Well, the South Ossetia conflict is going pretty badly for Georgia. The Russians appear to have cleared Tsikhinvali, and they’ve moved over six! hundred! armored vehicles into theater. Russian bombers have struck at a number of military targets inside Georgia, and the Russian Navy is maneuvering off the Georgian coast.
It’s increasingly clear that the Russians were very ready for this conflict. In fact it’s looking like the Georgians did exactly what Moscow wanted.
Was Georgia played? We’ll probably never know, but a couple of thoughts come to mind.
One, the Russians have put a lot of effort into intelligence in Georgia. Georgia has expelled various Russian citizens for being spies, but the real threat probably isn’t from Russians. Keep in mind that Georgia was part of Russia for almost 200 years, Georgians occupied a lot of high posts in the Soviet system, and a large minority of Georgians look back on the good old days with nostalgia and are not enthusiastic supporters of nationalist confrontation in general or Saakashvili in particular. So, there’s a pretty good chance that Moscow had the Georgian high command wired for sound.
Does that sound paranoid? Well, pause for a moment and recall the professional background of Russia’s current Prime Minister. Putin and the siloviki around him are intelligence guys, former and present. This seems like the sort of game they’d play, and play well.
Speaking of Putin, as blogger Wu Wei pointed out this morning, he’s the guy who’s flying into theater to oversee military and intelligence operations in person — despite the fact that this is officially, formally the responsibility of Russia’s President, not its Prime Minister. Interesting, no?
One last thought: it hasn’t gained any attention that I can see, but both Russia and Georgia are Orthodox Christian countries, and Russia is using Abkhazians (who are mixed Orthodox and Muslim) to open a second front against their Orthodox brothers. It’s not exactly your classic “clash of civilizations”.
(Okay, and speaking of silly geopolitical theories: Tbilisi has a McDonalds. That one was pretty much dead after the Kosovo conflict, but I think this should finish it off.)