A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russian historical sensitivity

Prime Minister Putin quoted at the weekend:

"Russia has played a positive, stabilising role in the Caucasus for centuries, a guarantor of security, cooperation and progress. This is how it was in the past and this is how it is going to be in future. Let there be no doubt about this."

"Positive, stabilising" actions by Russia in the past including having invaded and colonised the place in the 19th century.

Georgia was independent previously for a brief period from 1918-1921. A democratic republic, it elected what was reputed to be the first majority democratic socialist/social democratic government (led by the Menshevik Party who won 81.5% of the vote in the 1919 General Election) in the world. Despite armed Bolshevik uprisings stirred up by Russia, particularly amongst the Ossetian and Abkhazian minorities, Georgia had a multi-party system, granted regional autonomy to Abkhazia, founded a national university, brought in universal public education and carried out land reform. In 1921 the Red Army invaded, overthrow the democratic regime and incorporated Georgia into the Soviet Union - the example of a democratic socialist neighbour being too provocative for the Communists to bear.

How long before Putin starts talking about the "positive, stabilising role" of Russia in the Baltic States, former Soviet Central Asia, or Ukraine? And then will we get to hear about the "positive, stabilising role" Russia played in Central and Eastern Europe from 1945 to 1990?

I cannot see any moral difference between NATO affording membership and collective security against Russian aggression to Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, or indeed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and offering it to Georgia, unless we are to accept that some neighbouring states Russia chooses to designate as under its influence are to have less sovereignty and less security than others.

If Georgia had already have been in NATO, the events this week could not have happened because an attack on one member state triggers a collective defence agreement.


Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

France and Germany (I think) thought Georgia was not stable enough to warrant membership.

It does appear they have been vindicated in this opinion.

Georgia opened artillery fire on Tskhinvali, and then moved their heavy armour to consolidate.
The people of South Ossetia are also Russian passport holders, all the excuse needed for the Russian Federation to intervene.

The Georgians should have realised their actions would have repercussions.

I doubt this will speed up their membership of NATO, but even if it did what can we do? This is not some tin pot banana republic; Russia is huge. It has enough resources to continue what it’s doing. Considering the crisis of fuel supplies we (the world) need Russian gas and oil even more than we did before, so sanctions are pointless. Add to that the Russian military is more than capable of striking back against us (they have had almost 60 odd years of preparation for it).

The Georgians heavy handed approach is similar to the heavy approach of the Serbs in Kosovo. We intervened then. Russia has citizens being killed by Georgian ordinance, in my view they have a right to respond.

9:56 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

I gather that the issue of NATO membership is also to do with their being no other NATO members alongside Georgia.

I don't trust Russia, but the problem Georgia has is that the two provinces which clearly do not wish to be Georgian are using exactly the same arguments as those which the West has supported in their quest for independence in the Balkans.

Undoubtedly Russian romantic nationalism is a powerful force and it is very much Putin's stance - hence the admiration of Solzehnitsyn for him, and it is that appeal which has influence over the breakaway provinces.

10:29 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

I think if Gerogia joined the EU then big nations could not do this to it. The EU ensures big nations cannot use small nations for their geopolitical games. The UK will soon be a small nation compared to Chin and India in economic strength.
Amercians nazis wand chinese commies ant to dviide up europe for their own geopolitcal games.

11:10 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Mike said

"I gather that the issue of NATO membership is also to do with their being no other NATO members alongside Georgia"

Mike, Georgia shares a border with Turkey!

Latest news: The Russians have stopped their Georgian operations.

11:12 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

Does anyone nottice that when the UK M spoke out against russia the russians stopped. The PM AKA "THE PEACEMAKER".

11:16 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Dirty Euro,

You really believe Georgian membership of the EU would stop this?

The EU needs Russian gas (and oil) I doubt they would take any serious action against Russia.

11:17 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Dirty Euro said...

"Does anyone nottice that when the UK M spoke out against russia the russians stopped. The PM AKA "THE PEACEMAKER".

Is'nt Sarkosy going to visit Moscow? Maybe his gallic charm won them over.

Atleast the bloodshed is over lets hope it lasts.

11:21 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

It would stop it. Russia needs the EU;s money too and trade links. Much of their food and trade us from the EU. The EU as a union is an economic and strategic suoperpower. thay Russia would not be foolish enough to mess with. Even the USA has to bow down to the EU.

11:27 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

I think people need to understand the EU is in reality an economic superpower. Russia is not a threat to the EU. As Russia is dependent on it. It would be like Mexico stopping trading with the USA. It has huge trade dependencies on us. I assure you if Gergia joined the EU it would be helped in it;s battle with the larger nations. Much of Russian food is from us so if they stopped our oil we could stop their food.
Look at the USA being froced to cave in our demands on finances. Euroskeptics do not like the idea that this is fact.

11:32 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Maybe, but we need gas and oil to produce the things Russia wants.

11:34 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Dirty Euro, vis a vis food supplies. Could you tell me what information are you basing this on as this does not sound right to me (but hey happy to be proven wrong).

11:44 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

"These are controversies which bear witness to a prickly trade relationship between two large agricultural trading entities which are more reliant on each other, in different ways, than either would ideally like."


11:50 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Sorry one last thing Euro, why should Russia be punsihed for looking after it's owns citizens? The Georgians started this war, not them.

11:51 am, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

60 per cent of its exports go to the EU.
Russia stopping trade with the nations on it's western border would decimate it's economy. While the EU would just buy the oil of someone else. As small nations we can be bullied by russia as a union they are subservient to us. Euroskeptics hate this fact. But it is the simple truth, as was the case in the cold war. No russian leader would want to make a enemy of the UNion In fact it would be better for them to join. It is noticable when the president bush spoke it had no impact on russia,. when the UK PM and the french leader spoke they stopped. But the euroskeptics media will not report this fact as it pains them to accept common sense.

11:55 am, August 12, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Euro, thanks for the link. It does go on to say the Russians put an embargo on EU livestock, so I don't think they are as reliant on the EU as you make out (i.e. they won't starve and maybe they can look elsewhere for food), but I take the point they are important partners with us (4th largest importer of EU agri products in 2003).

With regards to energy, Russia counts for a 1/4 of the EUs energy requirements, a significant value I am sure you'll agree.

With gas and oil production based in an increasingly unstable area (the Middle East), which is starting to dwindle we would have our work cut out to make up the short fall.

The EU is not run by states; it is primarily a trading consortium with a market based philosophy. They will keep trading with Russia because it is fiscally sensible to so unfortunately. That’s capitalism!

12:07 pm, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Luke a little simplistic as you are not taking into account that the USA has been training and arming Georgia directly and via Israel. This again all revolves around fuel and oil and America obsession about gaining some control of it.

Such Western interference in such a sensitive region will almost certainly awake the great bear.

I certainly do not want to be drawn into a war with Russia, In fact I would refuse to be called in as a reserve if this was to happen.

What Russia has done is no different from what we have done in Iraq. I think this is something we should stay very clear of.

7:38 pm, August 12, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Well...not exactly. Whether we find this easy to explain or not the residents of South Ossetia look towards Russia. They are Russian citizens in the main, and are culturally Russian.

Si, I think it fair to assume that they welcomed Russian intervention. The same cannot be said for the Iraqi population.

11:32 pm, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Dirty Euro said...

The EU has won a peace deal between russia and georgia. Where is the thanks from the euro skeptics then ???????????????????

11:50 pm, August 12, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Yes mike very true although we were welcome initially as I was there. The problem was that Americas answer to insurgents was to bomb the hell out of whole towns killing everyone including women and children. This turned them against the British.

7:09 pm, August 13, 2008

Anonymous Ed said...

Dirty euro: your faith in the EU is rather touching, but the fact is that the ceasefire came about because Russia had accomplished its objectives, not because of the EU.

Russia's objectives were:

1) to drive Georgian forces back out of South Ossetia (and Abkhazia too, it seems). This has been completed.

2) cripple the Georgian military, which had been upgraded by the West, in order to prevent any further attack on South Ossetia. Russia has reportedly demolished the Georgian NATO-grade base at Gori as well as others, scuttled Georgian vessels and destroyed the command and control facilities to the point where the Georgian government was not aware of what was going on in other parts of the country.

3) punish Saakashvili for his attempt to seize South Ossetia.

All these things Russia completed, the EU representatives just arrived in time to get the formalities signed.

The responsibility for the bloodshed lie squarely with Georgia for attempting to seize South Ossetia by force and in the process killing Russian peacekeepers. No self-respecting country could stand idly while such an attack was carried out.

NATO members such as Germany were already against admitting Georgia because of its territorial disputes. This war has certainly sent Georgian hopes of joining NATO or the EU up in smoke as neither would want such an extreme liability.

As for us, I feel it makes far more sense to avoid needlessly antagonising Russia with pointless eastwards expansions of NATO, and instead to maintain good relations with Moscow in order to confront the real threats to security today, such as Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

10:00 pm, August 13, 2008

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

Luke, I suspect that the reaction that would come from NATO in the event of Georgia having been a member is exactly why it probably wouldn't get membership.

10:56 pm, August 13, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

Rich ; I have a friend in the RAF who says that the main thing that the British forces have to do is sort out the gung-ho Americans

I think that there is a difference between getting rid of Saddam and wanting to be ruled by an external power. For many people, life is worse now than in Saddam's era. many women, other minority - gays , Christians, for example.

11:45 pm, August 13, 2008

Anonymous Philip Jenkins said...

Luke, can you explain why what Milosevic did to the Kosovars (send the military in, ethnic cleansing) was wrong but what Saakashvili was doing to the Ossetes (send the military in, ethnic cleansing) was right? I can't and that's why with great reluctance I have come to the view that the Russians have a point, albeit one they have not been very good at communicating to the rest of the world.

12:24 am, August 14, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

Mike it's a lot worse now than under Saddam for the majority of people. We have destroyed a very wealthy country and now they are having to fund it's rebuild. Believe me it was not my intention to make life harder for Iraqi people, I had a orders to follow and that's what I did.

The biggest crime is how America is legalizing murder through the use of private security companies, such as KBR Blackwater. These are immune to prosecution and have no rules of engagement.

KBR Haliburton are also abusing the budget for the rebuild of Iraq. We and the Iraqi people are losing billions because of it.

My overall point really is that we are quick to point the finger at Russia but we forget about what we are doing in Iraq. Russia has no more right to be in Georgia as we do in Iraq. My opinion is that Bush should keep his mouth shut and we should leave the job to the French who appear to be making good progress.

5:16 pm, August 14, 2008

Anonymous Ed said...

The idea that Georgia can simply be "protected" by admitting it to NATO is silly.

Are we really going to risk war with a rapidly strengthening Russia, a country we should not forget possesses the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons and has double the GDP of Soviet days, for the sake of Georgia?

The current war was sparked by a Georgian attack. Do we want an alliance with an unstable country that recklessly attacks Russia? Would other NATO states go to war to defend Georgia if it started the war, or would they decide that this did not qualify as defensive?

Further, we should not imagine Georgia is a stable country like Poland or the Baltic states. This is a country with a 'frozen conflict' that rapidly thawed again. Do we want to risk a situation in which a skirmish between South Ossetian irregular forces and Georgia could get out of hand and drag us into war with Russia?

The answers to all these questions should indicate that Georgian membership of NATO would be totally unrealistic.

11:03 pm, August 15, 2008


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Free Hit Counters
OfficeDepot Discount