yellow...

but what is most telling, in a close comparison of each map (again, a mere three years apart in publication- one issued while the USSR still existed, the other after it had simply disappeared from the political globe), is that not one single border between one-time 'Union Republics' had at all been altered in the interim-- that is, the border between the RSFSR and the Georgian SSR in 1990 is the very same as the border between the Russia Federation and Republic of Georgia in 1993...

and this appears to well mirror the international consensus at the time the successor states to the Soviet Union were themselves each recognized as independent: that is, what had- on one day- been a constituent of the USSR was- come the next- a sovereign political entity in and of itself; thus, what had been the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union- at least in the eyes of the world (Georgia itself had declared independence the previous Spring)- in early December 1991 was, by the end of that very same month, an independent Republic of Georgia, with the very same border with what was now to be the Russian Federation as it had had with the RSFSR within the larger USSR.

Not so Russia's interpretation of these events, however!

The working theory of the Russian Federation, as pronounced by its Foreign Ministry this past week, is that- once the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had ceased to exist circa Christmastime, 1991- "all bets were off"...

put another way: when the USSR ceased to exist, so did the Georgian SSR- along with any and all guarantees of Georgia's territorial integrity: that is, Georgia's inclusion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (the two so-called "breakaway regions" in play during this latest crisis) within itself was- or so goes the Russian argument- only enforceable by the Soviet Union; once the USSR was no longer around to so enforce this arrangement, the Russian Federation had no obligation to recognize said arrangement as at all binding, let alone final.

This situation is exacerbated by the recent history: once the Georgian SSR- under the Chairman of its Supreme Soviet, Zviad Gamsakhurdia- openly began to agitate for independence from the Soviet Union in late 1990 (taking its cue from the Baltic States- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania- having already done so the previous March), it also declared the end of autonomous republics and regions within Georgia. South Ossetia immediately resisted this (South Ossetia was- and still is- legally an "Autonomous Region", a level of autonomy somewhat below that of an "Autonomous Republic", the constitutional status of both Abkhazia and Ajaria within Georgia both before and after the collapse of the USSR) and a civil war, in effect, ensued.

In January 1992, just after the USSR itself disappeared from the map, Gamsakhurdia was deposed and, within a few months thereafter, Eduard Sheverdnadze- who had been Mikhail Gorbachev's Foreign Minister in what, looking back, were but the waning days of the Soviet Union- became the leader of Georgia. Sheverdnadze had obvious connections to the Kremlin and, thus, at least some within the new regime of Russian president Boris Yeltsin that helped end the fighting in South Ossetia in July 1992, only to have fighting break out, that same month, in Abkhazia (which, like South Ossetia, borders the Russian Federation itself)-- it would not be until 1994 that the strife in Abkhazia would end.

In each case, Georgia agreed to the stationing of Russian forces in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as part of a peacekeeping operation: at the time, this made perfect sense- for the Russians were operating ostensibly on behalf of the post-Soviet organization known as the 'Commonwealth of Independent States'- or CIS- to which all the former 'Union Republics' (except for the three Baltic States) eventually adhered, including Georgia: therefore, these peacekeeping duties were, at least on paper, CIS ones (the member-states of the CIS were, at the time, making a concerted good faith effort to assure the wider world that the far-flung peoples once governed by the USSR could pretty much co-exist [despite, say, tensions- where not also outright fighting- between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh] within a reasonably stable environment, that stable environment being the CIS itself: if the CIS could police its own member-states, so much the better!).

In 1995, Georgia (thanks, in part, to the end of at least overt strife in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia) was able to implement a new Constitution which provided for a democratically-elected Parliament and a President directly elected to a five-year term: Sheverdnadze was the first President elected under this Constitution and he was re-elected in 2000. In the meantime, however, Abkhazia demanded a confederal system of governance if it were to remain within Georgia, while South Ossetia went so far as to hold its own local elections in open defiance of the 1995 Constitution; Sheverdnadze was unable to ever gain a permanent agreement with the two "breakaways" as to their final constitutional status by the time of the questionable parliamentary elections in 2003 that led to the "Rose Revolution", Sheverdnadze's concomitant ouster and the subsequent election of current President and anti-Sheverdnadze opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili in early 2004.

11 September 2001 is, of course, a date that will be seared in the memories of Americans for decades, if not centuries, to come (much as is also the case for 7 December 1941) and, certainly, 9/11 is also a most important date in World History. But the world may yet come to see that 31 December 1999 into 1 January 2000- the "Millennium": the very beginning of what people all around the globe were, at the time, hopefully (however also naively) seeing as a brand new age ripe with new opportunities for peace and prosperity- was just as much, if not even more, a Turning Point as 9/11, for on that very same day- ironically, in retrospect- Boris Yeltsin resigned and, under the terms of the Russian Federation's own Constitution, the Prime Minister- Vladimir Putin (who had only come into that office less than five months before)- became acting President; Putin- first, as elected President (twice, for four-year terms, in 2000 and 2004) and, now, as (once again) Prime Minister- has been the power in Russia ever since (despite the election and accession of Dmitri Medvedev as Russian President earlier this year).

As a result, here's the deal-- in a nutshell:

the Caucasus which contains the Republic of Georgia is solely Russia's "ballpark"... and Russia knows it!

Russia has already said that Georgia can forget retaining either Abkhazia or South Ossetia... and for all the George W. Bush Administration's posturing of being most fully behind maintaining the territorial integrity of a free and democratic Georgia, we can- in the end- do nothing but watch events (including a "replay" of the 'ethnic cleansing' seen in the Balkans in the 1990s) unfold.

Anyone who has kept up with The Green Papers over the now-nearly nine years we have been on the Internet should know that this is a "results-oriented" site and, if one peruses my own Commentaries and responses to vox Populi such as Mr. Stremsky's above, one should also clearly see that these, too, are no less "results-oriented"... for instance: don't tell me that, even though the other Major Party consistently wins elections in your Congressional District by near-landslides, your Major Party represents the "real" 'mainstream' of the community-- really?-- if so, then win the next election!

Likewise, if we are going to apply a "results-oriented" analysis (as in '1. what is the problem? 2. how can it be mitigated?') to the crisis in the Republic of Georgia, there is only one conclusion: short of the West applying brute military force, there is no possible way to force the preservation of Georgia "as is"... we can wag our fingers (middle or no [;-)]), shake our fists, stamp our feet and curse to the highest heavens, but it will all be to no avail... in a sense, the Russians are (if only by mere default) correct: with no USSR around, Russia gets to decide issues of territorial integrity within its (to here use an old-fashioned geopolitical term) "sphere of influence" for Russia can simply say, in a paraphrase of America's own 'Old Hickory'- Andy Jackson: "You've made your righteous indignation known, now let's see you enforce it!"

For there is no way the United States, nor the European Union (through most of the EU's member-states also happening to be members of NATO), are going to directly take on (meaning, militarily) what is, functionally, the successor-state to the old Soviet Union (one with a still significant cache of strategic nuclear weapons, mind you!) over "some damn fool thing in the Caucasus" (to here paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, the first chancellor- as well as the architect- of the Second Reich of the 19th Century German Kaisers).

But- and mark my words well!- this will all come to bite the West in the butt sometime soon, in the nearer future, as this will likely not be Russia's last gauntlet dropped in front of NATO under Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine certainly had better watch out, for Russia has long wanted Crimea- which was "gifted" to Ukraine back in 1954- back: to Russia, Crimea represents a further important strategic outpost on the Black Sea; but, to Ukraine, a Crimea that is within the Russian Federation would simply mean a Russian Federation that could then so easily interdict shipping coming into, and out of, Ukraine's other seaports (which are all along the coast of a bight to the west of the Crimean peninsula: commerce into and out of, for instance, Odessa would be so easily subject to intimidation sailing out of, say, Sevastopol)...

this is precisely why Russia's notion of territorial arrangements made under Soviet rule not at all being binding is so potentially dangerous: if Russia can successfully claim that Georgia's territorial extent within the USSR no longer applied once the Soviet Union was no longer around, it can then apply the same "working theory" to Ukraine as regards Crimea!).

And it is this that is the real importance of what is now going on in the Republic of Georgia to whomever might become the next President of the United States come Noon Eastern Time (1700 UTC) on 20 January 2009!

However, as things stand right now, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama (the two most likely "next Presidents of the United States" as I type this) will be able do anything to roll back current Russian policy in the Caucasus: whichever man happens to be elected this coming November may well have to face the very same issue now playing itself out in the Republic of Georgia- but, next time, much closer to member-states of NATO- during his own Presidency; and, therefore, our inability to "nip this in the bud" in the Caucasus is rather telling.


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