Thursday, August 14, 2008
This is great. Syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker has the personalities down pat for President Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain. Here is her take on the possible letters each one wrote to Mr. Putin after the Russian invasion of Georgia:
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Kathleen Parker - Washington Post Writer's Group
August 13, 2008
From President George W. Bush:
Beijing is weird. First of all, you can't breathe the air. Second, how 'bout those drummers? Sure, they're perfect, but that's the point. A billion Chinese see 2,000 drummers in sync and say, "Well done, my little emperor son." I see 2,000 drummers all moving with one motion and I'm thinking: "Whoa." Can anybody say MIL-I-TAR-Y PRE-CI-SION?
Hey, which reminds me. What's up with Georgia? This is not good, Vlad. You and I have had our moments. And, OK, fine, your dog's bigger than mine. A lot bigger. Stronger and faster, too. We got it. But you can't just go invading democratically elected countries that are U.S. allies. You can't have everything, Vlad. If you don't stop, I'm going to have to do something and you know I don't want that. What I want is for you to not make me look like a fool.
Look, Vlad. Seven years ago, it was you and me in Crawford. We had a blast. You loved my truck! We bonded. I went out on a very big limb and told the whole dadgum world that we were soul mates. "I looked the man in the eye," I said. "I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy," I said. Oh, yeah, and, "We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Trustworthy, Vlad. Got soul? Why not just hire the Goodyear Blimp and paint "Mission Accomplished" on the side? Here's the deal, Vlad. I love ya, man. But you gotta stop this. If you don't call a cease-fire and leave those Georgians alone, I'm going to have to whomp you upside the head. Just kiddin.' But you know how this looks. Your invasion of a sovereign neighboring state is unacceptable in the 21st century -- blahblahblah -- and you're hurting Russia's standing in the world, not to mention our relationship.
Oh, and by the way. We're talking 4 million people here. Four million, Vlad. You wanna let the big dog eat? Fine. Pick on somebody your own size. And yes, your pecs are bigger than mine. Whatever. Hey, gotta split. It's Kobe time. Take care and give my love to that cute little gymnast of yours.
P.S. Did you catch the American women's beach volleyball team?
From Sen. Barack Obama:
Dear (Former) President Putin:
I'm sorry to be writing this e-mail instead of meeting you in person, preferably in the Oval Office, where I belong. Soon, soon.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the foregoing, I felt it imperative that I express my deep concern about Russia's invasion of the tiny, democratically elected sovereign nation of Georgia. It would appear that you are not familiar with my platform for change and hope. War does not fit into this template, and I am quite frankly at a loss for words to express my deep, deep distress.
As the chosen leader of a new generation of Americans who speak a global language of peace, hope, harmony and change, this is simply unacceptable. Quite frankly, your actions pose potentially severe, long-term consequences. I'm not sure what those might be, but they won't be nice or fun.
Please picture me looking very serious when I say that I respectfully request you to calm down. Life is but a flicker in time, and we're but actors strutting and fretting. That is to say, we're all on this planetary journey together and our karma is interrelated and interdependent. Thus, it would seem that our differences are best resolved through words, not bombs.
It is said that war is a failure of diplomacy. I would submit that it is also counterintuitive. If my Kenyan father and my Kansan mother and my multinational upbringing taught me anything, it is that we are all One. That said, I am The One the world has been waiting for -- and you are, quite frankly, blocking my chi.
As soon as possible, I'd like to sit down and begin talking about how we can resolve these and other differences that threaten peace-loving people, which I'm sure includes you. I haven't looked into your eyes and would never presume to know your soul, but I do know that we share a common humanity and that we can all just get along.
Yours in Global Harmony,
Acting President Barack Obama
From Sen. John McCain:
Don't make me come over there.
Kathleen Parker can be reached at email@example.com.
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Prime Minister Vlad K.G.B. Putin needs to clean up his act....
Charles M. Grist
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Even while I was in Iraq, detailed intelligence and event analysis by Strategic Forecasting, Inc. proved invaluable. This report is a fascinating in-depth analysis of how the war in Georgia has affected the balance of power in the world (above photo is a Russian convoy enroute to Tbilisi):
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Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
THE RUSSO-GEORGIAN WAR AND THE BALANCE OF POWER
By George Friedman
The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.
Let's begin simply by reviewing the last few days.
On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.
On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region's absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded -- within hours of the Georgian attack -- the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.
On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.
The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia's move was deliberate.
The United States is Georgia's closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia's mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?
It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but -- along with the Georgians -- miscalculated Russia's intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well -- indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow's calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.
The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.
That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO's expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.
The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia's national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion -- publicly stated -- was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.
The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo's separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts -- including demands by various regions for independence from Russia -- might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia's requests were ignored.
From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.
Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn't mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.
Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.
By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.
The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.
The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.
Therefore, the United States has a problem -- it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran – and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow's interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).
In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn't all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.
The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia's public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened -- it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to www.stratfor.com.
Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
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Keep watching for more reports from Strategic Forecasting, Inc. on the many areas of concern throughout the world.
Charles M. Grist
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Today in the New York Post, Ralph Peters discusses the world’s newest war from an American perspective.
It is also interesting to see how the other side views this conflict. The second article appeared today in the Washington Post and it is the opinion of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the now-defunct Soviet Union:
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New York Post
August 12, 2008
Russia Goes Rogue
...and America wimps out
By Ralph Peters
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of what’s unfolding as we watch. Russia’s invasion of Georgia — a calculated, unprovoked aggression — is a crisis that may have more important strategic implications than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
We’re seeing the emergence of a rogue military power with a nuclear arsenal.
The response of our own government has been beyond lame — and our media’s uncritical acceptance of Moscow’s version of events is infuriating.
This is the "new" Russia announcing — in blood — that it won’t tolerate freedom and self-determination along its borders. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is putting it bluntly: Today, Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine (and the Baltic states had better pay attention).
Georgia’s affiliation with the European Union, its status as a would-be NATO member, its working democracy — none of it deterred Putin.
Nor does Putin’s ambition stop with the former Soviet territories. His air force has been trying (unsuccessfully) to hit the new gas pipeline running from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. The Kremlin is telling Europe: We not only have the power to turn off Siberian gas, we can turn off every tap in the region, any time we choose.
Let’s be clear: For all that US commentators and diplomats are still chattering about Russia’s "response" to Georgia’s actions, the Kremlin spent months planning and preparing this operation. Any soldier above the grade of private can tell you that there’s absolutely no way Moscow could’ve launched this huge ground, air and sea offensive in an instantaneous "response" to alleged Georgian actions.
As I pointed out Saturday, even to get one armored brigade over the Caucasus Mountains required extensive preparations. Since then, Russia has sent in the equivalent of almost two divisions — not only in South Ossetia, the scene of the original fighting, but also in separatist Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast.
The Russians also managed to arrange the instant appearance of a squadron of warships to blockade Georgia. And they launched hundreds of air strikes against pre-planned targets.
Every one of these things required careful preparations. In the words of one US officer, "Just to line up the airlift sorties would’ve taken weeks."
Working through their mercenaries in South Ossetia, Russia staged brutal provocations against Georgia from late July onward. Last Thursday, Georgia’s president finally had to act to defend his own people.
But when the mouse stirred, the cat pounced.
The Russians know that we know this was a setup. But Moscow’s Big Lie propagandists still blame Georgia — even as Russian aircraft bomb Georgian homes and Russian troops seize the vital city of Gori in the country’s heart. And Russian troops also grabbed the Georgian city of Zugdidi to the west — invading from Abkhazia on a second axis.
Make no mistake: Moscow intends to dismember Georgia.
This is the most cynical military operation by a "European" power since Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979. (Sad to say, President Bush seems as bewildered now as President Jimmy Carter did then.)
This attack’s worse, though. Georgia is an independent, functioning democracy affiliated with the European Union and hoping to join NATO. It also has backed our Iraq efforts with 2,000 troops. (We’re airlifting them back home.)
This invasion recalls Hitler’s march into Czechoslovakia — to protect ethnic Germans, he claimed, just as Putin claims to be protecting Russian citizens — complete BS.
It also resembles Hitler’s invasion of Poland — with the difference that, in September ’39, European democracies drew the line. (To France’s credit, its leaders abandoned their August vacations to call Putin out — only Sen. Barack Obama remains on the beach.)
Yet our media give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Not one major news outlet even bothers to take issue with Putin’s wild claim that the Georgians were engaged in genocide.
I lack sufficiently powerful words to express my outrage over Russia’s bloody cynicism in attacking a small, free people, or to castigate our media for its inane coverage — or to condemn our own government’s shameful flight from responsibility.
Just as Moscow has reverted to its old habit of sending in tanks to snuff out freedom, Washington has defaulted to form by abandoning Georgia to the invasion — after encouraging Georgia to stand up to the Kremlin.
Reminds me of 1956, when we encouraged the Hungarians to defy Moscow — then abandoned them. And of 1991, when we prodded Iraq’s Shia to rise up against Saddam — then abandoned them. We’ve called Georgia a "friend and ally." Well, honorable men and states stand by their friends and allies. We haven’t.
Oh, we sure are giving those Russians a tongue-lashing. I’ll bet Putin’s just shaking as he faces the awesome verbal rage of Condi Rice. President Bush? He went to a basketball game.
The only decent thing we’ve done was to reveal, at the UN, that the Russians tried to cut a deal with us to remove Georgia’s president. Shame on us.
The Bear’s Military Mess
Russia’s military is succeeding in its invasion of Georgia, but only because Moscow has applied overwhelming force. This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin’s revitalized armed forces (funded by the country’s new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for prime time.
It can hammer tiny Georgia into submission — but this campaign unintentionally reveals plenty of enduring Russian weaknesses.
The most visible failings are those of the air force. Flying Moscow’s latest ground-attack jets armed with the country’s newest precision weapons, pilots are missing far more targets than they’re hitting.
All those strikes on civilian apartment buildings and other non-military targets? Some may be intentional (the Russians aren’t above terror bombing), but most are just the result of ill-trained pilots flying scared.
They’re missing pipelines, rail lines and oil storage facilities — just dumping their bombs as quickly as they can and heading home.
Russia’s also losing aircraft. The Kremlin admits two were shot down; the Georgians claimed they’d downed a dozen by Sunday. Split the difference, and you have seven or more Russian aircraft knocked out of the sky by a tiny enemy. Compare that to US Air Force losses — statistically zero — in combat in all of our wars since Desert Storm.
As one US officer observed to me, the Russian pilots are neither professionally nor emotionally toughened for their missions. Their equipment’s pretty good (not as good as ours), but their training lags — and their pilots log far fewer flight hours than ours do.
Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they’re pulling it off — but the military’s embarrassing blunders must be infuriating Prime Minister Putin.
Ralph Peters’ latest book, “Looking for Trouble,” details his own adventures
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Now for the Russian perspective:
August 12, 2008
A Path To Peace In The Caucasus
By Mikhail Gorbachev
MOSCOW -- The past week's events in South Ossetia are bound to shock and pain anyone. Already, thousands of people have died, tens of thousands have been turned into refugees, and towns and villages lie in ruins. Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning to all.
The roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia's separatist leaders in 1991to abolish South Ossetian autonomy. This turned out to be a time bomb for Georgia's territorial integrity. Each time successive Georgian leaders tried to impose their will by force -- both in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, where the issues of autonomy are similar -- it only made the situation worse. New wounds aggravated old injuries.
Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution. For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground.
Through all these years, Russia has continued to recognize Georgia's territorial integrity. Clearly, the only way to solve the South Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means. Indeed, in a civilized world, there is no other way.
The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.
What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against "small, defenseless Georgia" is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.
Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a "blitzkrieg" in South Ossetia.
In other words, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was expecting unconditional support from the West, and the West had given him reason to think he would have it. Now that the Georgian military assault has been routed, both the Georgian government and its supporters should rethink their position.
Hostilities must cease as soon as possible, and urgent steps must be taken to help the victims -- the humanitarian catastrophe, regretfully, received very little coverage in Western media this weekend -- and to rebuild the devastated towns and villages. It is equally important to start thinking about ways to solve the underlying problem, which is among the most painful and challenging issues in the Caucasus -- a region that should be approached with the greatest care.
When the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia first flared up, I proposed that they be settled through a federation that would grant broad autonomy to the two republics. This idea was dismissed, particularly by the Georgians. Attitudes gradually shifted, but after last week, it will be much more difficult to strike a deal even on such a basis.
Old grievances are a heavy burden. Healing is a long process that requires patience and dialogue, with non-use of force an indispensable precondition. It took decades to bring to an end similar conflicts in Europe and elsewhere, and other long-standing issues are still smoldering. In addition to patience, this situation requires wisdom.
Small nations of the Caucasus do have a history of living together. It has been demonstrated that a lasting peace is possible, that tolerance and cooperation can create conditions for normal life and development. Nothing is more important than that.
The region's political leaders need to realize this. Instead of flexing military muscle, they should devote their efforts to building the groundwork for durable peace.
Over the past few days, some Western nations have taken positions, particularly in the U.N. Security Council, that have been far from balanced. As a result, the Security Council was not able to act effectively from the very start of this conflict. By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its "national interest," the United States made a serious blunder. Of course, peace in the Caucasus is in everyone's interest. But it is simply common sense to recognize that Russia is rooted there by common geography and centuries of history. Russia is not seeking territorial expansion, but it has legitimate interests in this region.
The international community's long-term aim could be to create a sub-regional system of security and cooperation that would make any provocation, and the very possibility of crises such as this one, impossible. Building this type of system would be challenging and could only be accomplished with the cooperation of the region's countries themselves. Nations outside the region could perhaps help, too -- but only if they take a fair and objective stance. A lesson from recent events is that geopolitical games are dangerous anywhere, not just in the Caucasus.
The writer was the last president of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and is president of the Gorbachev Foundation, a Moscow think tank. A version of this article, in Russian, will be published in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper tomorrow.
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Although the ferociousness of the Russian attack on Georgia seems way out of proportion, Americans must understand that Russia sees now-independent countries like Georgia (that used to be “provinces” within the Soviet Union) as part of the Russian "sphere of influence".
We may not agree with this, but we have used our own Monroe Doctrine to enforce our dominance over our own spheres of influence in this hemisphere. This is not a justification for Russia’s actions, but perhaps it helps to understand their mindset.
Russia is slowly back-sliding into its pre-democracy militaristic ways. They’ve never liked playing second fiddle to the United States and they are using the fact that we are heavily-engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan to flex their muscles once more.
Charles M. Grist
Monday, August 11, 2008
The following article was sent to me by a military historian. If it is true that Obama’s natural-born birth status is in question, this issue must be resolved ASAP.
The only way to get this handled quickly is to get people like Sean Hannity and other reliable conservative commentators to check it out so please forward it on:
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Posted: August 08, 2008
12:00 am Eastern
© 2008 WorldNetDaily
Israel Insider is reporting that analysts working separately have determined the birth certificate posted on the Daily Kos website and later on Sen. Barack Obama's "Fight the Smears" campaign website is fraudulent, and now two different actions have been launched to try and obtain the truth about the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's birth.
The Israel Insider report said the two analysts it interviewed both have been "able to independently discern the name 'Maya Kassandra Soetoro' from artifacts left behind in the process of forging a new fake document for Barack from an image of Maya's original document." Maya is Obama's younger half-sister.
The report follows a posting from another researcher, identified by the news publication as Techdude, that the birth certificate is a forgery because it originally documented the birth of a woman in the 1970s.
Blogger Mitchell Langbert now has launched an online petition to the Federal Election Commission in which signers are asking the agency to "take responsibility to verify the eligibility of Mr. Barack H. Obama to be president of the United States."
Wrote Langbert, "Mr. Obama has refused to produce a physical certified, stamped copy of his birth certificate. An electronically displayed imaged displayed by his official campaign website has alleged to have been a forgery. We request that the FEC require Mr. Obama to authorize the FEC to obtain an official copy of his birth certificate."
Ted Moran, who said he wished to be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, said he also was launching a campaign to discern the truth about Obama's birth certificate. "I am looking for 50 brave men or women from 49 states and the District of Columbia to join me in suing the secretaries of state in our respective states to prevent them from posting the name Barak H. Obama on the November 2008 ballot until he presents incontrovertible proof that he is a U.S. citizen," he said. "The secretaries of state are the ones who by placing a person or initiative on the ballot certify that the candidates or initiatives meet the legal requirements to be on the ballot.
"The office of the president is simply too important to trust to someone other than a person whose loyalties are 100 percent American, and while it is impossible to read into the heart of a man or woman we do have the test our forefathers gave us. Which is this office is not to be entrusted to anyone but a natural U.S. citizen," he said.
Multiple requests over a period of several days by WND to the Obama campaign for a comment or explanation of the birth certificate issue did not generate any response.
The Israel Insider said, "The revelation that [the birth certificate] of Obama's own sister was evidently used to create the electronic forgery represents what supporters of this analysis claim is a 'smoking gun' that appears to implicate Sen. Obama directly. Hawaii law limits access to vital records to family members only, a fact which slowed down the ability of researchers to compare the purported Obama 'birth certificate' – which displayed from the start a peculiar provenance and inexplicable features – to genuine specimens. Therefore, it would seem that either Maya K. Soetoro-Ng (as she is now called) supplied the document or its image to half-brother Barack or his campaign, or Obama/his campaign used it without her permission.
"The stakes couldn't be higher. Even the Snopes anti-rumor site acknowledges that Obama's constitutional fitness to be president depends solely on his being born in the United States, because his mother – not yet 19 at the time of his birth – would not have had a sufficient number of years as an adult citizen, according to the laws prevailing at the time, to pass on 'natural born citizenship' automatically," the report said.
"There have been reports, so far unconfirmed, that Obama was born outside the country, either in Kenya, his presumed father's native land, or in Canada. The fact that the Obama campaign has been touting as genuine a forgery since June 12 will likely increase pressure to not only account for the fake but produce a genuine paper birth certificate. Obama, in his book 'Dreams from My Father,' specifically mentioned having such a document in his possession, but it has not been submitted for public inspection or analysis if it in fact exists," the report said.
The forensic computer investigators interviewed by the news publication concluded there are two obvious possibilities for the birth certificate image: A real certificate was scanned and digitally edited or a real certificate was scanned for the graphic layout, then blanked by soaking the document in solvent to remove the toner.
The certificate was published by the Daily Kos June 12 following initial reports questioning Obama's place of birth. He's stated he was born in Hawaii, but if that was not the case, his citizenship could be uncertain, since his father was not a citizen and his mother was not old enough to pass along American citizenship automatically.
The issue originally was raised by Jim Geraghty, reporting on the Campaign Spot, a National Review blog. He cited the "unlikely" possibility that Obama's 1961 birth was not within the U.S.
At the time, he wrote, "If Obama were born outside the United States, one could argue that he would not meet the legal definition of natural-born citizen because U.S. law at the time of his birth required his natural-born parent (his mother) to have resided in the United States for 10 years, at least five of which had to be after the age of 16.'"
He then pointed out Ann Dunham, Obama's mother, was 18 when Obama was born, "so she wouldn't have met the requirement of five years after the age of 16."
When the Daily Kos website posted an image that appeared to be Obama's birth certificate, Geraghty announced he was satisfied.
The presumptive Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., already has gone through a similar challenge, and the U.S. Senate responded with a resolution in April declaring him to be a "'natural born Citizen' under Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States."
The article declares "no person except a natural born citizen … shall be eligible to the office of president."
McCain was challenged because he was born to two U.S. citizens in the Panama Canal Zone.
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Please forward this to anyone you think may have the resources to investigate this issue.
Charles M. Grist