The Conflict in Georgia
Barbaric Georgian attack
On the night of 7/8 August, as the attention of the world was firmly focused on the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the arch reactionary Georgian regime of Mikheil Saakashvili, driven by an innate hatred of everything Russian, encouraged by the US’s promises of Georgian membership of NATO, having received enormous quantities of armament from the US and Israel, its army trained by 130 US ‘advisors’ as well as Israeli instructors, having secured the approval of the Bush administration, launched a barbaric onslaught on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. In this beastly attack, the Georgian forces killed up to 2,000 South Ossetians, most of them Russian citizens, and Russian peacekeeping troops. The entire city was flattened.
Despite repeated denials, the Georgian chauvinist regime drew first. In a nationwide broadcast at 11.05 pm local time, General Mamuka Quarashvili, the chief of peacekeeping operations at the Georgian defence ministry, announced the commencement of a massive Georgian offensive against South Ossetia to “restore constitutional order throughout the region”. Never even hinting at the presence of a Russian invasion force, for there was none at the time, he went on to say that the decision to launch the attack on Tskhinvali had been made by the “Georgian power wielding bodies”. Following this broadcast, as from 11.30pm that night, Georgian mortars, rockets, heavy 122 mm Grad missiles fired from truck-mounted launchers, US-supplied tanks and helicopters, pounded the South Ossetian capital, burning all houses, schools and the local hospital, forcing 30,000 South Ossetians to flee and seek refuge in Russia.
Devastating Russian response
The Georgian reactionary regime had hoped to achieve a quick victory through this surprise attack and resort to blitzkrieg. But it miscalculated badly, for the Russian response was swift and devastating. Russian troops burst their way through Georgia’s defences, often under the eyes of the overawed Georgian army, confiscating US Humvee vehicles, blowing up coastguard vessels, ransacking the most modern of Georgia’s military bases, smashing radar and other defences, capturing Georgian tanks, as well as small arms and ammunition.
In a desperate attempt to help its Georgian stooges, US imperialism flew back from Iraq 2,000 Georgian soldiers sent there by the reactionary Saakashvili regime to take part in the US-led genocidal war against the Iraqi people, but all to no avail. In the face of the Russian response, the Georgian army simply crumbled, with panic-gripped Georgian soldiers abandoning their vehicles as they retreated in a veritable stampede. Most of the destruction on the Georgian side was caused by elemental fear – heavy trucks crashing into each other head on, tanks run into ditches and simply abandoned. Even according to accounts in the imperialist media, biased as it is in favour of Georgia, it was a humiliating end to a spectacularly ill-conceived military adventure by the Saakashvili regime and its chief backer, US imperialism. Instead of the hoped-for quick and surgical strike, the Georgian assault turned into a botched mess and a bloody rout. With its army crippled, the future of the Saakashvili regime hangs in the balance, while its fantasy of forcibly capturing South Ossetia and Abkhazia lies in ruins. No amount of impotent rage on the part of Saakashvili, no lying propaganda on its behalf by the powerful imperialist print and electronic media, no hypocritical denunciations of the alleged Russian aggression by imperialist spokesmen, can save the Georgian reactionaries from the disaster of their own creation.
Russia’s actions in defence of its citizens and to put an end to genocide by the Georgian reactionary regime have, not unexpectedly, been greeted by an orchestrated chorus of condemnation by imperialist ideologues and statesmen, as well as their stooges in eastern and central Europe. Russia is accused of having violated Georgia’s sovereignty by the very powers which don’t give a damn about even the concept of sovereignty, who routinely invade and occupy other countries, overthrow their elected governments, kill millions of people and wreak havoc on their economies and infrastructure – all in the name of humanitarian interventionism, which is just a thinly disguised cover for imperialist aggression, brigandage, rapine and domination by the robber barons of monopoly capitalism from a tiny handful of exceptionally rich and exceptionally powerful countries. This gentry now have the temerity to accuse Russia of behaving like a 19th-century power and a reversion to spheres of influence and balance of power policies.
US president George W Bush, of the notoriety of Iraq and Afghanistan predatory wars, with the blood of a million Iraqis on his hands, foams at the mouth at the alleged Russian aggression. “There can be no going back on fundamental principles of territorial integrity, democratic governance and international law”, says the ridiculous moron, David Miliband, ‘forgetting’ that he is the foreign secretary of a country which is the chief partner of US imperialism in the predatory imperialist wars of genocide against the Iraqi and Afghan people, a country that had no respect in the past, and does not have now, for the sovereignty of other, especially weak, states.
Representatives of smaller imperialist powers, taking their cue from the bigger imperialist powers, have joined the anti-Russia bandwagon. Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, has criticised Russia for behaving as “a 19th century power”.
Mikheil Saakashvili, leader of the puppet Georgian regime, which, at the behest of its masters in Washington, sent a 2,000-strong contingent of soldiers to occupy Iraq and violate the latter’s sovereignty, and which started the present conflict in an effort unilaterally, with the force of arms, to put an end to the autonomous status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, now cries foul and bleats impotently: “Moscow’s goal is to redraw the map of Europe using force. The story is no longer about my small country, but the West’s ability to stand its ground to defend principled approach to international security and keep the map of Europe intact” (‘Moscow’s plan is to redraw the map of Europe’, Financial Times, 28 August 2008, M Saakashvili). In writing these lines, the dolt ‘forgets’ that since the collapse of the once glorious Soviet Union, the map of Europe has already been redrawn – not by Moscow but by Washington. All that the Kremlin may be guilty of is putting its foot down and firmly saying: thus far and no further.
The very newspapers, and the pack of mercenary journalists, who have acted as cheer leaders for imperialism’s predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for Zionism’s never-ceasing war against the Palestinian people, and for every other imperialist outrage anywhere in the world, have now begun to feign respect for international law and a disdain for the use of force. Having characterised Russia as a bully in its editorial of 19 August, the Financial Times, in a subsequent leading article accuses Russia of entertaining “… a misguided desire to rewrite the international book of rules” (‘Russia’s gamble could backfire’, 27 August). The Financial Times merely ‘forgot’ to add that the international book of rules had already been rewritten – by Anglo-American imperialism, not Russia.
The very clever, yet stupid, Mr Philip Stephens, a supporter of imperialist wars in the name of “humanitarian interventionism”, writing in the Financial Times of 15 August fulminates thus: “Mr Putin’s worldview has no place for the post-modern [whatever that means] approach to international relations of his western neighbours. Europe stands for a global order based on co-operative norms and rules. Moscow prefers the use of force” (‘The vulnerabilities that lie behind Putin’s belligerence’). The audacious mendacity of this foul utterance is simply breathtaking! Which Europe, with its alleged commitment to “co-operative norms and rules”, is Mr Stephens writing about? Could it be the same Europe that is busy waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; which routinely looks the other way while the Israeli fascist occupation regime conducts its suppression and war of annihilation against the Palestinian people; which has been redrawing the map of Europe through the extension of the EU and NATO to the borders of Russia; which is contending for world domination through the creation of a military industrial complex of its own; which, while contending with the US, is also collaborating with the latter in attempts to encircle Russia and China with the aim of securing domination and seizing monopoly control of the oil and gas resources and other mineral wealth of the vast region stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia; a Europe that shamelessly waged a war against the sovereign republic of Yugoslavia, rained wholesale death and destruction on it, broke it up into several pieces and, in complete violation of UN resolutions, detached Kosovo from Serbia, conferring statehood on this NATO colony; a Europe that is complicit in the Ethiopian war of aggression against the Somali people; a Europe … but enough? If indeed the Putin government in Russia was to be guilty of the charges levelled against it, which it is not, if it was to hold the world view attributed to it by the likes of Mr Stephens, far from being alien to the real approach (as opposed to the delirious fantasies of Mr Stephens) to international relations of the Western powers, it would be at the centre of such an approach – an approach based, not on co-operative norms and rules, but on use of force, violation of national sovereignty and disregard for territorial integrity.
Following the Georgian debacle in South Ossetia, the crushing defeat suffered by it at the hands of Russia, the imperialist media have attempted to portray Georgia, the aggressor instigated and abetted by imperialism, especially the US, as a little David engaged in a courageous mortal combat against the Russian Goliath; it has tried to paint a picture of Russia as a bully which, through its intervention on behalf of its citizens, has become isolated, friendless and a pariah among nations. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is in fact the imperialist view – that the world should support the alleged underdog, Georgia, against Russia – which has no takers around the world at large. Neither India nor China, nor Latin America, Africa and the Middle Eastern countries are moved to protest against Russia. As a matter of fact, most countries and the overwhelming majority of humanity support Russia against the bullying imperialist powers. There is a deep and wide chasm between the imperialist narrative and the rest of the world, which sees nothing but hypocrisy and double standards in the pronouncements of the spokesmen and ideologues of imperialism. Even if one concludes that almost all the inhabitants of the imperialist countries are on the side of their governments, which is not the case, one must realise that 700 million – the combined population of the US, the EU and Australasia – constitute a mere 10 per cent of the global population, pitted against the remaining 90 percent who, refusing to be its objects, have become subjects of history.
All the imperialist bravado about Russia’s alleged isolation is merely a cover for the setback the US and its allies have suffered in the Caucasus. By administering a stunningly devastating blow to the Georgian army, nurtured and trained by the US and Israeli military personnel, supplied with weaponry by the US, Russia has humiliatingly exposed the limits of the imperialist powers’ support for its stooges in the region, who are so keen to join NATO and help the latter in encircling Russia. The Georgian adventure is a continuation of imperialism’s efforts to redraw international borders in the former USSR and eastern and central Europe in the wake of the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since 1998, NATO has been enlarged twice, with three ex-Soviet republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, enlisted as new members. Now Ukraine and Georgia have expressed a keen interest to join it. The NATO ministerial meeting in Bucharest last April stated that they could eventually join this war-mongering outfit. The EU has expanded eastwards, while the US-engineered coups d’état, dubbed as the Orange and Rose revolutions, have brought into office congenitally anti-Russian governments in the Ukraine and Georgia respectively. These developments, combined with the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the US plans to site its missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, constitute an unbearable provocation and a mortal danger to Russia. Consequently, Russia has finally made up its mind to pick up the gauntlet and deliver a deadly blow to these provocations, asserting through president Dmitry Medvedev that “historically Russia was and will remain the guarantor of security for the peoples of the Caucasus”. It is a thinly-veiled warning to NATO to keep its snout out of the Caucasus. To strengthen its position, Russia is busy cultivating ties with anti-US regimes from Venezuela and Cuba to Iran and Syria. It is deepening relations with the central Asian countries and China; in July it signed a landmark border demarcation agreement with China.
What is at issue in this conflict can be simply stated thus: Is Georgia to remain an outpost of Euro-Atlanticism or a country with friendly and close relations with Moscow. A Tbilisi government friendly to Moscow would be tantamount to a crushing blow to the ambitions of imperialism to grab the oil and gas reserves of the Caspian region. In the aftermath of the Georgian army’s defeat, Caspian oil producers are more than likely to avoid in the future the Caucasus export routes; Azerbaijan will be under pressure to commit its future gas production to the Russian export routes rather than to the planned Nabucco pipelines across the Caucasus to Europe, which are at the centre of the EU’s strategy to bypass Russia and Iran and reduce its dependence on Russian gas. A Moscow-friendly government in Tbilisi is bound to create the perception of Georgia being a de facto Russian export route, forcing imperialism to reassess its relations with the Iranian regime.
Imperialist rhetoric and impotence
Following the ignominious Georgian defeat, imperialist countries have stepped up their anti-Russia rhetoric, being fully aware that there is not much they can do in practice to counter Russian successes on the ground. At its Brussels summit on 19 August, NATO declared that there will be no “business as usual” in its dealing with Russia.
On 20 August Washington and Warsaw hurried to sign an agreement to establish a US missile base on Polish soil with ten interceptor rockets in Poland, and an accompanying radar station in the Czech Republic already agreed. The alleged purpose behind the installation of this system is to counter the non-existent threats from Iran and North Korea, while actually it is designed to undermine Russian defences. Russia has warned that it could target its missiles on Poland and also deploy a similar system of its own.
Meanwhile, Russia retaliated by announcing on 21 August that it would halt all co-operation with NATO until further notice. There is even the likelihood of Russia disallowing the use of its territory for the transit of supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. By way of reply to the rising anti-Russia crescendo of imperialism, president Medvedev declared on 26 August that Russia had decided to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which have enjoyed a de facto independent existence following a brief civil war in the early 1990s. The following day, David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary, travelled to Ukraine to drum up an anti-Russian coalition, but with little to show for it owing to deep divisions within the EU and NATO. Commenting on western imperialist bluster and threats of unleashing a new Cold War, the Russian president stated in a television interview on 26 August that “… nothing frightens us, including the prospects of a Cold War”, adding however, “but we do not want this and in this situation all depends on the position of our partners”.
Georgia’s unprovoked aggression against South Ossetia, Russia’s response to it, the sweeping Russian victory and the humiliating defeat of the Georgian army, have served to emphasise the despair and the helplessness of Georgia’s imperialist masters, especially the US. There is nothing that the latter can do to confront Russia. And this for the following reasons:
First, the US and its principal allies are already mired in unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are bleeding their armies and treasuries alike.
Second, in view of their predatory wars against Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, the destruction and break-up of Yugoslavia and the forcible separation of Kosovo from Serbia by them, the killing of over a million Iraqis, as well as tens of thousands of Afghans and Yugoslavs, the continued occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by them, the indiscriminate bombing and destruction wrought upon these countries by their armies of aggression, the leading imperialist countries have lost all moral authority to lecture the Russians on questions of sovereignty, territorial integrity, loss of life and human rights. Ordinary people even in the centres of imperialism argue that since the US, Britain and their satellites, including Georgia, attacked Iraq without justification, what right do they have to complain about the Russian military response to Georgia’s aggression? Andrew Sullivan, a prominent US conservative blogger and a one-time supporter of the Iraq war, recently wrote: “May be we should start complaining when as many Georgians have perished as Iraqis – and when Putin has thrown thousands of innocent Georgians into torture chambers” (quoted in ‘Washington remains hobbled by Iraq’, Clive Crook, Financial Times, 18 August).
Third, they need access to the growing Russian market and Russian energy. Europe is reliant for 40 per cent of its energy, including a quarter of its gas supplies, on Russia, which puts paid to any idea of economic sanctions against Russia as these would hurt Europe more than they would Russia. Besides, Russia’s finances are in a healthy state, for it receives $1billion a day from exports of oil, gas and oil products; it has managed to accumulate international currency reserves to the tune of $581billion (€316billion, £245billion) – the third largest currency reserves in the world; and it has a huge trade surplus. Threats of excluding Russia from the meetings of the G8 group of industrialised countries and blocking Russia’s application to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) carry little weight, for the former is increasingly irrelevant and the benefits of the latter are of dubious value to Russia.
Fourth, there are deep divisions within the imperialist camp over this question, with Germany, France and Italy opposing any action of a kind likely to bring about a direct confrontation with Russia. Precisely for this reason, the communiqué issued at the end of the 27-nation EU emergency summit in Brussels on 1 September made no threat of economic sanctions against Russia. “The German position is”, said the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, “that we should not break off dialogue with Russia”. This represents a defeat for the bellicose stance of the UK, Poland and the Baltic states. The only course proposed at this non-event of a summit was to postpone talks on a new partnership agreement between the EU and Russia unless Moscow withdrew its forces from Georgia to the positions they occupied before the latest fighting. This is a token gesture since the new agreement is to replace the existing 10-year agreement entered into in 1997, which both parties have agreed to keep in force.
Further, countries such as Germany have serious reservations about Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO. In a little-reported comment made during her recent visit to Tbilisi, apparently to show solidarity with the Georgian regime, Angela Merkel stressed that Germany still had misgivings, expressed at a NATO meeting in Bucharest last April, about the start of membership talks with Georgia. “The question we discussed [in Bucharest] was whether the Membership Action Plan should kick in at a specific date”, she said. “There was disagreement. I cannot say today when this process will start. I want to make it clear that what we said in Bucharest is just as valid today as it was then”. This stance of Chancellor Merkel has the full support of the leading lights of the two major German parties – the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats – all of whom agree that the latest conflict in Georgia must not be allowed to stand in the way of Germany’s rapport with Russia. Not only are the two German coalition partners agreed that Russia’s stance “is better addressed via co-operation and dialogue than through attempts to isolate Russia”, they have also resisted blaming Russia for the conflict in Georgia – much to the irritation of the US, Britain and their Baltic and Polish stooges. The US’s efforts to mobilise other NATO states to Georgia’s cause had very little, is any, success.
Resistance to imperialist bullying
Undoubtedly, just as oppression breeds resistance, similarly imperialist bullying, aggression and war give rise to forces willing and able to resist and defeat such overweening behaviour and predatory wars. In addition, the various forces engaged in active resistance against imperialism constitute objectively a system of support for each other. The heroic resistance of the Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian people has so pinned and worn down the ability of the various imperialist powers that they are powerless to do anything meaningful to help their client regime in Georgia when challenged by Russia. Likewise, the Russian pressure in the Caucasus is sure to provide considerable relief to the forces resisting imperialism elsewhere – from the Middle East to Latin America and elsewhere.
Being fully aware of the preoccupation of US imperialism and other NATO powers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and being provided with a reason for war by the Georgian adventurist regime acting as a surrogate for US imperialism, Russia struck back and at one blow achieved almost all of its aims. The US, which poured in military trainers into Georgia, supplied it with weaponry and backed NATO membership for it, in the end proved powerless and paralysed in the face of the Russian counter attack. Unable to save Georgia, the leading lights of the Bush administration were left wringing their hands, shrugging their shoulders and feigning to be morally outraged by Russian behaviour.
For their part, the Russians have ended the threat of conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia by separating them forever from Georgia; they have convinced the European powers that Georgian membership of NATO is not a very clever idea, unless the west Europeans want to got to war with Russia over Georgia; they have re-established their position as the principal power in the Caucasus and given notice to NATO to keep off its bounds; they have exposed the US as incapable of saving its stooge regimes in the area; and, to a considerable extent, they have broken out of a sense of encirclement through the seemingly unstoppable expansion of NATO eastwards and made sure that Georgia and the Ukraine never join this neo-Nazi military outfit.
Return of history
So, what has been the outcome of the Georgian conflict? Just the opposite of that expected by those who started it, namely, Georgia and its chief backer – US imperialism – is the answer. But the significance of this conflict is much greater than that and goes far beyond the narrow confines of Georgia and the Caucasus. Writing in the Financial Times of 21 August 2008, Kishore Mahbubani, dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, made this penetrating observation in this regard;
“Sometimes small events can portend great changes. The Georgian fiasco may be one such event. It heralds the end of the post-cold war era. But it does not mark the return of a new cold war. It marks an even bigger return: the return of history.
“The post cold-war era began on a note of western triumphalism, symbolised by Francis Fukuyama’s book ‘The End of History’. The title was audacious but it captured the western zeitgeist. History had ended with the triumph of western civilisation. The rest of the world had no choice but to capitulate to the advance of the west.
“In Georgia, Russia has loudly declared that it will no longer capitulate to the west. After two decades of humiliation Russia has decided to snap back. Before long, other forces will do the same. As a result of its overwhelming power, the west has intruded into the geopolitical spaces of other dormant countries. They are no longer dormant, especially in Asia” (‘The West is strategically wrong on Georgia’).
Indeed, the Georgian misadventure and the crushing Russian response constitute, as it were, a supplemental addition to the continuing and unabated anti-imperialist resistance in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and many other countries.
A big and powerful country such as Russia, the only country possessed of a nuclear arsenal capable of annihilating the US, beginning seriously to challenge US hegemony, is a source of great strength to the forces resisting imperialism everywhere and destroys forever the imperialist reactionary dreams of the end of history. Imperialism, far from being the final destination, is merely a transitional system in humanity’s advance to a higher social system – socialism and communism.