Golts on the Georgia Atrocities

Writing in the Moscow Times defense expert (and Yezhedevny Zhurnal deputy editor) Alexander Golts explains how Russia’s government is obsessed with the past:

The thinking in the Kremlin matches the realpolitik of the 19th century. Moscow’s leaders view the relationships between states as an endless conflict in which a few weaker “pawns” can unite to stand up to a stronger opponent and in turn place the enemy’s “king” in a difficult position. According to the rules of realpolitik, tiny Georgia with its separatist regions provided a perfect way for Moscow to carry out a series of manipulations aimed at the United States and the West.

Kremlin strategists did not even hide their desire to keep the self-proclaimed republics in a condition of managed chaos. The existence of separatist enclaves turned out to be a reliable guarantee that Georgia would not be granted NATO membership. That is what motivated Moscow to distribute Russian passports to the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. When the West ignored Russia’s wishes by recognizing Kosovo’s independence, the unrecognized territories in the Caucasus seemed like a convenient tool for exacting revenge. Recall how, back in April, then-President Vladimir Putin gave orders to state agencies to grant official recognition to documents issued by the authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as if they were, in fact, independent states.

Yet Russian fans of realpolitik did not learn one of the theory’s most important rules: that when interstate crises reach a boiling point, they must be resolved through war. Moscow based its calculations on the conviction that its overwhelming military superiority coupled with the West’s lack of desire to get involved in another conflict would dissuade Tbilisi from attempting a military solution.

And here we see their mistake. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili risked everything by cutting through the net that Russian strategists had painstakingly woven to keep Georgia hemmed in. A simple review of the chronology of events indicates that even before he called for a unilateral cease-fire, Saakashvili had begun preparations for a massive attack against Tskhinvali. After all, it takes more than a few hours to plan the tactical deployment of tank and artillery divisions. Some might call this a cunning ploy and others a permissible military ruse. I will say this: Whatever the Georgian army has done is no different from the purported war crimes for which former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic is now standing trial in The Hague. Serbian artillery stationed on the hills surrounding Sarajevo systematically destroyed the separatist capital. This is exactly what the Georgian army has done by taking positions overlooking Tskhinvali.

By overturning the chessboard, Saakashvili has put Moscow’s political grand masters in the position of zugzwang: Any of the moves open to Moscow will inevitably lead to its own defeat. The Kremlin’s hand is limited to issuing a political and diplomatic condemnation of Tbilisi’s actions — which means abandoning tens of thousands of Russian citizens in South Ossetia to their fate. For Moscow to protect Tskhinvali, it would have to send in its troops, and this would clearly cast Russia in the role of aggressor in the eyes of the international community. Russia would obviously become one more party to the conflict and would lose its right to act as a mediator in the dispute.

It is no coincidence that Moscow was still vacillating 12 hours after the Georgian operation had begun — and this despite the fact that a plan for a military response apparently already existed. It happens that large-scale military maneuvers, which the North Caucasus military district had just finished, had been scripted for the possibility of a conflict in the adjacent territory. On Friday, not a single person could be found in Russia willing to take responsibility for articulating Moscow’s position — a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of the dual power vertical. If there had been a need to employ military force, it was when the Georgian army launched its operations and not after a significant delay.

By the way, even with the outbreak of the worst crisis in three years, it took the members of Russia’s Security Council until noon to finally gather and begin their deliberations.

Russian forces began moving only by the second half of the day. From that point on, the Russian military began fighting the only way it knows how — by carrying out airstrikes against Georgia’s main bases and taking its time to dig in around the outskirts of Tskhinvali to wait for special forces troops to drive out Georgian artillery. Meanwhile, battalions of tactical groups selected from the country’s paratrooper divisions were formed to be sent into the conflict zone. How many times in the past have we heard talk of plans to form mountain brigades and battle-ready divisions to be deployed in the North Caucasus military district? Where are they now?

Meanwhile, it is Moscow and not Tbilisi that is most interested in bringing the hostilities to an end as quickly as possible. If Moscow cannot “force peace” within two or three days and withdraw its troops, the consequences will be ugly. Russia has already been labeled as an aggressor. If the war drags on and if Russian troops occupy Georgian villages, the world will say that mighty Russia unleashed a war against tiny Georgia. This is why Moscow’s participation in a new war in the Caucasus already signifies a political defeat for Russia.

3 responses to “Golts on the Georgia Atrocities

  1. Let me inform you (and Mr. Golz as well) that Russia does not care a damn anymore “what the world will say”. She just does what it considers right and honorable, that’s all.

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS: Let us inform you that it’s Golts not Goltz and he’s Russian. Sorry to burst your bubble. Presumably, Stalin was following your maxim when he murdered more Russians than Hitler. With honor like that, Russia needs no dishonor.

  2. There is still something deeply Russian in this analysis, with its cynicism and ignorance of the law .

    According to Constitutional and international law, Sarajevo wasn’t “separatist” in 1992 : as a result of Yugoslavia’s breakup, it had found itself de facto independent, and then two thirds of its inhabitants refused to join the shotgun marriage of Montenegro with Serbia which Milošević would call “Federal Republic of Yugoslavia”.
    As to who was “separatist” then, let’s have a look at the Serbian Constitution of September 28, 1990, one year and a half before the independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina:

    “according to Article 72 of the 1990 Constitution of the Republic of Serbia:

    ‘The Republic of Serbia decides and ensures: the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Serbia, its international position and relations with other states and international organisations’,
    as well as ‘the defence of the security of the Republic of Serbia’ (with, according to Article 83, ‘armed forces which in peace and war are commanded by the President of Serbia’).
    In accordance with this, Serbia by Article 135, para. 2 of the Constitution excluded itself from the legal system of SFRY, whose laws henceforth did not apply to it. This provision inscribed Serbia’s right ‘to respect’ at its own will federal laws only when ‘this is in its interest’.
    This clause is rightly known as ‘si volam’ (by my will), and it acts to negate every obligation undertaken under such conditions. If I have the right to behave as I will, then I have no obligation.
    Soon after this, true to its independence and sovereignty, Serbia adopted a series of laws from the sphere of the former federation’s authority whereby it regulated its own credit and monetary policy and its own regulation of prices; imposed taxes on goods imported from abroad (including former SFRY republics); and suspended a number of laws whose purpose was to implement former federal legislation.
    According to the laws of SFRY (which Milošević was allegedly defending), the Serbian constitution and legislation alike constituted most serious criminal acts. By adopting this constitution, however, Serbia became sovereign and independent, hence outside the jurisdiction of the former SFRY, so that no one could have taken legal action against those acts.


    If someone deserves to be compared with the mass murderer Radovan Karadžić it is Vladimir Putin.

    “Karadžić made it clear on several occasions that nothing of what he had done would have been possible without Serbia.
    The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was a typical ‘war by proxy’, conducted by the independent and sovereign Serbia by means of a mercenary ‘army of Republika Srpska’ and paramilitary bands recruited in Serbia, which included, of course, the Serbian UDB [security service]. Milošević supplied the necessary funds by stealing from the Serbian state budget.
    The ‘civil war’ story has in any case been finally and unambiguously rejected by the practice of the Hague Tribunal to date. Any defence of this story has become a hopeless undertaking. ”


  3. General Khlynov

    LA RUSSOPHOBE RESPONDS: Let us inform you that it’s Golts not Goltz and he’s Russian. Sorry to burst your bubble. Presumably, Stalin was following your maxim when he murdered more Russians than Hitler. With honor like that, Russia needs no dishonor.

    Well, Stalin was a Georgian. Maybe that explains why Russia is a bit edgy about this? One is enough?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s