Monday, August 25, 2008

Immediate Response?!?

In the multitudinous articles on the subject, this blogger hasn’t seen much mention of the military activities that occurred in the region not long before the latest flare up in South Ossetia between Georgia and Russia.

Apparently in the second half of July 2008 the Russians ran a military exercise, code-named Caucasus 2008, near the Russian-Georgian border. The Russian exercise scenario included a counterattack in support of Russian “peacekeepers” after they had come under (unspecified) attack, with additional aims to protect Russian citizens and provide humanitarian assistance, and involved approximately 8,000 troops.

Interestingly enough, in response Georgian troops conducted an exercise of their own at the same time. Code-named Immediate Response 2008, it also included a thousand U.S. troops, along with smaller contingents from the Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Internally, in South Ossetia, things started heating back up – an exchange of artillery between Georgian troops and South Ossetians on July 30th; a roadside bomb that killed five Georgian policemen and sparked fighting from August 2nd to the 4th; and then on August 7th South Ossetians claimed that Georgia had shelled Tskhinvali, while Georgia claimed that the South Ossetians had attacked Georgian villages. President Saakashvili initially announced a unilateral ceasefire and called for peace talks, but then sent ground forces into South Ossetia (since he/Georgia claimed that the South Ossetians had continued their attacks). The next day Russia intervened, took Tskhinvali and South Ossetia while expelling the Georgians, then advanced further into Georgia proper (Gori, etc.) and sent forces into the other breakaway province of Abkhazia…

There has been a lot of back and forth in the press and on many blogs, etc. re who “started” the war. One argument by the “Russia started the war” side that this blogger has seen has been “the Russians must have been planning this, how else could they have mobilized so quickly in response?” Well, this seems like a good explanation - they had just war gamed the entire episode. This raises the question of how smart it was of President Saakashvili to send in Georgian troops at this juncture, and why/how he could have been surprised by the Russian response! An “immediate response,” as it were….

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