Georgian Update

While the Russians claim to have agreed to a cease-fire, they haven’t actaully, you know, ceased firing. Russian forces are in or around Gori and today CNN is showing tape of Russian forces in the Georgian port city of Poti. And while the Russians appear to be able to gain territory, are they achieving their strategic objectives?

Remember, in strategy, merely gaining ground is not the goal. Even gaining ALL the ground is not the goal. The goal is to impose your political will on your oponent. So what are the Russian goals. We see them as threefold:

  1. Depose the current government of Georgia and install one friendly (or submissive) to Moscow.
  2. Discourage other former states of the USSR from aligning themselves with the west.
  3. Show the west as too weak to assist former USSR states.

So how are the Russians doing? The end state is unclear, but my feeling is that the longer this goes on, the less the Russians will gain. Currently Saakashvili is holding rallies with huge numbers of Georgians in attendance. Furthermore, the Presidents of Poland and the Baltic states have all traveled to Tblisi to express support for Georgia. And our President has announced humanitarian assistance to Georgia, to be delivered by the US Air Force and the US Navy. Based on these indicators, it would appear that the Russians have not met their strategic goals, in spite of tactical success on the battlefield.

The humanitarian efforts by the US are interesting. The Russians will likely not dare to interfere with them for fear of widening a conflict that they had planned to be short and relatively painless. They cannot attack airfields or ports that the US is using for fear of causing US casualties during a humanitarian mission. Even the Russians have to give lip service to public opinion. The non-trivial risk of starting a shooting war with US forces is not what they were looking for.

Further, this humanitarian presence makes it less likely that Russia will continue its attack during this putative cease fire. If the Georgians can maintain some territorial integrity over the coming days and weeks, the Russian presence in Georgia will draw more criticism and sanctions from the west. They can hardly continue to claim to be protecting their “peacekeepers” in Ossettia and Abkazia by invading Georgia.

It appears Georgia has been trading space for time. This is a very old tactic and it just may work this time. The Russians were prepared for considerable criticism for their aggression, even building a considerable maskirovka to justify it. But the longer the conflict goes on, the higher the political price they will pay.

As we see it, Russia has very  few days left to conquer Georgia before that price becomes too high. But they may well be able to conquer Georgia in those few days.

15 thoughts on “Georgian Update”

  1. I agree with the objectives as you laid them out, which is why I’m sort of scratching my head at the last paragraph:

    As we see it, Russia has very few days left to conquer Georgia before that price becomes too high. But they may well be able to conquer Georgia in those few days.

    They don’t want to “conquer” Georgia, they want it under their thumb. As I see it, even if the current Georgian government manages to stay in power, the Russians are 60% of the way there. They’re close enough now to the pipelines to keep Europe on it’s toes. If Russia gets a hair up their nose, they can always travel the 10 miles and cut those pipes. Thus, they have the added benefit of keeping Europe in check with the threat of a defacto embargo (kind of like how the Iranians keep making noises about closing the Straits of Hormuz). And I think that was another objective of theirs.

  2. I may have underestimated that part of the equation (the oil, that is). As I mention in another post, sitting in Georgian territory is a pretty good place to begin negotiations. Just to get them back into Ossettia and Abkazia will probably require some concessions on the part of the west. We always seem to do poorly in negotiations with them. Me? I’d get an MEU on the way lickety split and land them as a show of force and draw a line in the sand.

  3. Did you notice that Poland instead of “we are not sure we want the missile shield” all of a sudden said “yes we will take that missile shield now”

    Heheh, an Army guy wanting to send in the Marines, Heheh

  4. I’ll second that MEU. Fact is, the Marine Corps IS the US’s rapid deployment force. The Army simply cannot get a credible force on the ground in any form of short order. Sure, we could drop the 82nd into Tbilisi, but they’re not going to fare all that much better against a Russian Tank Division than the Georgians.

  5. Well, my thinking for an MEU is that it is a balanced, combined arms force with built in logistics, artillery, limited armor, and oh, yeah, air support. Can an MEU take on a MRD? Nope. But it is a significant line in the sand. And in the right place, I’d put an MEU up against a regiment. My money would be on the Marines.

    Take note, I don’t say much nice about them very often, but this would be a great place for them. The strategic mobility offered by the Navy/Marine Corps team is perfect here. This is why we have a Marine Corps, not just to have a second army.

  6. Vmax, I just noticed that headline. Big surprise there. I think Poland just told Ivan to fuck off. You’ll notice it is also a bilateral treaty beyond NATO for mutual defense…

  7. I now am seriously wondering if Vladimir stepped in it good. He meant to send a message to the former Soviet Republics, but it sounds like they heard the message FAR too well. Instead of being cowed, they’re now angry and concerned. He may have ended up pushing them further towards the West by acting so strongly.

    And you can be sure, no former Soviet Republic or Warsaw Pact nation is fooled for a moment by the “peacekeeping” story Putin’s been selling. They’ve known the Bear too long and too well for that to work.

  8. No serious observer bought the peacekeeping line, but it gave fine diplomatic cover for those who didn’t want to get involved. Turkey has been notably silent. I hope you are right in your reading of this, but only time will tell. For sure, we haven’t seen the last of Ivan.

  9. No, but now the real question is how will Vlad take it. I fear he will be very very cross with us, and look to make life even more painful for us if he can (which he can). Expect to see more Russian support for Iran very soon. The man was KGB, he think like KGB. The best way to hurt your foe is not to kill him, but make him wish he was dead.

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