We’re not talking about the great state of Georgia, which deserves everything it has coming to it and more. We’re talking about the Republic of Georgia, a nation of 4.5 million people wedged between Russia and Turkey.
On Wednesday, September 3, the White House announced a comprehensive aid package valued at $1.1 billion dollars to help the Republic of Georgia recover from the whipping it took after it attacked Russian peace keeping forces in South Ossetia, a breakaway province of Georgia near the Russian border. That region experienced a major war in 1991 and varying tensions since.
Russian personnel were in Georgia as part of a multi-national peace keeping regime created by the United Nations and endorsed by the European Union in 2006.
When the Soviet Union dissolved, Georgia was one the few Soviet republics to successfully declare its independence. This resulted in tensions with the Russian government and also generated real concern among those living in South Osettia. They’re not ethnic Georgians and have experienced periodic conflict with the government. As a result of war related violence in 1991, for example, 100,000 fled South Ossetia for refuge and safety in Russia.
South Ossetia held two national elections which endorsed independence form Georgia. The Georgians refuse to recognize this claim and, unlike Kosovo, which had no elections, there was little international support for the aspiring nation. As a result, there have been ongoing skirmishes and political conflicts between the South Ossetia and Georgia from 1991 on.
Tensions between Russia and Georgia had been building in recent months. On Aug. 7, 2008, the Georgian president issued orders to his negotiators to meet with the chief Russian negotiator.
We should find all the means to stop incidents and to stop the violence, to stop threats and creating of problems to the peaceful population. Of course, we will show maximum restraint, but we do not recommend anyone to continue provocations.
— Mikheil Saakashvili, Aug, 7, 2008, 12:45
A few hours later, the government of Georgia said it had “decided to restore constitutional order in the entire region” of South Ossetia” through military efforts. By the afternoon of Aug, 8, officials in South Ossetia confirmed that, “Numerous Georgian military units are moving towards the border [with the breakaway region]” and that Georgia was carrying out “large scale military attacks” against their country.
The TimesOnline (London) reported that this was the start of military conflict. They’re clear that the conflict was initiated by the military actions announced by the Georgian government on August 8, 2008.
“Russia and Georgia edged dangerously close to direct conflict today after Tbilisi (Georgia) launched an overnight offensive to regain control over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
“Fighting raged around the city of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetians capital, as Georgian troops backed by tanks and warplanes pounded separatist forces. At least 15 people were reported to have been killed.”
Those who insist that Russia started the military phase of this conflict need only check in with the government of Georgia. On Aug. 8, 2008, at 12:35, a Georgia news agency reported that “A senior official from the Georgian Ministry of Defense said Georgia had ‘decided to restore constitutional order in the entire region’ of South Ossetia.” The release went on to say that Georgia took the military action after the South Ossetia refused to accept a cease fire.
Russian military actions came after the attacks on South Ossetia by the Republic of Georgia. The only people who fail to acknowledge this are found in the U.S. political and media establishment.
Today, we’re all Georgians!
— Sen. John McCain, Republican Presidential Candidate, Associated Press, Aug., 12, 2008
McCain’s battle cry drew little response form the general public. It did fall in line with Bush administration policies, however.
The leader of Georgia responsible for initiating the conflict, President Mikheil Saakashvili, is a U.S. trained lawyer who took power in Georgia in 2004 through the “Rose Revolution.” The Bush administration and private groups helped advance the claim that Georgia’s government had committed election fraud and lacked legitimacy.
George Soros, the activist billionaire, provided $42 million to oust the former government with the help of Freedom House, headed at that time by former CIA Director James Woolsey. Other private foundation funded “democracy” groups helped as well. Saakashvili had the foresight to hire Sen. John McCain’s current foreign policy adviser as his DC lobbyist, Randy Scheunemann.
There were well organized public protests in the capitol, a chorus of international pressure for change, and Saakashvili was swept into power.
With Saakashvili in charge, U.S. and European firms made major investments in the nation and then praised the new government for rapid economic growth accounted for by those investments. Improvements to ports and infrastructure for a U.S.- European oil pipeline, intended to bypass Russia, were a central focus of the investments.
Once in power, the proponents of democracy followed the path of those they’d replaced by turning the country into a virtual one party state. Charges of corruption like that under the old regime have become more common. There are also charges that Saakashvili and his party are engaged in election fraud like that of the previous rulers.
Nevertheless, U.S. support has been unwavering. On July 10, less than a month before Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, Condoleezza Rice was in the Georgian capital lending U.S. support to Georgia’s “territorial integrity,” by which she meant the disputed area of South Ossetia.
Shortly after he attacked, President Saakashvili must have been further encouraged by White House orders to promptly fly 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq to help fight the Russians.
The Russians responded to the attack by Georgia in about the same way that the United States would be expected to respond if Cuba, for example, attacked U.S. military personnel conducting official business close to our borders. How hard was it to anticipate the disastrous outcome?
The volatile Georgian president held a bizarre press conference on Aug. 15 after it was clear that there would be no U.S. or other troops coming to his aid. Speaking at a joint press conference with Condoleezza Rice, Saakashvili blamed the Russian invasion on a NATO meeting in April 2008 where Georgia failed to gain admission to that organization. He said that Russia began a military buildup along the border that somehow made it clear that Russia intended to attack his tiny republic.
He skipped over some important events (like his troops attacking South Ossetia) and lashed out at the United States and Europe with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next to him: “So who invited the trouble here? Who invited this arrogance here? Who invited these innocent deaths here? Who is – not only those people who perpetrate them are responsible, but also those people who failed to stop it.”
In a clear contradiction to his claimed knowledge of an imminent threat of invasion, the president of Georgia indicated that he had no idea that a Russian military action was about to take place: “When the thing started, I had to rush back, cut my holiday short when the tensions started to raise.”
The very odd gap in Saakashvili’s narrative concerns his orders for a Georgian attack on South Ossetia on Aug. 7, 2008. He knew that Russian personnel were present in South Ossetia. How could he forget about his order to restore Georgian “constitutional authority” by sending his troops on the offensive? What did he think the Russians would do? Did he actually expect that the United States would attack the Russians in response? And what kind of chief executive goes on holiday when he’s convinced that his country is about to be attacked?
After a joint press conference where he insulted the United States for inviting “these innocent deaths” by inaction, the Bush administration decided to give him $1.1 billion to repair the damage that resulted from the rash actions by the Georgian president.
So Why are We Giving Georgia $1.1 Billion Dollars?
Sen. McCain had a point when he said that “Today, we’re all Georgians.” In fact, the Bush-Cheney regime and the cooperating “democracy” groups gave birth, so to speak, to the current Georgian state.
Could it be that some of the patrons of those who helped create Georgia will benefit from the $1.1 billion dollar aid bill?
If so, then a portion of the billion dollars will subsidize those firms that made the initial investments after Saakashvili s rise to power. These folks were truly Georgians on Aug. 12 when Georgia was put in its place. They’ll surely be in line for the largess handed out by the fathers of Georgian democracy, the president and vice president of the United States of America.
The Russian response to Georgia’s attack on August 8 was predictable. They have a number of vital interests in the region. The provocation by the tiny Republic of Georgia was a gift. It created an opportunity to extend Russian influence in response to an attack on their peace keeping personnel. In retrospect, this outcome was probably guaranteed with the installation of an intemperate, rash leader who received nothing but praise as he replicated the policies and tactics of the corrupt regime that he helped remove from power.
Giving Georgia a billion dollars may simply recycle those funds to U.S. firms that are doing business there. In addition, this financial reward will reinforce the tactically challenged president of Georgia for his grandiosity and lack of restraint. It may even create the opportunity for yet another Russian smack down followed by outraged reaction from those whose tears are more likely from joy at the ever expanding opportunity to promote the cycle of war and rebuilding around the world paid for by the hard work and taxes of the citizens of the United States.