Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Georgian War could destroy Russia

The above article, posted on Paul Goble’s web site, is entitled “a New Georgian War Could Destroy Russia the Way Afghan Conflict Did the USSR, Latynina Warns.” I’ll quote from this article and comment below:

“. . . A new war with Georgia, something Russian officials and commentators are increasingly talking about, could have the same impact on the Russian Federation that the invasion of Afghanistan had on the USSR, according to Yuliya Latynina, a Moscow commentator who specializes on the Caucasus.”

“. . . Latynina suggests this risk is all the greater because Moscow does not now control the republics of the North Caucasus within the borders of the Russian Federation and thus does not see how the problems arising from a new Georgian war could spread northward (”

“. . . The Russian powers that be, she continues, “constantly declare that [they] are concerned about a new attack by Georgia.” But what this “literally means” is that “’We are not against beginning yet another war.’” And she reminds that these “declarations” are being made when the news from Chechnya, Daghestan, and Ingushetia is truly disturbing.”

“. . . Meanwhile in Ingushetia and Daghestan, the security situations are equally dire but different. In the former, a civil war is continuing, one that began under former republic President Murat Zyazikov and that his successor Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has only been a little able so far to overcome. And in Daghestan . . . [there are] Islamist extremists receiving “large sums directly from the republic budget” and enjoying the protection of both officials and big business in that ethnically diverse region.

“As for the breakaway republic of South Ossetia, the ostensible cause of the Russian-Georgian war a year ago, Latynina says that ‘Russia does not control” its president, cannot force him to stop the thieving or to begin reconstruction, and must deal with a population that has been kept “in the position of constant military hysteria.’

“. . . there could in fact be a new war between Moscow and Tbilisi even though . . . such a conflict would have every chance of ‘becoming for Russia that which the invasion of Afghanistan became for the USSR,” a step that would lead to the disintegration of Russia itself.”

". . . In her interview, Latynina does not mention what may be an even more disturbing reality about the relationship of the North Caucasus and the South Caucasus. Over the course of the last three centuries, Russia has never been able to control the former until and unless it controlled the latter, a pattern that points to still more crises ahead.”

“. . . fewer news organizations are covering the conflicts on the ground. The latest to pull out is Moscow’s “Novaya gazeta” which, after blasting Moscow for appearing to have given out “a license for murder” to local elites, announced today that it was suspending the work of its journalists in Chechnya ( ).”


I thought it one of the tragedies of Japan’s modern development that they came to the idea of “empire” late. They could see that Britain and France had seemingly vibrant empires and set about carving one out for themselves. What they could not see is that the age of empire was nearing its end. They started a very bloody war to obtain an empire that would prove costly and troublesome to them, had WWII not taken it from them. The only nation that has not been thoroughly convinced that empires are costly and troublesome is Russia.

I’ve read several articles about Russia recently that in summary warn that various elements of the Russian Federation are, or will become, costly and troublesome -- as they have civil wars, wars with their neighbors or seek independence. Is Russia so rich that it can afford that cost and trouble? I don’t think so. And yet the current administration in Russia doesn’t seem afraid (as Latynina tells us) of having another war in Georgia. Why is that? Does this administration think that such a war will unite Russia and make things easier? Does it think it will be worth the cost? Latynina doesn’t think so and neither do I.

Perhaps I don’t think so because I have seen what it has cost us to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We started out the richest nation in the world, and perhaps we still are, but we have accrued a debt it will take some time to pay off. Russia is a long way from being the richest nation in the world. Can it afford to fight a costly war in Georgia? We may very well find out. And if Russia impoverishes itself in a war with Georgia, maybe even enlisted men will be looking for work in the US army.

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