Mentality gap

I hadn’t paid much attention to this Reuters report from yesterday: it says that mobile rocket launchers are being ‘given priority’ in the queue of armor moving from Russia into South Ossetia / Georgia. These are Soviet-era weapons which are said to have a range of 35 km. There may be a propaganda angle to this news item, of course.

While I still think we have to make an effort to incorporate the situation into a larger view of things – and I’ll admit that this effort can lead to some fairly strange-sounding statements – it’s dawning on me that there is an appalling local precedent: the 1999-2000 siege of Grozny, in which the city was more or less levelled through use of artillery, including rocket artillery. This has to be seen as a worst case outcome for Tbilisi and Georgia. However, there’s not much doubt that the players involved have form.

One of the least pleasant things about this episode is the lack of any honest attempt on the part of the Russian leadership to give a clear account of its aims and intent.

18 thoughts on “Mentality gap

  1. Khalilzad said the same thing on PBS Newshour tonight about Russia’s unknown motives. He said a lot of things, including the need to ‘dole out the punishment that Russia has earned’ (a paraphrase but not far off at all).
    Unfortunately, their scheduled interview with the Russian UN ambassador was canceled due to the late UNSC meeting.

  2. You must be joking! I think the Russians have actually been pretty clear about this from the start. They are going to do what they want and take what they want. They are going to demonstrate that Bush and the neocons are feckless and useless allies upon whom none should rely. They are going to try and Finlandize all of the countries of the former USSR and perhaps also the EU.

    What I find astonishing about this situation is Saakashvili’s reliance at this late date on what I suspect were the assurances and encouragement by the Bush administration and the neocons.

    Clearly, he has not been paying attention these past seven years. If he’s lucky, Put-Put will just take his country and let him live in exile.

  3. Georgia used those against S. Ossetia and the capital Tskhinvali in particular according to news out there. Psycho-Saakashvili
    should have thought about that before starting it with such weapons. Perhaps he should have tried NEGOTIATION. Not to be confused with the EU/NATO peice of work done at Rambolliet with Serbia.

  4. Why would Russia give a clear account of its intent and goals? That would be announcing strategy to the whole wide world while attempting to execute it. This is a geo-political maneuvure and surprise/keep-them-guessing is part of the equation. The neo-cons didn’t really tell us why they invaded Iraq and what they are doing after the invasion. Yeah, they told us about regime change etc, but those are means to achieve their real goal(s), which they haven’t clearly told us yet. We suspect it is control of oil infra, making it safer for Israel etc but that is inference, not based on a clear enunciation of goals by the neo-cons.

    Don’t expect an authoritarian country such as Russia to announce its strategy/motives when a supposedly democratic country’s elected leaders haven’t followed that script on a much more expensive, much more dangerous, and much less necessary (for the safety/security of the US) adventure that was Iraq.

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Georgia: Fear of Russian Rocket Artillery

  6. Until now, we are only supposing that Russian may use mobile rocket launchers against Georgia’s towns. But the Georgians already did this against South Ossetia!
    And also, we have no independent confirmation of a single bomb hitting Tbilisi! Only appocalyptic declarations of Georgia’s officials. But instead we have an independent confirmation from Reuters correspondent that yesterday Georgian forces were still shelling South Ossetia.


  7. Much of this incursion into Georgia seems to hinge upon Russian claims of “acts of genocide” by Georgian troops upon residents of South Ossetia; I’ve heard claims of 1500-2000 deaths being repeated on the BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle and the Voice of Russia.

    1500 is quite a substantial number. Has there been any independent verification of this figure, or that these deaths happened at all?

  8. The 1500 number came from Russian and South Ossetian tallies. I’m a lot more skeptical of these numbers now that I used to be…the Russians seem willing to say whatever it takes to make a case for their invasion, and there’s no real way to verify the numbers anymore, or figure out what damage was done by Russia or Georgia. So the low end is probably “hundreds” while the high end is 1500.

  9. 1500-2000 civilian casualties for two days of fighting seems higly unlikely.That’s even more than the death toll for a month of israeli bombing in lebanon.
    It’s more than twice the death toll for three months of bombings in Kosovo.

    I know that western forces use guided bombs but stil, the firepower deployed in these two instances was far superior to anything the georgian army has.

  10. Actually, the high number of South Osset victims in the suspected “ethnic cleansing” by the Georgian forces on that first day came solely from South Osset sources. The “1’400 Ossets killed by Georgians”-claim was quoted also on that forum right away, on that very first day.

    As for Russian claims, Putin himself stated that the estimated number of South Ossetian deaths in the first stage of the Georgian offensive was “a few dozens”, which at least seems believable.

    Again, makes you wonder, no? On the other hand, Kovalenko has given an estimate of 1’600-2000 civilian casualties, but that’s a total for the fighting during these past days.

    The rocket launchers are kept in reserve. Right now, Medvedev has given a cautiously positive answer to the OSCE proposal, and is publicly offering terms of status quo ante bellum, _which is more than reasonable_.

    Meanwhile, Saakashvili is… well, I mentioned it already.

    I’m pretty sure he’ll still stay in power in Georgia, much like Nasser did after 1967. Consider: Saakashvili has publicly claimed that Russia is actually aiming for a régime change, so therefore, if the people in Georgia keep him in power, they have succesfully prevented Russia from reaching this goal, and they can still _claim victory_!


    J. J.

  11. And it’s over.

    Medvedev states: “”I have taken the decision to end the operation to force Georgian authorities into peace,” Medvedev told defence chiefs at a meeting on the South Ossetia conflict.

    “The aggressor has been punished and suffered significant losses.

    Some reconisance will continue.

    Not bad and humane considering NATO’s illegal gainst Yugoslavia’s sovereignty.

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  13. The casualty claim of 1-2000 for South Ossetia is, in my view, supported by the pictures of the MRLS barrage against Tshkinvali that the Georgians kicked off the war with. Those are not precision weapons, they level everything within a hundred-meter diameter, give or take. You want to lay waste to a city, that’s what you use.

  14. It’s no surprise that the EU and US would embrace someone that uses that type of indiscriminant weaponry in massive volumes agaist civillians. It’s the same type of approach that NATO used with cluster amunitions in Yugoslavia. no command responsibility there.

    Now, if someone shot one or two rockets towards Zagreb during a war, that’s criminal.

  15. “supported by the pictures of the MRLS barrage against Tshkinvali ”

    Yeah but where did you see that they were aiming at Tshkinvali?Any proof?

    There’s propaganda everywhere, take the georgian that Poti was “devastated” by bombings?Did you see any proof?No, in fact if you look at the witness account on global voice(from the 10th August), there was panic but no great arm.

  16. “supported by the pictures of the MRLS barrage against Tshkinvali ”

    Yeah but where did you see that they were aiming at Tshkinvali?Any proof?

    Well… Usually Georgia supporters take western media reporting as fact, so let me tell you: Pictures of those MLRS were published on BBC web site. Most likely, Georgians were showing off thinking that they are so good at this small blizkrieg…

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