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There's A Bear In The Woods...

While Russia talks about seeking peace with Georgia ("peace" in the traditional sense of "they won't fight back any more"), we have reports that they are committing war crimes in the Georgian Republic. In fact, two of them are highlighted in a single story.

First up, they are violating the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners by putting them in parades and processions. That ain't supposed to happen.

Further, we have video footage of Russian soldiers tooling around in American Humvees. Those Humvees were in Georgia for recent joint military exercises, and were packed up and on the docks in Georgia for return to the US. The Russian soldiers have stolen United States Army weapons and are now being held deep in Russian-held territory.

Last time I checked, that sort of thing is an act of war. On the grand scale of things, it's a minor act of war, but nonetheless it demonstrates Russia's attitude towards the US -- "we'll do what we want, and you won't do anything about it." That even includes seizing our weapons -- which were NOT being used, but merely happened to be present at a dock.

This cannot be let to stand. Russia is showing its utter contempt for the world, announcing that it is not bound by any convention, any law, any regulation, any restraint. If they are not contradicted, then it takes no great stretch of the imagination to see where it will lead.

Poland already sees the writing on the wall -- and they don't like it one bit. The Ukraine's president is reminded of Russia's methods every time he looks in a mirror. England has seen, up close, what happens to those who are declared an enemy of Russia.

Who's next? I fear it's only a matter of time before we find out.

It seems that everything old is new again...


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Comments (21)

Parading the prisoners is a... (Below threshold)

Parading the prisoners is a violation. But seizing the Humvees is just the spoils of war.

I can't say much about this... (Below threshold)

I can't say much about this conflict or about how and why it started and who's truly to blame. Yet here's what I find disturbing: that this is seemingly another failure by our intelligence community. Honestly, how do you miss/overlook this massing of troops and tanks and not alert the international community and send a warning to Russia?

Maybe our intel did warn the Bush Admin. and we did send back door warnings to Putin and he simply poo-pooed them. Entirely possible, maybe even likely.

In the end, I'm left with a sense of easiness about our intel community. Anybody else?

More alarmingly, Russia is ... (Below threshold)

More alarmingly, Russia is moving in some SS-21 missile launchers into South Ossetia with a 120km range. These SS-21 missiles can either be outfitted with a high explosive conventional warhead or a battlefield nuclear warhead that could easily destroy much of both major cities in Georgia.

Not only is this a major mistake on the part of Russia, but plans to send American soldiers to man Patriot missiles or to place 10 Interceptor missiles only 120 miles from the Russian border will certainly invite Russia to threaten the border security of Poland with nuclear missiles on mobile launchers right near it's border. This is a great way to invite another crisis like the 1962 Cuban missile crisis where the Soviets attempted to place nuclear missiles in Cuba only 90 miles from the U.S. in response to the U.S. placing nuclear missiles in Turkey near it's borders. If Russia and the U.S. want to encourage an accidental nuclear war, then they're on the right path.

The Interceptors in Poland will do little to stop a Russia nuclear warhead force of 5518 warheads, And it takes at least two Interceptors to have a fighting chance to shoot down solid rocket fuel missiles like the battlefield SS-21 nuclear missiles or other battlefield nuclear weapons. Liquid fuel missiles are easier to stop, but Russia's force is largely solid rocket fuel.

The 10 Interceptors to be sent to Poland are not enough to stop any Russian nuclear missile threat, but just enough to make Russia mad and push this paranoid government obsessed with border security issues very close to war. You can thank our current foreign policy for failures to defuse this situation and instead pump more fuel into this crisis. The Bush proposal to put missiles in Poland probably resulted in the Georgia invasion as well as the 17 Russian nuclear bomber missions near Alaska in the last year as well. The Bush Administration is sending dangerous signals to a paranoid Putin government about war that the crazed Russian government is overreacting to. For no good reason at all, the U.S. and Russia are headed towards blowing each other up once again while normal societies simply go about everyday business and sell goods and make money like normal people do.

XBrad, if those Humvees are... (Below threshold)

XBrad, if those Humvees are "the spoils of war," wouldn't that imply that we are at war with Russia?

As we are technically neutral at this point, the seizure of our military assets would be an act of aggression.

If these Humvees were ships, it'd be a lot more clean-cut. US warships are sovereign US territory. But I'm not entirely sure how military land vehicles are covered. I do know, though, that we ought to be demanding their return most strenuously, purely as a matter of principle if nothing more.


What would that request sou... (Below threshold)

What would that request sound like, JT?

"They're ours, and we really, really need them!"

How about this, hyperbolist... (Below threshold)

How about this, hyperbolist?

"Please return our Humvees."

"Please return our Humvees, and we'll return your cargo ship that was in New York City."

Please return our Humvees, and we'll return your cargo ship in New York City and un-freeze your bank accounts."

"Please return our Humvees, and we'll return your cargo ship in New York City, un-freeze your bank accounts, and resume grain shipments."

Get the idea, hyperbolist?


Grain shipments? Really?... (Below threshold)

Grain shipments? Really? Withholding food from people who need it to get back some military equipment would make the U.S. look pretty bad, dontcha think?

I've read you saying before that food should not be used as a weapon. I thought that was a smart thing to say.

Hypie -Russia inva... (Below threshold)

Hypie -

Russia invades Georgia, sets up shop - and folks essentially go "What do you expect? They're Russian." They shrug - it's what Russia DOES.

We even think about witholding grain, and WE are suddenly the bad guys?

Dude, I think you've got moral relativity stains all over your glasses...

Absolutely right, hyperboli... (Below threshold)

Absolutely right, hyperbolist. I threw the grain in to see if you'd take the bait -- ignore the preceding diplomatic steps and jump right on that one.

Yes, I don't like the idea of food being used as a weapon. I didn't like it when Jimmy Carter did it back in 1980 against the Soviet Union over its invasion of Afghanistan, and I don't like it today.

Man, you're too predictable. I knew laying that out and you'd say nothing about the idea of escalating diplomatic and economic pressure to get Russia to comply with the dictates of war (and non-war) without directly threatening the use of force, but instead focus on a single element so that you could "respond" without actually addressing the point I raised.

Damn, we need a better class of troll around here. I was hoping hyper could join our too-slim ranks of "loyal opposition," those folks who can be counted on to disagree with us, but in a collegial, respectful, thoughtful way (I count three right now), but I guess not.


What do you expect Putin to... (Below threshold)

What do you expect Putin to do, Jay? Isn't he the sort of guy to accidentally bomb a Georgian or Chechen city if the U.S. tries to make him do something? North Korea held onto the U.S.S. Pueblo for, what, 30 years, and it's significantly more valuable than a few trucks.

True enough about the Puebl... (Below threshold)

True enough about the Pueblo, hyper, and I've always thought we should retake it or sink it.

The question boils down to "how much shit are you prepared to take?" Or, if you prefer, "how far are you willing to be pushed around?"

Any answer you give will then define exactly how far you will be pushed -- at a minimum.

"Hey, US, will you bomb us if we steal a couple of your Humvees?"

"Um... no..."


I can't think of a single example when spelling out just how much shit you'll take from someone works out well.

As far as what I expect Putin to do: I expect him to continue to pursue aggressive expansionism and attempt to re-create the Soviet empire until he decides the risks are too great -- or he's shown the risks are too great. Letting him have his way in Georgia, including seizing American military assets, sends the message that there really isn't much of a price he'll need to pay.


1) The Russian people have ... (Below threshold)

1) The Russian people have a greater stomach for casualties than the American people (which is a credit to the American people);
2) Putin is more cavalier with the lives of his troops than Bush (or McCain or Obama would be);
3) Striking Russian military targets might result in the the Russians striking civilian targets in the Ukraine, Poland, Chechnya, Georgia, etc.;

Sorry, what are the options again? Because Doing Nothing seems to me the most likely course of action, considering the Russians' willingness to respond to violence with greater violence.

If he gives the equipment back, it'll be done condescendingly, smugly, with pity. Maybe the U.S. should ridicule them for having unprofessional soldiers who loot like it's WW II all over again, and shrug and point out how many Humvees its factories can spit out every day. I really don't know what ought to be done, but I hardly think a stare-down will produce positive net benefits for your country or the West in general. They have how many ICBMs pointed at how many North American and European cities?

By the way, JLawson, it's n... (Below threshold)

By the way, JLawson, it's not moral relativism to state that a) Russia invading Georgia was wrong; and b) it would be wrong to withhold grain from the Russian people in response to the actions of the Russian army. That's perfectly consistent.

Nope, Hypie - the tone I go... (Below threshold)

Nope, Hypie - the tone I got from your comment was "Hey, it's Russia. So what if they steal some stuff? No biggie - but the US maybe withholding grain is just another example of how evil the United States of America is."

After all - you said "Withholding food from people who need it to get back some military equipment would make the U.S. look pretty bad, dontcha think?"

Yeah, JL, I know what I sai... (Below threshold)

Yeah, JL, I know what I said and I don't know why it's hard for you to understand that Russia doing harm to the United States' image does not justify the United States doing something much worse to the Russian people. If you disagree, please explain why. If your neighbour steals your chain saw, do you kidnap and starve your neighbour's child to death?

Uh, I say withhold the grai... (Below threshold)

Uh, I say withhold the grain..........hungry people tend to show their leaders what they think of them............

And nuke Baikonnur(sp) TOMORROW.

"do you kidnap and starve y... (Below threshold)

"do you kidnap and starve your neighbour's child to death"

Great comparison, Hypie. Not terribly relevant, though, unless you're trying hard to provoke knee-jerk reactions. I REALLY don't think you're as unthinkingly emotive as that comment makes you sound.

If someone steals from me, I'll call the cops. If afterward they come looking to scrounge food after stealing from me, I'm under NO, repeat NO obligation to give them any. Might give them the number to a local food bank, but until they cough up a replacement chain saw I don't see I've got any responsibility to give 'em a crumb.

And Russia doesn't exactly have much in the way to be proud about when it comes to food sharing themselves - or did you ever hear about the Ukranian famines?

I'm thinking the Russians figure they can be as barbaric as they want to be, and there will be plenty of people in the West more than willing to play the moral relatavism game ON THEIR SIDE. Your inane comparison lends weight to that theory.

Well, you take umbrage with... (Below threshold)

Well, you take umbrage with my Russian-people-as-neighbour's kid analogy--fine--but I take umbrage with your not-feeding-a-needy-jerk-as-starving-a-population analogy. Fair enough, then.

What the Russian/Soviet government's treatment of the Ukrainian people has to do with the ethics of the United States' actions towards the Russian people today, I have no idea. It's not moral relativism. It's pointing out that you fail to perceive a difference between Russia and Russians. Withholding food? Seriously?

Hypie -YOU brought... (Below threshold)

Hypie -

YOU brought up the analogy, I didn't.

Oddly enough, in the real world actions have consequences. The Russian GOVERNMENT started this mess. And if grain were to be sold, who would we sell grain to? The Russian GOVERNMENT, not the people of Russia.

So, on the one hand we tell the Russian GOVERNMENT they're doing something bad with Georgia, and with the other hand we're feeding them.

Gee, think that might be seen as a mixed message? Ask a dog trainer how that'd work. Do you get more of an action you reward?

Of course, it's kind of moot since they're EXPORTING grain. At least, right now - if they collectivize their farming again or the state takes over, it's anyone's bet if that'll continue.

Been an interesting derail, hasn't it? Jay Tea REALLY pointed you down a side-track, and you went full throttle.

No, you're feeding the Russ... (Below threshold)

No, you're feeding the Russian people, not the Russian government. The Russian government distributes food that your government sends to them. If the food is withheld, a) Russians will starve (Putin not likely to be among them, obviously) and b) the Russian government will have some seriously credible anti-Western (anti-American) grist for the propaganda mill.

WIthholding food should never, ever be an option, except in cases like Somalia where the food was rotting in granaries held by warlords and not being distributed to those who were starving. I think an effective component of psychological warfare should be feeding the population of your enemy, though it's still a bit premature to classify Russia as an enemy and not merely a regional belligerent.

"No, you're feeding the Rus... (Below threshold)

"No, you're feeding the Russian people, not the Russian government. The Russian government distributes food that your government sends to them."

No - you're providing food to the Russian government. That's it. Not the people, not interior aid organizations - you're providing food to the Russian government. That's it. Anything past that point is DIRECTLY dependent on the Russian government.

"Bad Russian Bear! Here's a cookie, now let go of Georgia!"

Yeah. Sure, that'll work...






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