Monday, November 24, 2008

Well, you have to credit them with chutzpah.

The Russkies claim that the Georgians and Poles fired on their own presidents in order to foment an international incident. When asked for proof of this assertion, the Russian foreign minister said that he had it, but his dog ate it. Or he'd left it with his girlfriend in... uh... Canada.

As long as we're not getting reports that Saakashvili committed suicide by throwing himself backwards onto a steak knife twenty-seven times, I guess there's no real cause for alarm.

Besides, the Lightbringer will be stepping up to the plate on 1/21/09, and he'll fix everything.


Robb Allen said...

Speaking of Chutzpah, the Light Bringer is already acting as if he's in charge and is claiming there's no need to wait until he's actually sworn in much less for the Electoral College to do their job one last time.

Of course, watching the leftists freak the hell out that The One hasn't already stopped the war, prevented the bailouts, resurrected the Fairness Doctrine and killed the germs that cause bad breath and gingivitis is somewhat comforting.

Nathan Brindle said...

The light he brings will remind us of CFLs: Really bright, expensive, and hard to read by. Oh, and toxic when broken.

Perhaps we should call him the CFLightbringer instead.

Or just "President Lite".

the pawnbroker said...

the o and his disciples do not surprise me with their faith and pronouncements, such as his recent statement "i have already directed my team to come up with a plan that will produce 2.5 million jobs by the end of 2009"...hell, who knew that's all it took? i feel better already, only not.

what truly is shocking is that the 48% allowed what passes for discourse before and after the election to be directed at internal hopeychangey and virtually none at all on the fact that we are a nation at war, with a dozen or so more simmering on the back burner...the russians are but one of the myriad bigass bombs with lit fuses that are 57 days long...and that light he's bringing? detonation flash.


word ver:, i surely don't but i will if i have to.

Cossack in a Kilt said...

Well, yeah, because US-trained lawyers never lie, right? (Saakashvili has his LLM from Columbia.)

I'm a Slavophile, and I'll admit my prejudices up front, but I just don't see how this could have been an official Russian op.

Remember, Poland is a NATO member.

Assassinating the president of Poland, that would have to be considered an attack on a member state, triggering an automatic Article 5 military response . . . by ALL MEMBER STATES.

The CNN link includes the following: After the incident, Saakashvili told reporters he would not have taken his Polish counterpart into danger intentionally and that the incident showed "you are dealing with unpredictable people" in the disputed area.

Sorry, I just don't buy it.

alcibiades said...

Given Russian behavior, how could you not believe it?

The South Ossetians are also known for being trigger-happy...

Wolfwood said...

As alcibiades hints, both could be correct.

The Georgian and Polish presidents may have been fired upon.

The Russian may not have fired upon these men, and it may have been a Georgian national who fired on them.

This may not even be directly related to the South Ossetian movement; it could have been some punk kid who took a potshot at a shiny car he saw passing by.

The problem, of course, is that the Russians have zero credibility and the Georgians are desperate.

Cowboy Blob said...

Lightbringer = Lucifer.


Cossack in a Kilt said...


My general approach to regions in conflict is to assume that the people who are running things, on both sides, should be summarily executed. Of course, as Clint observed in "Unforgiven", "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

As I never tire in pointing out, it was JOSEF FRICKIN' STALIN who drew the boundaries of the Georgian SSR (Soviet Socialist Republic) when he was Commissar for Nationalities. Before that, Ossetia was (both "north and south" parts) simply a part of the Russian Empire.

I suspect that Putin is still pulling the strings, and I suspect that he is still pulling strings looking to maximize Russian advantages. I would not put it past Putin to engineer a conflict if he thought it was to his advantage.

Similarly, Saakashvili is still pulling strings looking to maximize Georgian advantages. I would also not put it past Saakashvili to engineer a conflict if he thought it was to his advantage.

Small powers living next door to great powers must walk small. It is in the nature of things. Is that fair? That's like asking if gravity is fair.

It is my considered opinion that, if this were a rogue Russian op, the man behind it is even as we speak receiving 9 grams of rehabilitation to the back of the neck. Too dangerous, too risky. That is only my take, mind you, and I could be wrong.

We Americans have a tendency to support the underdog. Somehow, however, when we look at the South Ossetian War of 2008, we see the underdog as Georgia, and the bully as Russia. An equally valid reading could be that the bully is Georgia, and the underdog is South Ossetia.

Although as I mentioned above, I am a Slavophile, and moreover, a Russophile, I am not anti-Georgian. I like Georgian food, culture, and countryside. They are in some ways the Orthodox Christian versions of the Chechens---fierce mountain hillbillies.

Remember: McCain plays craps, Obama plays poker, and Putin plays chess.

As one of the British Prime Ministers, either Disraeli or Palmerston, I can NEVER remember which, once said, "Nations have no permanent friends, nations have permanent interests."

I am NOT a troll. I thrill to Tam's erudite gun-nuttery, and this is one of the early morning stops for me on them old information superhiways. I have sympathy for the Russians, the Georgians, and the Ossetians.

If it had JUST been Saakashvili? Yeah, I could see a sanctioned op against him. For all his KGB sophistication, Putin retains a "muzhik" peasant earthiness. But going after the head of state of a NATO member? That's rolling the dice big time.

Could it have been a Georgian national? Sure! Could it have been a South Ossetian? Sure! Could it have been a Georgian sanctioned provocation? My money says, once again, sure! But if the question is, could it have been an official Russian attempt to assassinate Saakashvili and Kaczynski? My money says no, no way, no how.

That whole "member state of NATO" thing, it matters. Similarly, I didn't buy that Russia had provoked the South Ossetian War, if only because it lit up during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics IN CHINA, and Russia thinks very seriously about China, and always has.

If Putin is a gangster (and he probably is), I think he's in the mold of Don Corleone, who famously said that "Women and children can be careless, not men." (Apologies to Tam for outdated denigration of women!)

Ed Foster said...

Cossack: Not exactly anti-Slav myself. Used to be married to one. I also spent 8 years running a Polish speaking gun factory (my liver is still recuperating).
And I don't know where I fall on the subject of Russian settlers, moved in during the Soviet era, and Putin's insistance that whereever Russians have put down roots, there forever is Matyusha Svetija Rossija.
I have relatives who are Scots-Irish settlers in Northern Ireland, coming down during the clearances and enclosures period of the 17th century, and others further south whose families have spent the better part of three thousand years there.
Posession being nine-tenths and all, I'd say any group that fought for it and lasted several centuries on it's own would have to be called native.
But groups that still maintain loyalty to the country they came from, and exist on the territory they occupy only because the "Mother Country" supports them militarily do fall into a somewhat different category. There has to be an honest willingness to assimilate and compromise.
Otherwise it's not immigration, it's invasion.Virtually all the "Ugly Russians" in the Baltic Republics would qualify for a free ride home in my book, and their cousins in "Ossetia", along with most of the Turks on Cyprus, and probably the Orange Lodge fringe of my paternal relatives outside Belfast. Except that the Scots wouldn't want the pinheaded Jesus freaks back.
My take on the most likely scenario is this: Some Russki good ol' boy (Chuvack?) said to his droog Ivan "Hey, watch that convoy speed up when Pan Dragunov bounces a couple between those two limos in the middle". What the hell, just kids having fun.
The sad thing is the Russians were bluffing. Their army contains fifty thousand soldiers, and a million untrained, poorly fed, abused and rarely paid conscripts.
They had to use the head of their bomber school to fly one of their few remaining Backfire bombers (the rest have been sold to the Chinese to fulfil their original purpose, to threaten U.S. aircraft carriers).
Embarassing when he got shot down. And, the only reliable resupply from Russia to "Ossetia" is through an easily destroyed tunnel.
A twenty minute visit from the aircraft of a single U.S. carrier wing would have left Holy Mother Russia protected by nothing except the MVD border guards, assuming they haden't found a new cache of vodka or some gypsies to abuse.
Russia is a dying culture, with a death rate just about twice their birth rate, and a lifestyle outside the cities that hasn't changed much in several hundred years.
A computer wizz friend of mine is a recent ethnic Russian emigre from Azerbijan, and the newly Moslem Nationalists aren't nearly as mellow as the Georgians and Armenians (a scary thought in itself).Some interesting stories from the lady.
But what to do? It's easy enough to say send them home, but what if, like Scotland, home doesn't want them? Or home sees their return as demeaning, a national humiliation not to be born by true Turks/Russians/fill in the blanks.
No easy answers to that one, only questions.

the pawnbroker said...

tam, you once said your comments section was the awesomest...

after perusing these little diatribes, i'd say +1 on that...damn.


word ver: rulpi...i dunno, could be some kind of russian/georgian/ossetian/slavik measure of exchange.

Cossack in a Kilt said...

Ed Foster:

Questions? Sounds like you've been reading my mail. Heck, I remember when I knew all the answers, now I figure I'm doing good to have a handle on some of the questions.

What is the "Russian" population of South Ossetia? I mean ethnically, not citizenship. Heck if I know. Are they "Ossetian" in name only? My readings do indicate a fair population of indigenous Ossetians, with their own language, and no great love for Georgia.

I do know that if we skip over the whole Gamsakhurdia episodes, we're getting a distorted view of Ossetia, and like Gamsakhurdia, Saakashavili is a "Greater Georgian" nationalist. Great poet, I hear, but not so good as a leader. And then Shevardnadze, and that whole mess.

As far as assimilation, immigration and integration go, well, down here in southeast Texas, that, too remains an open question.

The only problem with a twenty minute visit from a carrier group is, gee, all those ICBMs. As Pat Buchanan said in this very context, US presidents have spent a lot of time over many years trying to make sure those birds don't fly. And the weaker the Russian military is, the greater the likelihood of someone saying, "Davai, nazhimaem bol'shuyu krasnuyu knopochku." ("Hey, let's push the big red button.") If we intervene militarily, and they can't respond with air power, or infantry, or artillery, what do they do?

As for the Roki tunnel, dang, man, me and some buddies have absolutely punished some Scotch trying to figure out why the Georgians didn't make that "Job One." Surely the Georgians have some halfway decent special forces?

Yeah, the Russian military has some hard dogs, and a lot of kids suffering still from the "dedovschina." (And I thought boot camp was rough, well, I'm just a sissy gringo after all.)

But I'm not sure the Russians were bluffing. They've walked pretty small for a goodly while now, and this was a notice that "they've stood all they can stand, and they can't stands no more."

My take---I could be wrong----is that they absolutely SPANKED the Georgian ground forces. And I think every time Condi stamped her pretty little foot and said "This cannot stand" then Putin got on the horn and said, "General, laager up your tanks, you're staying another few days."

For a dustup against the US, well, yeah. Bluffing. Then again, our mailed fist is still tied down chasing peasants in flip-flops with Kalashnikovs in Iraq and Afghanistan. So what were WE going to do? Were we going to push the big red button? Sweet mother of God, I hope not.

What, push a carrier group into the Black Sea? Make the Turks that much more unhappy with us? Bet that the Russians don't have Silkworm-equivalents on shore batteries?

And not even over Tbilisi, but over Tskhinvali?

I don't know the answers---I do know that it's nice to be able to discuss some of the questions.

And, for real here, riddle me this: Just what in the good Lord's name was Saakashvili doing taking a motor tour anywhere near that border? I'd just love it if you and me had the opportunity to go over to Ossetia and drink some good Georgian wine and some good Russian vodka and eat some good shashlik and lobio and lepeshki. (Shishkabob and beans with pomegranate seeds and flatbread.)

I bet Tam didn't expect THIS, eh?

alcibiades said...

Poland was part of the Russian Empire, but nobody talks about returning it (not to mention it should really control part of Belarus...). I'm not much one for "ethnic determination", so I don't think all the Ossetians have to live in a single unified country.

The Georgians did send their special forces to blow a bridge near the tunnel. The team was apparently wiped out, but did manage to destroy said bridge. The tunnel was probably already secured by Russian forces.

Cossack in a Kilt said...


I'm not arguing in favor of restoring Imperial Russian boundaries, and don't think all Ossetians need to live in a single unified country, either.

My comment about Ossetia having been a part of the Russian Empire was to draw the distinction that it had never, pre-Stalin, been a part of Georgia. In defending the "sovereign and inviolable borders" of Georgia, we are defending a Stalinist creation.

Remember, Stalin drew borders in large part to ensure that local control would not be possible, and that all would depend on the center (i.e., Moscow).

I can understand why Saakashvili would want to reabsorb South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I can understand why the Abkhaz and South Ossetians might prefer Russian protection/domination. What I can't understand is the US national interest in supporting Georgian efforts to retake the breakaway provinces.

And remember, the provinces had been de facto independent since '91 or '92.

Ed Foster said...

Cossack: Mostly in agreement. I didn't think we should have sent the airwing, only wanted to point out that the conventional Russian military is totally hollow, possibly making the flight of the birds more likely.
As to how well the birds have been maintained, who can say. The commander of the Northern Fleet has pointed out quite publically that the nuclear powered flagship of said fleet is unfit for sea and in real danger of exploding.
I'm sure there's been at least some deterioration in the strategic rocket corp. I gather even the Russians think so, as they're getting ready to scrap about everything except the SS-25 TOPOL. Curiouser and curiouser.
I think it's a mistake to rule out the possibility the inmates have taken over the asylum. Perhaps a better anology would be the children taking over the orphanage.
Forget the chessplayer steriotype for a moment. If we posit the actions of the present Russian administration as the short-sighted greed of simple thugs, polished by a residual Russian nomenclatura plus their apparatschiki and willing fools in the western media, we might get a better view of a system without any real leadership at all, a taxi careening down the street with a drunk at the wheel, having the time of his life, with no thought about what's around the next corner. Kind of reminds me of my kid brother.
As far as the future, I would say the greatest threat to the world's peace is the American Democratic Party.
The world is filled with armed crazies, and most Dems would lay off the entire U.S. military if they could, dismiss the world outside our borders without a thought, and use the money "saved" to buy millions more votes from new welfare recipients and the bureaucrats who feed them.
The Islamic part of the world will start cooling down as it's demographics change. They may like it, they may hate it, but they're tied to us economically. They now make more from western stocks and bonds purchased with oil money than they get from selling the oil.
Do you think it's an accident the price of gas has dropped more than 50% in just a few months? It's the Saudi princes doing whatever is needed to keep their investments healty.
Look at the numbers. 42 gallons of gasoline in a barrel of oil. Cut the price of a barrel of oil $84 and you've cut the price of gasoline $2 per gallon. Oil's gone from $145 per barrel to $68 per barrel.
The Arabs getting older too, and their birthrate will decline as they get wealthier.
But China doesn't have a hope in hell of surviving as a nation. Half of their bank loans are bogus, with that half of the nation's GNP going into the pockets of polititians, businessmen, and government officials.
The Chinese government can only stall that one for a few more months by creating new banks to temporarily hide the losses in. There is no Social Security in China,only the worker's savings, which will disappear when the banks collapse.
The one baby policy plus cheap sonograms ($3.50)and free abortion means that most Chinese have opted for that single child to be male, so as to maximize earning potential. The best estimates I've seen put it at 60 million plus more men than women of prime military age.
The Communist party cut the military free from government funding, and gave them ownership of many state controlled industries as a substitute. We now have different army groups, seperated geographically, who are business rivals. One more thing driving the taxi over the cliff.
Meanwhile, back in Russia, we have an almost baby free country where the average man is a hopeless drunk by 35, and dead from cirrosis or accident by 55. The female population is composed increasingly of fatalistic spinsters and desperate hookers.
In order to keep the place fed and keep the oil pumping, Putin has handed over huge areas of Siberia to a wave of hard working Chinese immigrants supposedly fleeing the imminent collapse and corruption back in China.
Interesting point on that from Marina, the Russian friend from Azerbidjan (I'm growing increasingly fond of blini, piroshki, holubseh, and that all meat salad. Also, the Aparbu "Cognac" is pretty damn good. Who knew).
Anyway, the lady's comment on the Chinese taking over Siberia is that they seem to be mostly crew-cut, extremely fit young men, with great organization and disipline. Who or what they are loyal to is open to consideration. Perhaps another example of a drunk at the wheel, not caring who's in the back seat.
Russia survives, even poorly, only as long as the oil and natural gas hold out. Given their insanely wastful pumping policies (artesian and steam at the same time, to push up the short term yield while driving 50% of the oil too deep to economically recover), that won't be long.
China never really embraced more than a veneer of capitalism, and has none of the centuries old system of checks and balances it has evolved to keep cyclic depressions from turning into total collapse.
There is a great Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times".
With the world's largest nuclear power in it's death throws, and it's nuclear neighbor tetering on the edge of total collapse, uncontrollable famine, and civil war, we're almost there.
Me, I'm working as much overtime as I can get while it's still around, and considering the purchase of healthy amounts of MRE entrees. Don't sweat getting starch, they'll be giving that out free in the breadlines, it's the protein I'm worried about.
And long before they come knocking at the door looking for firearms, if ever, they'll shut down the ammunition supply.
With moderate loads, brass lasts almost forever, and cast bullets work fine for target practice. It's the primers, powder, and rimfire ammo that's not covered in the Supreme Court's D.C. ruling, and their shipping, sale, and storage are vulnerable to government attack from almost any angle. 'Nuff said. Intersting times indeed.

Matt G said...

"Or he'd left it with his girlfriend in... uh... Canada."

Nobody got the Weird Science reference?

Cossack in a Kilt said...

Ed Foster:

From my reliable sources in Kazakhstan, you would just be AMAZED at how many Chinese (not only ethnic Han, but Uighers as well) are moving in, marrying Kazakh women and taking their names. When I was in Krygyzstan last year, Chinese trucks/shipping was everywhere.

I always figured Siberia would be the touch-off point for the big Russia-China showdown. What did they used to say about Israel? "A land without a people, for people without a land"? And there's just lots and lots of Siberia.

We spell holobseh more like golubtsi, but I think we're talking about the same dish. Has Marina made the eggplant sandwiches? Thin sliced, fried in a little olive oil, sauce of mayonnaise and minced garlic, topped with a slice of fresh tomato? You'll think you've died and gone to heaven. While it isn't Remy Martin, the Kyrgyz "five star" cognac is the best five or ten dollar a bottle booze you'll run across.

I am sadly unprepared in terms of ammunition, with only a couple battle packs of 6.5x55 and a couple of cases of 9mm . . . but I do have about four hundred pounds worth of Keith SWCs in .357, .41, .44 and (of all things) the 480 Achilles. (A heeled bullet, don't you know, set in a .45 Colt case trimmed to .9", 305 grains atop a pinch of Unique out of a rebarreled Uberti. Silly, but there you go!)

Interesting times indeed, dang it. (I prefer a boring world.)


Tam said...

Interesting times, and the most interesting discussion I've had in comments yet.

I've long feared that China's weird hybrid army/industrial-conglomerate is setting them up for a return to the days of regional warlords in the event of any instability in Beijing.

...and, yeah, I've started taking a lot more interest in stockpiling since the Putin accession and China's increasing frantic shell games trying to cover up basic weaknesses at the root of their economy. I think people would be surprised at the damping effect eight years of an American president with a reputation for an itchy trigger finger has had. This new kid is going to find himself hip-deep in alligators on day one.

The first thing I'd do is divest myself of any Taiwanese real estate I was holding...