Feature

Russia: Why Georgia had it coming

&ldquo;What was Mikheil Saakashvili thinking?&rdquo; asked Leonid Radzikhovsky in the Moscow <em>Rossiiskaya Gazeta. </em>Of course Russia would intervene after Georgian forces attacked the pro-Russian province of South Osse

“What was Mikheil Saakashvili thinking?” asked Leonid Radzikhovsky in the Moscow Rossiiskaya Gazeta. The Georgian president recklessly began a war last week by attacking the pro-Russian province of South Ossetia, prompting Russia to intervene to protect the local population. Saakashvili claimed that his action was in retaliation for “provocations” by the South Ossetians, who, he says, were firing on Georgian territory. Even if that were true, the scale of the Georgian operation was wildly disproportionate. Georgia laid waste to the Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. “Could he seriously hope that Russia would not act for the people of South Ossetia, at least 90 percent of whom carry Russian passports?” That would be “as ridiculous as to expect that the Georgian army could seriously confront the Russian army.” Of course Russia had to send tanks into South Ossetia. Russian peacekeepers have been there since the 1990s, when the province’s bid for independence from Georgia resulted in an armed stalemate.

Russian leaders are now trying to isolate Saakashvili, said Mikhail Zygar in the Moscow Kommersant. While they don’t exactly admit that their aim is “regime change,” they do acknowledge that they would welcome his ouster. “What decent person will talk with him now?” asked Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went further, saying that Saakashvili’s destruction of Ossetian villages was just like Saddam Hussein’s obliteration of Kurdish ones. Putin lamented the “Cold War mentality” that led the Bush administration to apply to Saakashvili that old maxim: “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

Putin is right: Georgia is just a puppet of the U.S., said Dmitri Voskoboynikov in the Moscow Ivzestiya. “The Americans brought him to power” in 2003 after former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze struck a deal with Gazprom, snubbing American energy companies. The CIA promptly removed Shevardnadze, by funding the so-called Rose Revolution, and replaced him with the Harvard-trained Saakashvili. This docile American lackey accepted massive amounts of U.S. military aid “openly and with no shame.”

Since Georgia does nothing without U.S. approval, said Aleksandr Grishin in the Moscow Moskovsky Komsomolets, “we can assume” that America is behind the current war. George Bush, “using the Georgian president as a tool, is delivering a strike against two targets simultaneously.” First, he is insulting China by starting a war by proxy on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics. Second, he is testing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. China has yet to respond—and we can suggest a way. It could devalue the yuan, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar. That would “exacerbate problems in the U.S. financial system, which is in dire straits anyway.” On the Russian side, our response has been clear. The Russian military is performing admirably and Medvedev’s resolve has been suitably demonstrated.

Has it? asked Viktor Yadukha in the Moscow RBC Daily. Simply “entrenching Russia’s military presence in South Ossetia cannot be the goal of this war.” If that happens, Russian peacekeepers will be “drawn into years of sluggish crossfire.” Now is the time for Russia to “destroy Georgia’s infrastructure.” If we let Georgia get away with “genocide” in South Ossetia, then the loss of the former Soviet republics will have been complete. If we punish Georgia as it deserves, we could start “to reverse that accident of history.”

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