Did Putin Lose?

Kevin Drum say yes. I beg to differ. Kevin writes:

My take, roughly, is that Putin screwed up. . . . Putin got greedy — or just made a mistake — and sent Russian troops into Georgia proper. . . . [I]t succeeded mainly in uniting virtually everyone in outrage against Russian aggression. Putin can pretend all he wants that he doesn't care about Western opinion, but he obviously does — and what's more, Western unity makes a difference in concrete terms too. . . . [I]n the end, the countries on Russia's border are more firmly in our camp now than they were even before the war.

This strikes me as an utter misreading of the situation. I'll explain why on the flip.

The NYTimes reports:

Russia on Sunday pledged to begin withdrawing its troops from neighboring Georgia on Monday, following up on a cease-fire agreement to halt fighting that has stirred some of the deepest divisions between world powers since the cold war.

[Russian President] Medvedev did not specify the pace or scope of the withdrawal, saying only that troops would withdraw to South Ossetia and a “security zone” on its periphery.

It is my view that this "concession" by Russia was always its intention. It was foolish to argue, as some did, the Russia intended to occupy Georgia. It was foolish because now when Russia moves back to South Ossetia and the periphery permitted by the cease fire, it will have "shown restraint." Russia accomplished its goals in my opinion. Condi Rice says otherwise:

Condoleezza Rice, said on “Fox News Sunday[]” that Russia’s reputation as a modern country ready to integrate into the West “is, frankly, in tatters.”

Well, coming from Condi Rice, this means next to nothing frankly and I am not at all sure what it is supposed to mean to Russia. Drum says "Putin cares what the West thinks." On one level, I agree with him. He wants the West to think that expanding into Russia's "Near Abroad" is not the same thing as expanding NATO into Poland and the Baltic states. That message was delivered.

Kevin argues "the countries on Russia's border are more firmly in our camp now than they were even before the war." I say, so what? The issue is not the willingness of Georgia to join NATO, etc. The issue is Europe's willingness to go along with such an expansion. My own view is that, five months from now, when George Bush is no longer President, no one in Europe will want any part of this problem. Words are easy, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Sarkozy prove:

Mr. Sarkozy said there would be “serious consequences” for relations between Russia and the European Union if Russian compliance was not “rapid and complete.” The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, in Tbilisi to meet with Mr. Saakashvili, warned that “this process should not drag out for weeks.”

Those words are offered now that Russia is ready to move back to pre-conflict positions. This is an obvious dance. These words were not offered before today. Here are more empty words:

Ms. Merkel also reiterated her previous support for Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO, a step Russia has fiercely opposed. Georgia, she said, “is an independent and sovereign state and an independent and sovereign state can be a member of NATO.”

(Emphasis supplied.) Of course, what Ms. Merkel did not say is that unstable countries with existing territorial disputes can NOT be members of NATO. General Clark pointed this out the other day. Does anyone think Georgia's territorial dispute is resolved? Here is where we stand on the South Ossetia dispute:

Mr. Medvedev said Sunday that Russian troops would pull back to a security zone established in 1999 by the Joint Control Commission, an international body created to monitor seething tensions between ethnic Georgians and Ossetians. The commission designated a “conflict zone” of 15 kilometers around Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, as well as a long “security corridor,” which extends 14 kilometers into Georgian-held areas.

In short, there will be no Georgian membership in NATO anytime soon. What the West is offering Georgia instead is pretty words:

Ms. Tkeshelashvili said Ms. Merkel’s presence in Tbilisi signaled Western support for a narrowed Russian mandate in Georgia. The German chancellor’s approving mention of eventual NATO membership for Georgia, she added, drove to the heart of the conflict between Russia and Georgia. “One of the goals that the Russians had in this very pre-planned aggression, was to finish off any threat, as they see it, emanating from Georgia’s members in NATO,” she said.

A Georgian soldier has a better view of the situation:

Several Georgian soldiers, upon learning that a reporter in their midst was American, vented rage at the United States.

“If American could do something, why didn’t they help us?” one soldier said, his voice rising almost to a shout. “The Russians took Gori, Senaki, Zugdidi. They are on our bases. Don’t ask us questions. Go ask your president.”

(Emphasis supplied.) This action from Russia's perspective was not to convince Georgia or Poland to be more pro-Russian. Drum really misunderstands that. The point was to draw a line in the sand - for the West. I think Putin made his point. And a year from now, we'll see that Georgia lost this encounter and Putin won.

Speaking for me only

< Warren Forum Transcripts and Follow Up | PPP Poll: Tie In Ohio >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Russia got exactly what they wanted (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:57:33 PM EST
    Insuring no NATO for Georgia while and by deepening enhanced regional conflict and strife in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  They have also flexed their muscles while the globe watches.....yawn....Russia/Afghanistan alongside U.S./Iraq, consider me superpower unimpressed with military might in the long term.  I agree with Drum though on the countries on Russia's border being more firmly in our camp now than they were even before the war.  It is sort of a shoddy little camp right now though since BushCo blew the holy beejasus out of any sort firm structural encampment we had.  I think they are ready to rough it in the sticks with us though today, this minute.  Why does everything George Bush touches end up looking like Crawford TX?

    Like Crawford and (none / 0) (#9)
    by chel2551 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:34:34 PM EST
    George Bush.

    Did you see the picture of him in China with the long red mark on his arm?

    The man's a walking disaster.


    Of course Putin won (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by robrecht on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:16:05 PM EST
    If some people on Russia's borders are a little more sentimentally in our camp, it's only fuel for deeper disillusionment down the road.  What they really see is our inability and unwillingness to do anything thereby confirming their reason to fear Russia--which is exactly what Putin wants.

    Kevin Drum (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by chel2551 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:31:34 PM EST
    has long resided on a different planet in terms of opinions about a lot of issues.

    The blogosphere needs a purge.

    I do have to agree with one thing (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Edger on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:38:17 PM EST
    Drum says, but not with what he obviously meant by it: "Putin can pretend all he wants that he doesn't care about Western opinion, but he obviously does"

    I think that Putin probably does care to at least some degree about western opinion... he just doesn't give a damn about western media opinion or about the opinions of people like Rice, McCain, Bush, etc.

    I think the rest of your analysis is pretty good, BTD.

    He cares that he's riled the world (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:42:44 PM EST
    and the one remaining superpower up enough that Condi and Joe Biden hauled tail over there :)   He's might even be able to be called scary now. It wasn't that long ago when everyone was saying...."Who, oh yes Russia, sorry I was daydreaming about what I'm doing this weekend"

    Maybe (5.00 / 1) (#50)
    by Edger on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 05:30:06 AM EST
    you cut it Putin is the villain here. But we're not on Powerline here.

    That's better. (5.00 / 1) (#64)
    by Edger on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 10:55:19 AM EST
    You're half right. But Putin is no saint.

    He has proven that he is still a (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 09:07:52 AM EST
    contender.  That is the most that any country's aggressive style leader can hope for in this modern age and Putin has Russia back in the big boy game and it is my opinion that he likes that.

    I suppose that isn't your point in (5.00 / 1) (#59)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 10:01:09 AM EST
    attempting to translate all this into Putin losing.  It makes my point though into translating all this into Putin got exactly what he wanted, and his pulling out is happening at a very heavy snail pace that is almost causing the snails to get dug into the ground they are snailing through.

    World leaders coming 'down' on him (5.00 / 1) (#61)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 10:26:58 AM EST
    He doesn't seem very concerned about it.  Nope, not coming off as fearful at all.  Not even leaving yet, just lying about leaving.  Putin is parsing and cheating like a superpower again, but he's never been a prisoner of war :)  

    That is where you misread things (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 10:57:51 AM EST
    nobody here is supporting the actions of a thug as far as I can tell, but Georgia isn't pristine in all of this either.  This thread is about whether or not Putin "lost".  In all of this I see that Putin has gained and I believe he gained many things that he planned on gaining.  The only ramifications you have pointed out is that "world leaders came down on him".  World leaders came down on the U.S. over Iraq and it changed nothing of great importance to George W Bush.  He lost nothing he considered important and neither has Putin but Putin has gained many things he considers important like playing superpower on the world stage.  Just because I'm willing to view things with as much clarity as possible does not mean I condone anyone's actions. Having denial about something doesn't make it go away or not have happened.

    I did name exactly what was gained (5.00 / 1) (#68)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 11:51:26 AM EST
    Insuring no NATO for Georgia while and by deepening enhanced regional conflict and strife in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  This may very well result in those regions rejoining Russia.  They have also flexed their muscles while the globe watches and demonstrated that the United States has no moral or physical ability to spank them and TA DA.....please welcome Russia back onto the Superpower stage.

    Georgia cannot join NATO (5.00 / 1) (#72)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 12:41:31 PM EST
    Because one of the membership criteria is that all the territorial issues have to be resolved.  Georgia did not have those issues resolved when the U.S. proposed them for NATO membership and now they even further from meeting that criteria. Until those issues are resolved there will be no NATO for Georgia.  So now do you understand how Putin is working and succeeding in keeping Georgia out of NATO?  If he gets any more successful here Georgia will have to peel off South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be able to join and all the while Putin may be pulling other punches and stirring regional conflict up in other areas of Georgia.

    Supporting the actions of a thug (5.00 / 1) (#66)
    by Edger on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 11:15:31 AM EST
    I haven't seen anyone support Bush here for years., if ever. Or Mikhail Saakashvili, for that matter. Do you have a link?

    And if you'd like to know what has transpired and the ramifications of it, here you are....

    The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power
    By George Friedman
    August 12, 2008

    The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.
    By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

    The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.
    Therefore, the United States has a problem - it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran - and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow's interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).

    In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner.
    It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

    The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia's public return to great power status.
    The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.

    I had not read this (5.00 / 1) (#69)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 11:55:38 AM EST
    but after George Friedman claimed that Iraq was one of the best of poor choices the U.S. had after 9/11, I really really hate it when I find myself agreeing with George Friedman at Stratfor.  Most of my opinions on this have evolved from participating in conversations with active duty military.  After the Iraq War assessment I would like to paint Stratfor as a wingnut think tank but in reality they aren't.  They are simply wrong sometimes :)

    Sometimes they are wrong.... (5.00 / 1) (#70)
    by Edger on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 11:59:42 AM EST
    But I think Friedman wrote a good analysis this time... ;-)

    As long as Putin controls fossil based energy (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by ChiTownDenny on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:04:34 PM EST
    supplied to EU nations, he will have won this round.  When reliance on Russian access to energy ceases, Putin and Russia have no power in world affairs, especially in affairs of its former compatriots.

    If wishes were horses . . . (none / 0) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:13:35 PM EST
    I like horses. :) (none / 0) (#20)
    by ChiTownDenny on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:16:10 PM EST
    back to the OP (none / 0) (#47)
    by jccamp on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 11:29:12 PM EST
    It's probably too soon to see whether Putin won or lost this time. if the former Soviet republics fall into line, then the answer is obvious. If the western Europeans stick together and force some sanctions on Russia, or even change their attitude about a Russia in sheep's clothing, then maybe Putin overplayed his hand.

    In any case, this was not some spontaneous happening. It was a carefully planned Russian strategic gambit. This is just Round 1.


    They have new deals (none / 0) (#48)
    by waldenpond on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 12:21:21 AM EST
    for natural gas.  In 2006, they made deals. Just a few months ago Russia made a couple more deals that will support the energy relationship.  

    [Moscow has been rushing to build or acquire European pipelines, storage facilities, ports and energy companies.]

    [Skeptics in Washington and some European capitals say Russia has already used its energy clout as a coercive tool of diplomacy. The U.S. has led an effort to limit its inroads -- in part by planning new energy pipelines that would bypass Russian territory.]  That would be Nabucco?Turkey actually has very little natural gas as far as the region goes.  Europe is trying to get LNG deals going with Iran but it didn't happen fast enough to prevent Russia's energy dominance in Europe (European competitor for LNG will be the US)

    Europe will be held hostage by Russia for a long time to come.


    A look at how Russia would have acted using the (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:21:56 PM EST
    McCain Doctrine. Interesting--and makes nose-holding possibly easier....

    Of course, a similar conjecture as to how Russia would have acted using the BushCo Doctrine would be equally appalling. Great exercise.

    It (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by tek on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:22:45 PM EST
    strikes me that Russian troops are still in Georgia.  It is encouraging to see Germany offering help today though.

    I find it hard to believe Putin would ever (4.66 / 3) (#1)
    by PssttCmere08 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:54:25 PM EST
    put himself in a position to lose anything!

    I imagine Putin is probably right now (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Edger on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:40:31 PM EST
    thinking and planning 4 or 5 moves ahead of anything Bush, Rice, et al, can even conceive of.

    Edger....I don't think you could be anymore (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by PssttCmere08 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:50:57 PM EST
    correct.  That bush looking into putin's eyes to see his soul thing didn't work out that well...as for Condilyin' Rice, she has yet to do anything right.

    Putin is an (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Grace on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 06:36:57 PM EST
    intelligent, strategic, bold leader.  He's like a very good chess player.  I don't think he loses very often and I don't believe he lost here.  

    despite all the hype i wouldn't lay any (5.00 / 2) (#42)
    by hellothere on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 10:58:50 PM EST
    bets the current president of georgia is any prize either.

    innuendo? that's funny! (none / 0) (#63)
    by hellothere on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 10:54:02 AM EST
    the current president cracked down on dissent in 2007 and refused to negociate. he also has not dealt with economic problems in this country with a lot of so called "innuendo" stating that there was a lot of corruption in his administration. he foolishly thought he could launch an attack during the opening of the olympics thereby setting this fiasco in motion.

    bayville (none / 0) (#2)
    by bayville on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:54:56 PM EST
    Kevin Drum misreading a sitaution...?


    BTD, did you see the tidbit about Ukraine saying (none / 0) (#3)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 03:57:14 PM EST
    they too will let the US set up missiles in their country?

    Via Sean-Paul at The Agonist from Radio Netherlands (but his post title might not make it through the filters).

    Ukraine has agreed to take part in a missile defence system designed by the United States to protect Western countries. The government in Kiev defended its decision for military co-operation with the West, saying Russia cancelled a bilateral treaty with Ukraine earlier this year.

    Sean-Paul's terse observation is that Russia will never let that happen.

    Lambert posts about Pipelineistan, via Avedon-- (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:06:46 PM EST
    Article by Kenneth Anderson who has taken a WeedWacker to the tall weeds of all the various pipeline plans and realities, but the thicket of lines is clearly explained--if still tall grass. The bottom line is that Russia now has control, much to BushCo's flummoxed despair.

    The point is strategic control of Caspian basin gas, which Russia now has.
    From the perspective, all US and EU plans for creating natural gas sources and corridors outside the control of Russia have been effectively shuttered.  Russia could entirely negate the presence of the Georgia petroleum corridor, a possibility that looms large in the face of continued posturing by Saakashvili and various, apparently clueless, United States officials.  The foundering TAPI pipeline, with its source in Turkmenistan, is now dependent upon Russian approval.  Since this western-backed pipeline was meant as a competitor to the Iranian-based IPI pipeline, and considering the alignment of Moscow and Tehran, the prospects for the TAPI pipeline have grown entirely dim.  Furthermore, any trans-Caspian gas pipeline is now, if not moot, hardly a route that excludes Russia from the equation.  If the Georgian conflict did not already render the Nabucco pipeline dead, filling that potential pipe will also depend upon Russian approval.  In short, Russia is now the sole source supplier of Caspian natural gas to Europe, regardless of route.  The only other energy alternative for Europe is Iran, which also imports 14 billion cubic meters of gas annually from Turkmenistan.  Considering the alignment of Russia and Iran, this is really no alternative at all.  Though halting at times, Europe must now completely reconsider its ill-advised support of US agitation against the Iranian regime.

    What is most notable in all this activity is that it has all been accomplish within a regime of cooperation, while the Bush administration continues to flail about, waving arms madly and issuing threats dressed up as warnings.  But Russia has now essentially checkmated western powers on the issue of energy dependence and this carries, or should so carry, a potent counterbalance to the usual US foreign policy bluster, which always now seems to be nothing but the threat of military encroachment or force.  Saakashvili's petulant move has only served to highlight the failures of current US foreign policy and the continued petulance of Washington can no longer be seen as a viable path either for Europe or the United States.  The foreign policy establishment in Washington would do well to take heed of the examples of cooperation that are breaking out across Asia and elsewhere, because all of it has happened while Washington's countenance has been its most aggressive and, by these accounts, its most failed.

    (Emphasis mine)

    Anderson blogs here. Lambert, as we all know, blogs at CorrenteWire and this post was here.


    Good stuff (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by Prabhata on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:23:48 PM EST
    Putin knows Russia has power and Putin is willing to use it for the benefit of Russia.

    best interest!! :)  Looks like nationalism isn't dead on the Continent just yet.

    We'll see how that plays (none / 0) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:03:20 PM EST
    Remember, Bush won't be President for much longer.

    Any idea how Obama will handled the BushCo (none / 0) (#18)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:11:31 PM EST
    missile defense system and its current implementation plans? I don't have a clue.

    Not missiles (none / 0) (#7)
    by BernieO on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:28:00 PM EST
    anti-missile sites. There is a BIG difference, although I think Russia would disagree.

    This kind of reaction makes me think maybe Putin did prove a point about NATO membership but did pay a price with by having Poland and maybe Ukraine signing on the missile defense.

    On the other hand, if Condi thinks that the Russians' reptutation is in tatters the answer is "Hey Pot!" Our already bad image was badly damaged by the fact that NO ONE paid any attention to us in the run up to this mess. Saakashvili ignored our warning not to provoke Russia and Russia ignored our asking that they limit their response to South Ossetia (which of course would have killed a lot more South Ossetians).
    It is probably a good thing that Russian has lost something in this, but I would not say that they "lost" in any large sense. They surely have put the fear of God in their neighbors and have set back the push for NATO expansion. If Putin keeps his word and pulls back now, he will have lost less than either us or Georgian IMO.


    defense us composed of missiles programed to shoot down other missiles.  Missiles programed for that can be programed for hitting other targets.  To believe otherwise would be foolish if you were Russia.  

    Of course were Russia to place a defensive missile (none / 0) (#17)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:10:07 PM EST
    system in Venezuela or, heh, Cuba, I think the US position would be, well, ballistic. I do realize Russia is not going to put any defensive missiles in Cuba or elsewhere in S. America...right?

    No kidding we would freak (none / 0) (#21)
    by BernieO on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:17:04 PM EST
    AND what I find most odd is the thing Bush and the media doesn't like to talk about, the system has NEVER WORKED!! (But it has cost us a bundle.)Many scientists have said it can never work.

    Which is why I said it was placing missiles on (none / 0) (#27)
    by jawbone on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:26:40 PM EST
    Russia's borders.

    Think that might be the pea under all the fluffy mattreses that BushCo and the NeoCons really wanted to get in place? They never could have persuaded even the most deluded neighbor of Russia to just let the US put missiles in place, manned by US soldiers, which could be easily aimed at Russia. But a "defense" against jihadist terrists? And Ol' Devil Iran? Well, just keen.


    Actually, the U S has been resisting (none / 0) (#45)
    by jccamp on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 11:17:36 PM EST
    Polish demands for U S manned Patriot systems for some time. You have it backwards. Eastern European nations like Poland want the anti-missiles and U S personnel for the same reason we still have troops in South Korean. Any armed conflict would almost certainly bring the U S into the fight. Our presence in places like Poland is seen by them as a deterrent to Russian aggression.  

    Other nations around Russia will be demanding the same deal, now that Putin has demonstrated Russia's willingness to resort to armed force.


    Actually we did freak when the USSR (none / 0) (#29)
    by Matt in Chicago on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:33:30 PM EST
    put ICBMs in Cuba.  Unfortunately, in today's scenario the missile defense system is more like putting Patriot missile batteries in Cuba.  Annoying, but definitely not the same.

    Regardless of how Russia feels about the system, that doesn't grant them the right to do what it did to Georgia.

    It would be like us invading Iraq in response to an unrelated attack from a different source... oh wait, bad example.


    Actually that is misleading (none / 0) (#26)
    by Matt in Chicago on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:25:34 PM EST
    Of course a missile can be reprogrammed, but that doesn't mean it will have the sensors, and load-out to strike a ground target.  In fact, when first announced I believe the Russian military even said it was a defensive system.  Soon thereafter the politics kicked in an offensive/defensive system became immaterial.  Moreover, none of these missiles would be capable of engaging a ICBM as it takes off (they are just not fast enough or long range enough).

    My guess is that Putin just wanted to make sure everyone knew you shouldn't mess with them.  Moreover, in the short term, I am willing to bet he couldn't care a less about any opinion poll.  He knows that Russia has the oil and natural gas that Europe needs and sooner or later they are going to have to come to hime to get it.

    I think he is counting on the fact that Europe rarely acts in a uniform manner... With Merkel backing Georgia's bid for NATO membership, well things just got a lot more interesting.

    Just one guy's opinion of course.


    programed for defense only.  
    but that doesn't mean it will have the sensors, and load-out to strike a ground target

     to do that is only a matter of taking out a module and replacing it with another.  Not a hard task and since the US will not let anyone to look inside them for security reasons what can guarantee anyone they are not already in place.

    The patriot anti-missiles are small, and cannot (none / 0) (#44)
    by jccamp on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 11:08:51 PM EST
    be used against a ground target. Patriots don't go to a location via GPS or onboard guidance, for instance. They are radar guided against a moving airborne or ballistic target. They also carry conventional explosives, and can't utilize nuclear payloads. Even if you managed to guide a patriot to crashing on a ground target, the explosives are too small to do much damage. Patriots explode in a wide swath of small shrapnel in the path of an oncoming missile, which is supposed to damage the delicate guidance systems of ballistic missiles (as the missile flies through the cloud of debris).

    This is like comparing a handgun to a cannon. Anti-missile systems don't represent a direct threat to another country's territory.

    The big objection (by any nation) to anti-missile systems is that theoretically, they permit a first strike by removing the threat of a nuclear counterstrike - you know, the old MAD. Russia says they see anti-missile systems on its borders as causing a new arms race with the Western democracies. Of course, we say they are a defense against Iran. Considering the capabilities of the Patriot, i'd say that's probably right. They wouldn't do much against modern MIRV's.  


    Your (none / 0) (#49)
    by Wile ECoyote on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 05:14:24 AM EST
    background is?

    this information is widely available (none / 0) (#52)
    by jccamp on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 07:08:28 AM EST
    for instance, here

    Reading your post (none / 0) (#36)
    by Grace on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 06:48:44 PM EST
    makes me wonder what type of system Russia has in place as a missile defense?  They must have something.  Russia is much more technologically advanced than we like to give them credit for.  

    Please explain. (none / 0) (#12)
    by lentinel on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 04:49:47 PM EST
    My understanding is that an anti-missile system is a system that launches missiles. The stated reason for launch is to destroy incoming missiles, but the capacity to launch is itself threatening.

    Please explain the difference you were mentioning.


    Kevin (none / 0) (#16)
    by Ga6thDem on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:07:08 PM EST
    has been really, really off his game lately it seems.

    Putin cares about Europe (none / 0) (#22)
    by Prabhata on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:20:37 PM EST
    Russia's ties to Europe matter to Putin because he doesn't want to rock the boat too much.  The US matters only on how that affects it's relations with European countries.  But that doesn't mean that Putin will put those ties ahead of Russia's interest.  So Putin just sent a message, not to the West, but to Russia's border nations that they cannot behave in ways that unsettles Russia's interests.  Those nations cannot jump into bed with the West and expect no reaction from Russia.  My guess is that Russia will continue on the path of letting its border nations know who is boss, and if they don't like it, then they will have to deal with the consequences directly with Russia.

    Georgia and the US Strategy (none / 0) (#34)
    by bridget on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:58:33 PM EST
    Master Plan or Screw Up
    by Mark Whitney

    This is the kind of reporting you wont get from TV and bloggers like Drum (someone I don't read for obvious reasons)

    But There is always a whole different side to it all as we all should know by now. Remember Lebanon? Gaza? You never get the real story from TV and the Drums of this world.

    Food for some thought

    drum? i won't waste my time with him. (5.00 / 1) (#43)
    by hellothere on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 11:02:38 PM EST
    his track record doesn't impress. clearly folks in the world see us in a positon where we have no moral authority and our troops are misused. what to do? take advantage of it for sure.

    Bush sets a pretty sorry precedent worldwide (none / 0) (#46)
    by rastamick61 on Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 11:25:51 PM EST
    That W. had the nerve to pontificate about 21st century ettiquette in regards to invading sovereign nations and disrupting their democratically elected leaders is beyond ironic and borders of delusional. Granted Saddam's elections were as democratic as a junior high cheerleading tryout but for the record Putin's incursion isn't nearly as egregious as the outrage Bush and co have perpetuated in Iraq with thie false evidence and no bid billiion dollar contracts to the v.p's former company. Bush needs to stay drunk,  (as in the now famous blog pic of him being seated by half a divison of daycare men at Beijing) quiet and away from buttons and microphones. His legacy is disgraceful and he's the worst president ever -- nixon called and said attaboy w !

    kevin drum (none / 0) (#51)
    by bayville on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 07:04:56 AM EST
    oh boy, Drum has an opinion. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

    I guess I missed the Headlines (none / 0) (#53)
    by pluege on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 07:57:41 AM EST
    about all the Western Nations canceling their oil contracts with Russia.

    Russia lost - yea right, tell me another good one.

    Anything coming from Kevin Drum is only a gnat's whiskers more worth listening to than the blather foaming out of the mouth of condiLIEzza rice, but then again, nothing from nothing still leaves nothing.

    Russia stuck the gold: (none / 0) (#54)
    by pluege on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 08:05:02 AM EST
     1) stuck a poke in US' (i.e., bush's) eye - US made to look ridiculous as bush slap female volley derrier while Russia invades.
     2) brought an unruly satellite to heal
     3) unlike the idigits of the bush regime didn't get bogged down in endless civil strife (assumes Russia really will withdraw to some point)

    It will be a cold day in Siberia before what's left of Georgia tries to flex some muscle again.

    The only face saving going on is the frenzied West that mistakenly thinks their words mean something to Putin. Putin has oil, the West doesn't - end of story.

    West has money, Russia doesn't (none / 0) (#74)
    by pmj6 on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 01:48:19 PM EST
    What Russia did is little more than a variation on the Thomas Friedman doctrine: "the US should pick up some crappy country and smash it against the wall to show the world we mean business". Except that for us it was Iraq, for them Georgia. Well, how did that work out for us? Since it didn't, whence this certitude this will work out so well for Russia? Russia is part of the same international system as the US and is bound by the same rules, in fact even more so than the US on account of its relative weakness.

    As to Russia getting stuck, it already is stuck in the Caucasus. Moscow is barely in control of its own southern provinces, be it Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, the whole lot of them. It only managed to make an already fragile and complex region even more so. It is only a matter of time before things flare up again.


    Georgia's membership in NATO was not in the cards (none / 0) (#73)
    by pmj6 on Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 01:27:00 PM EST
    Georgia simply fails to meet many of the conditions prospective members must meet, for example not being involved in any territorial disputes with one's neighbors. This was already true and well known before the Russian invasion. So what the Russian gain here was is not clear to me.

    Seems to me the objective was a regime change in Georgia, by replacing the twice-elected Saakashvili by a Moscow puppet. Russia has long had an interest in who governs in its neighboring countries, and has interfered in Georgia's politics before. One does not make comparisons between Saakashvili and Saddam Hussein lightly.

    On the debit side, we have the following:
    --A show of transatlantic unity, with the US and the EU showing solidarity in supporting Georgia by demanding the Russian withdrawal of forces. Whatever damage the Bush administration did to Western cohesion has been to a large extent repaired by Russia's actions. When you have Bush, Sarkozy, Brown, and Merkel in effect pronouncing the same policy, that's quite an improvement on the old days of the Bush-Blair axis.

    --A greater pro-Western lean on part of any and all of Russia's neighbors who fear what was done to Georgia could be done to them. In practical terms, this will mean less E. European intransigence in the face of EU reforms (for example), greater interests in maintaining the viability of NATO, the preservation of its anti-Russian character, and in general a reduced sensitivity toward Russian interests in E. Europe.

    --Likely a greater isolation of Russia, which has shown itself to be something of a bully. Even the US had to pay a price for its irresponsible behavior and promotion of instability in the Middle East. Russia will pay that price too by finding itself more isolated in the international arena.

    The only thing that remains to be seen how the Russian ruling circles see the situation. If they think they won, they will seek to repeat this crisis, perhaps in Georgia, perhaps elsewhere. Of course, if they do so, we will have a second Cold War on our hands. But hopefully they realize the damage they did to Russia's reputation as a responsible international actor and seek to restore their international standing. Because, given Russia's weakness and isolation, a second Cold War could have only one outcome: Russia's collapse and likely dismemberment. Having lost one Cold War, I doubt they have an appetite for a second one.