Georgia and the oil hungry Crocodile

August 10, 2008

In my last post I suggested that it wouldn’t be in Russia’s best interests in the region if South Ossetia was independent.

Paradoxically though they are right behind the South Ossetians in their bid for independence.

Its not really a genuine wish for their self determination. A genuine South Ossetian state that wasn’t pro-Moscow like Georgia would be another nightmare for Russia, opening up tensions in its own ethnic Caucaus regions.

Its nothing more than the old divide and conquer strategy.

That’s why the Abkhazia and Ajaria independence movements are also sponspored by Russia. Purely to destabilise Georgia, nothing less.

If it was only about South Ossetia then why are Russian planes bombing Georgian cities? Military tactics or an excuse to bring Georgia to its knees?

Russia does not like Georgia’s pro-Western stance. Their attempt to join NATO.

Georgia is seen as the epitome of an former Soviet republic embracing Western philosophy.

The New York Times has this appraisal:

“It’s scarcely clear yet how things will stand between the two when the smoke clears. But it’s safe to say that while Russia has a massive advantage in firepower, Georgia, an open, free-market, more-or-less-democratic nation that sees itself as a distant outpost of Europe, enjoys a decisive rhetorical and political edge.

In recent conversations there, President Saakashvili compared Georgia to Czechoslovakia in 1938, trusting the West to save it from a ravenous neighbor.

“If Georgia fails,” he said to me darkly two months ago, “it will send a message to everyone that this path doesn’t work.”

During a 10-day visit to Georgia in June, I heard the 1938 analogy again and again, as well as another to 1921, when Bolshevik troops crushed Georgia’s thrilling, and brief, first experiment with liberal rule.”

“You should understand,” Mr. Saakashvili said, mocking the Europeans who urge forbearance on him, “that the crocodile is hungry. Well, from the point of view of someone who wants to keep his own leg, that’s hard to accept.”

The Georgian President’s analogy of Czechoslovakia in 1938 when Hitler invaded – on the pretext of liberating German citizens – was also reinforced by the Swedish Foreign Minister:

“Attempts to apply such a doctrine have plunged Europe into war in the past… And we have reason to remember how Hitler used this very doctrine little more than half a century ago to undermine and attack substantial parts of central Europe,” Bildt said.

“We did not accept military intervention by Milosevic’s Serbia in other Yugoslav states on the grounds of protecting Serbian passport holders,” he added.

Poland and the Baltic States are also on the side of Georgia in the conflict:

“The EU and NATO must take the initiative and stand up against the spread of imperialist and revisionist policy in the east of Europe,” leaders of the four countries said in a joint statement.

“The Russian Federation has overstepped a red-line in keeping the peace and stability in the conflict zone and in protecting Russian citizens outside its own borders,” the statement added.

Again from the New York Times:

“Marshall Goldman, a leading Russia scholar, argues in a recent book that Mr. Putin has established a ‘petrostate,’ in which oil and gas are strategically deployed as punishments, rewards and threats.

The author details the lengths to which Mr. Putin has gone to retain control over the delivery of natural gas from Central Asia to the West.

A proposed alternative pipeline would skirt Russia and run through Georgia, as an oil pipeline now does.

‘If Georgia collapses in turmoil,’ Mr. Goldman notes, ‘investors will not put up the money for a bypass pipeline.’ And so, he concludes, Mr. Putin has done his best to destabilize the Saakashvili regime.”

Already we are seeing problems with the oil supply.

Azerbaijan has now cut off their oil exports through Georgia.

And it is now reported that Russian jets have bombed the main oil pipeline that runs through Georgia to Turkey .

Here’s an old map showing the oil routes in the area. There are two oil pipleines shown in Georgia. The largest oil pipeline (on the map as planned) is now in place and runs straight through to Turkey. Its run by BP and is the one that is reportedly bombed.

Oil routes in Georgia

And wouldn’t Russia like the Georgian oil pipelines in their control!

You have got to feel sympathy for the South Ossetians, their capital Tskhinvali lying in ruins.

I’m reminded of the attributed words of Calgacus, the Pictish warrior, who said of the Romans attempting to invade what is now Scotland:

“They make a desert and call it peace.”


Georgia on my mind

August 9, 2008

The Georgian President has just declared a state of war with Russia.

The region they are fighting over is South Ossetia, an autonomous region in Georgia which unilaterally declared independence from Georgia last year. Its declaration has not been recognised by any member of the UN as valid, as its referendums on the matter are not regarded as valid.

Russia holds the neighbouring region of North Ossetia.

Map of Georgia and neighbouring Russian regions

Georgian military moved into South Ossetia claiming the Russians have violated Georgian air space, coincidentally as the world’s attention was focussed on the Olympics instead.

Now the Russians have responded with air raids killing thousands. Around 30 000 Ossetians have fled.

It seems that Russian hackers have also crippled the Georgian .ge domain, making Georgian information from the internet extremely hard to find.

The U.S. educated Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has called for his troops to be removed from Iraq.

The Georgians are allies of America and Saakashvili has called for American support against Russia. There is a Georgian now representing the U.S. at archery in the Olympics.

America has so far just called for a ceasefire, so far unheeded.

Whether the Americans will actually enter the conflict is doubtful. They already have troops battling in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Perhaps the conflict can only be resolved by organising a UN organised referendum to the people of South Ossetia, with both Georgia and Russia promising to recognise the result. If the previous referendums are an indication then South Ossetia would be a free independent country.

However, both Russia and Georgia would be against this.

Georgia would lose territory and give impetus to two other autonomous regions in its borders Abkhazia and Adjara to follow the same route.

Russia would be concerned that an independent Ossetian state in the south, would ultimately lead to the loss of its region of North Ossetia wishing to join the new country. It would also give impetus to Chechnya and possibly other Caucaus regions to declare independence from Russia.

Meanwhile, the South Ossetians are caught in the crossfire between the war and politics of Georgia and Russia.

Literally.