11 August, 2008

Russian "peacekeeping"

The term "peacekeeping" has a fairly straightforward definition. The Russians claim the 1500-man Operational Group of Russian Forces inTrandnestria (seperatist Republic of Moldova) and the CIS-authorized force in Abkhazia (Georgia), as well as the forces operating in South Ossetia as "peacekeeping" forces and claims they operate under the authority of the UN. The UN includes none of them in its official list of peacekeeping forces.

The official mandate of the the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) "peacekeepers" in Abkhazia ended in 2003, but last I heard (May) about 2500 Russian troops remained. Georgia has tried to get the Russians out, to be replaced by a larger UN force, but of course it has gotten nowhere. The UN Security Council refers to the "CIS collective peackeeping operation" in its regular (6 month) reauthorization of the official peacekeeping operation in Ossetia, UNOMIG. If it didn't include that phrase, the Russians would veto reauthorization.

Besides, according to Russia’s Ambassador in Georgia, “The Russian constitution stipulates protecting Russian citizens wherever they may be --- whether in Abkhazia, Zanzibar, Antarctica, wherever,” and President Medvedev (Interfax, Aug 11) is saying that the operation is almost finished. Some quotes:
"The task of forcing the Georgian side, the Georgian authorities, to
[accept] peace in South Ossetia has almost been achieved. Tskhinvali is
under the control of the reinforced Russian peacekeeping contingent."

"We – I mean the Russian peacekeepers – will take all further necessary
measures to protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens."

“From the political point of view Georgia’s aggression has ruined the
process of searching of the peaceful solution for the Georgian-Ossetian
problem. As a result Georgia has hit an irreparable damage to its
territorial integrity."
The Georgians are looking for help. They won't get much. They really screwed up, and the Russians are taking full advantage ot it.


Bo DiMuccio said...

"They really screwed up ..." I guess when the same thing happens in Ukraine, it will be the Ukranians fault also? As for a general commentary on what's going on, if I could say it any better than Robert Kagan, I would. But I can't so I won't:


The aggressors that we try to appease aren't always clumsy about it. Throughout recent history the good ones have deftly played Western/democratic sensibilities to get what they want. Anyway, I agree with Kagan. Russia is doing exactly that right now and it seems to be working, at least in the early going.

Daniel McIntosh said...

I don't mean to imply that the Russians are the good guys in this situation--anything but. I'd love to see Georgia find some way to make the Bear pay, and pay, for this. Where they screwed up was with the assumption that the US had the local capabilities and the will to come to their aid. In part, that was encouraged by American statements in praise of Georgian democracy, and in appreciation to its contributions in Iraq. If Georgia was a member of NATO they might even have pulled it off. However, Georgia is not a member of NATO in part because the current members didn't want to risk their forces in something like this. Russia understood that far better than the Georgians did.

The next question I have is will the Russians get greedy? Short term advantage here could prompt long term problems in places like Ukraine, where the Black Sea fleet only has a lease to 2012.

What scares me most is the "we'll protect Russian citizens (as defined by Russia, and not necessarily "nationals") where ever they may be. That is a direct threat to every country in reach of Russian tanks.

Daniel McIntosh said...

I should have read Kagan's comment first.

He says "history is back" and he's right. Heck, it Never Left. In a sense, that was the big error--if Georgia thought it could ignore Russian power and goals because "countries don't do that sort of thing anymore" they were naive. If they thought the US and/or NATO would offer more than diplomatic support, they were wrong.

It seems to me the Georgians could have learned a lot from the Finns. They *know* there are limits to what hey can get away with, and so maintain formal non-alignment as well as a NATO PfP.