Russia’s Neighbours React

As the dust settles over South Ossetia and parts of Georgia, there appears to be a rather odd school of thought establishing itself on the blogs which take an interest in these things.  The gist of it goes like this:

1.  Georgia has provoked Russia in various ways, one of which is threatening to join Nato, a mutual defence alliance underwritten by the USA.

2.  Russia has given Georgia a damned good thumping for its provocation, part of which is being blamed on Russia’s unease at Georgia wanting to join Nato.

3.  Therefore, Georgia, Poland, and Ukraine will not want to provoke Russia further by seeking Nato protection.

Personally, I think Georgia getting a good thumping from the Russians is unlikely to stop Georgia or Ukraine from looking for greater protection from Russia.

Whether that greater protection arrives or not, it is likely Russia’s neighbours deem it something worth seeking:

Thousands cheered as the presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia stood with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia, late Tuesday.

Now I think Saakashvili’s rhetoric is nonsense, not to mention his idiotic decision to launch an attack on South Ossetia for which his country is paying a dear price, but there has probably never been a time when Russia’s former subjects in Eastern Europe were so united against their former masters.  It is likely that the EU and US will not fail to make political capital out of this somehow, driving the wedge between the former Communist bloc and Russia that little bit deeper to Russia’s detriment.

And there’s another, similar meme floating about:

1.  Russia fears the US missile shield is really directed at Russia.

2.  Ukraine and Poland should take note of what Russia has done to Georgia, and refrain from cooperating on a missile defence system which is supposedly directed at Russia, less Russia dishes out a similar lesson to Ukraine and Poland.

Personally, I would have thought a missile defence system directed at Russia is high up on the shopping list of Ukraine and Poland right now.

And whaddya know?

Poland has signed a preliminary deal with the US on plans to host part of its new missile defence shield.

Under the agreement, the US will install 10 interceptor missiles at a base on the Baltic coast in return for help strengthening Polish air defences.

Poland is upgrading it’s air defences?!!  Now why in the world would they want to do that?

Naturally, the Russians are upset:

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said that a preliminary deal allowing the US to site missiles in Poland is aimed against Russia.


“The deployment of new anti-missile forces has as its aim the Russian Federation,” he said

I very much doubt that the original aim of the US missile shield was the Russian Federation, but I’m betting that this is quickly being updated. 

Moscow has long argued the project will upset the military balance in Europe and has warned it will be forced to redirect its missiles at Poland.

Well, quite.  I think Poland is very much hoping the military balance in Europe is upset, upset to the point where Russia cannot dish out to Poland the same thumping it just gave Georgia.  And now that Russia has been “forced” to redirect its missiles at Poland, that rather concludes the case for having a missile shield, doesn’t it?

At a press conference in Moscow on Friday, Russia’s deputy chief of general staff, Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said the US move “cannot go unpunished”.

Which probably isn’t going to weaken the case for the necessity of upgraded Polish air defences and missile shields aimed at Russia.

Not for the first time, I think Russia is playing its hand badly here.  I think Russia had little choice but to intervene militarily into South Ossetia, the Georgians having triggered the war regardless of whether Russia had provoked Georgia or engineered the whole situation.  And depending on certain things being true, it was probably necessary for Russia to attack targets within Georgia proper.  Had Russia limited itself to this, and done a decent PR job in explaining its actions, they would probably have come out of this quite well, having demonstrated they can pull off a decisive military victory or two.

But Russia seems to be continuing its policy of issuing dark warnings and open threats to its neighbours, no doubt mainly for the benefit of the audience back home, many of whom seem to think it is US policy to surround, invade, and overthrow Russia.  Russia warning its neighbours against cooperating too closely with the west could be dismissed as empty rhetoric before Russia – regardless of the reasons – attacked Georgia.  But afterwards it is likely these threats are going to be taken much more seriously, and those who are being threatened are likely to respond by doing everything they can to counter those threats using every means available including defence pacts, missile shields, and votes in international bodies.

Russia is going to find the world just that little bit more lonely in the years to come. 


13 thoughts on “Russia’s Neighbours React

  1. so glad to read this from you, tim. i think most of the same things as you, but people of late have been looking at me like i’m slightly retarded.

  2. Tim,

    I usually agree with you. But this line:

    “It is likely that the EU and US will not fail to make political capital out of this somehow…”

    I take issue with. If anything the US and EU will make some throat clearing noises at the Russians and scold them for bad manners and then…do nothing. Politicians here fear Putin and really don’t want to get involved in anything this sticky so close to a changing of the guard here.

  3. It’s always interesting to read your perspective. Having grown up during the last years of the Cold War, with a brother in the American Army, and then adopted a daughter from Russia, I am always interested in what Russia is doing and why. I have friends from the country of Georgia, too, and I am concerned because they are so upset about their families back there.

    Overall, I have a feeling that Russia is fixing to go off on a new and frightening tangent. I think the only way to predict what will happen is to look at history, though, for clues about the future, then try and factor in that we are living in the digital age…

  4. Agree with most of what you said, except the premise that Georgia attacked first.
    There are plenty of info online proving that Ossetian puppet rebels were atacking Georgian villages and other Georgian targets for a whole year previous to Geogians sending missiles to Tchinvali; the Georgian government had been limiting their reaction to verbal protests. It was Russia through their proxy the Kokoity bandits that was provoking military conflict, not Georgia.They not only anticipated Georgian shooting, they have planned highly coordinated military operation of 58th army, complete with navy and air support.
    Some of the experts on military blogs I read opined that Georgia goal was to block Roki tunnel precisely because they were aware of prepared Russian invasion and wanted to stop it.
    As far as military experts I read

  5. Duffy,

    I thought carefully before writing that line, and I agree that there is every chance the EU and US will do nothing. I thought we could expect the usual weasling and private, backroom deals from France andGermany but then again Sarkozy and Merkel are not Chirac and Schroeder. The Sarkozy and Merkel will sod the EU to do what’s best for France and Germany; Chirac and Schroeder would sod the EU, France, and Germany to do what’s right for Chirac and Shroeder.

    I think Sarkozy and Merkel are savvy enough to see that it is not in France or Germany’s best interests to be heavily dependent on Russia for anything. We can’t expect much, but I think we can expect something. For instance, I expect the objections of certain EU member states to the Nord Stream project will find more sympathetic ears than a year ago.

  6. What was to expect from a country whose leader is elected by 95% support in revolution, whose prime-minister Zhvania is killed, whose opposition leader Okruashvili had to escape to Euroland, whose opposition TV station Imedi was ransacked and put on fire, who denies access to Internet and has the fastest growing military budget in the world while the bulk of its citizens live in misery and poverty?

  7. “Russia is going to find the world just that little bit more lonely in the years to come.”

    Nonsense Tim, surely you know that Belarus, Venezuela and Cuba have voiced support of Russia’s actions in Georgia. With friends like these, who cares what the rest of the world thinks.

  8. “Not for the first time, I think Russia is playing its hand badly here.”

    My own thoughts, even if it did take longer for me to come to them than you; as expressed in my post “Putin is a prat!”

  9. “But Russia seems to be continuing its policy of issuing dark warnings and open threats to its neighbours, no doubt mainly for the benefit of the audience back home”

    I think everybody involved played for the “audience back home”, including Gruzia: the missile shield was not even tested, and the previous version of the interceptors worked in only one test, the Russians seem to have spared Gori (since the “Gori” footage shown on Western TV stations looks a lot like the “Tskhinvali” footage shown by Russia Today), the internet attacks on Gruzin sites are as well documented as the internet attacks in the Baltic (not at all, I mean, just some governmental PR sites stopped working for a while) …

    My take is Russia, Georgia and US are doing their best to mobilize their subjects and provide them with an injection of patriotic fervor. I hope this stops soon, otherwise the Russians and the rest might start marching on whatever passes for an equivalent of “Unter den Linden” or “Champs Elysees” in their capital cities and force their governments to do stupid things, like really getting to war.

  10. Tim,

    “We cant expect much, but I think we can expect something.”

    That appears to be happening. What of the US? The election is imminent and the response to Russia will vary greatly depending upon who takes that race.

  11. The Georgian invasion aftermath has now settled. It seems that the EU or some of them have said a few TV-angry words but begged Vladimir to continue trading etc. Turkey is aware that Russia is overwhelmingly its largest partner. The American Caspian energy corridor, always a dream, is as good as dead. Azerbaijan might sell all its energy to Russia and America’s Ukrainian puppet commands only 4% support.

    Russia has earned respect in the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and strangely in much of Latin America. Russia will keep its naval base in the Crimea for as long as it wants, and will build others in Abkhazia and Syria. If the Americans don’t want to escape overwhelming defeat in Afghanistan they need Russia’s help. As it is Russia might join Opec and also create a gas OPEC with Iran. Not only are Putin and co. more clever than our Davids and idiots like McCann , they have all the cards. With American financial institutions dying one by one, GM and Ford gasping, and everything pointing to a multipolar world, it is amazing idiotic some people are starting with the neo-cons.

    Now is also the time to invest in a good Russian Fund

  12. Now is also the time to invest in a good Russian Fund

    Odd that most actual investors – as opposed to those who just point out good investment opportunities in blog comments – think it isn’t.

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