The New Kremlinologists

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Take a look around the blogosphere and it seems that, overnight, everyone's a Kremlinoligist, everyone's an expert on the Caucasus (I have followed the region closely for years—especially the post-Communist Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—but must concede that I too am just an interested observer, and am in no way an expert; just relaying interesting stuff from the wire services). And the responses to the invasion of Georgia, it seems to me, are merely Rorschach tests for certain bloggers and pundits' own politics: If you're on he left, you're broadly sympathetic to Moscow; on the right, Georgia. So while the blogosphere is abuzz with those "debunking" the notion that Georgia is the aggrieved party, challenging the sinister "MSM's" take on the conflict, the Russian military continues to move—today into the country's second largest city Kutaisi and the port city of Poti—despite a ceasefire. At this point, I'll leave the prognostications and insights into regional power politics to the experts. But another, rather alarming story from the AP:

Russia's foreign minister declared Thursday that the world "can forget about" Georgia's territorial integrity, and American and Georgian officials said Russia appeared to be targeting military infrastructure—including radars and patrol boats at a Black Sea naval base and oil hub.

An AP Television News crew in the oil port city of Poti saw one destroyed Georgian military boat, and two Russian armored vehicles and two Russian transport trucks. Soldiers who identified themselves as Russian peacekeepers blocked the crew from going further.

Russia's president met in the Kremlin with the leaders of Georgia's two separatist provinces—a clear sign that Moscow could absorb the regions. The comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to come as a challenge to the United States, where President Bush has called for Russia to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

From Fox News, a report of "humiliated" Georgian "irregulars" firing at civilians, including Fox's Steve Harrigan. And a video of a Georgian reporter shot by a Russian sniper during a live broadcast.

NEXT: Just What Do You Think You're Doing, Dave?

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  1. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are in the Caucasus now?

  2. I note that the alleged “antiwar.com” Riamondo is defending Putin — yet again. He seems to have a history of defending Putin no matter what Putin does. It is so refreshing to see a supposed libertarian defending a dictator and an alleged antiwar site defending an armed invasion.

  3. If you’re on he left, you’re broadly sympathetic to Moscow; on the right, Georgia.

    Probably fairer to say, if you’re on the right, you’re sympathetic to Georgia; on the left, less so.

    Not jumping on board someone’s crusade is quite a bit different from launching one of your own.

    “With us or with the ‘bad guys'” is sooooooo 2002.

  4. joe, “With us or with the bad guys” is adhered to by both the right and left. Especially by you.

  5. that female reporter was unbelievable. she jumps to the top of my “respect” list.

  6. Please tell me you’re not itching for a fight again, Moynihan.

    Could someone please explain why the Americans should give a fuck about what goes on between Russia and Georgia?

    As usual, The War Nerd is all over it.

  7. I would hope that no one left or right is sympathetic to Moscow.

  8. The War Nerd’s the best source for foreign policy info. Always.

  9. And a video of a Georgian reporter shot by a Russian sniper during a live broadcast.

    The (primary) “From the Frontline” blog has been posting a lot of similar video (and related items). Otherwise, I’ve largely been sticking with reading updates on FP’s “Passport” blog (“Caucasus” category; “Georgia” category; “Russia” category).

  10. If anything sounds similar to Bush’s “With Us or Against Us” proclamation, it’s this (from Pravda):

    The USA must choose between the real partnership with Russia and “the virtual project of Georgia,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters Wednesday.

  11. I would hope that no one left or right is sympathetic to Moscow.

    Look, I looked into Moscow’s eye and got a sense of its soul.

  12. Russia’s foreign minister declared Thursday that the world “can forget about” Georgia’s territorial integrity, . .

    This comment has been taken out of context. It’s still pretty ugly in context, but not as bad as this clip implies.

    The foreign minister basically said the two break-away zones in Georgia are lost to Georgia regardless of what the world thinks. However, the minister did not say that all of Georgia was ripe for the pickin.

  13. I’m sympathetic to neither. Georgia started it, thinking they could get away with an unprovoked attack while everyone was focused on the Olympics. Russia has somewhat of a case in defending their peacekeepers, but then they launched a totally disproportionate attack and invasion. Screw them both.

  14. I would hope that no one left or right is sympathetic to Moscow.

    Been there many times, and have always enjoyed the people.

    Putin on the other hand is plain fucking scary.

  15. Sure, John. That Poland professed support of Georgia (while telling them that the support didn’t actually mean that they’d anything) is already a pretty good indication that Moscow comes out more sympathetic here.

  16. joe, “With us or with the bad guys” is adhered to by both the right and left. Especially by you.

    joe loves Hitler.

  17. I’m interested to know how much of this is due to Russia’s desire to monopolize oil from the East. It’s at least a factor, I’m sure.

    I’m concerned about what this means for the future more than I’m concerned about Georgia specifically. Russian aggression is bad for everybody. Think that Poland, etc. are going to move even closer to the West? Of course they are! The worst thing that happened to Russia was this oil boom. It gave Putin the cash and clout to build his authoritarian state and killed any chance of real reform.

  18. If you’re on he left, you’re broadly sympathetic to Moscow; on the right, Georgia.

    It’s because the left’s calculus consists of (1) find out which side the American government is on and (2) take other side.

  19. Israel’s response against Lebanon is totally justified. Hezbollah killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two of them.

  20. everyone’s an expert on the Caucasus (I have followed the region closely for years-especially the post-Communist Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania?

    Have have deftly proved that you do not have the credentials you don’t claim to have by lumping countries hundreds of miles away from the Caucasus into “the region” 😉

  21. It’s because the left’s calculus consists of (1) find out which side the American government is on and (2) take other side.

    (3) ????

    (4) Profit!

  22. Have have deftly proved that you do not have the credentials you don’t claim to have by lumping countries hundreds of miles away from the Caucasus into “the region” 😉

    Flat maps of round world make Greenland look HUGE!

  23. It’s because the left’s calculus consists of (1) find out which side the American government is on and (2) take other side

    Politics of projection. People like jeff look for whose side the American government is on and take that side, then berate anyone who doesn’t base their opinion on the same criteria as being anti-American.

    No different from the people who declared that Barry Goldwater was a segregationist. If our motives are X, and he disagrees with us, then his motives are -X.

  24. Greenland is huge.

  25. Joe:

    Politics of projection. People like jeff look for whose side the American government is on and take that side, then berate anyone who doesn’t base their opinion on the same criteria as being anti-American.

    I consider myself left but am pro Georgia, although they made a huge mistake by attacking on Aug 7th.

    A lot of people like “anti-war” Riamondo look which side the US and the West is on and back the other side.

    Russia is overreacting just as Israel overreacted by invading Lebanon.

    The Russian diplomats going on and on about human rights and genocide while the Russian army goes about its business is classic.

    I don’t remember them being so PR conscious during the leveling of Chechnya. You think you’re going to secede? Um, no.

  26. Peter — looks like they learned their lesson.

    Of course Powell at the UN talking about Iraqi WMD trailers with a straight face a?? Condi trying to defend Kosovo independence were pretty good case studies…

  27. joe, “With us or with the bad guys” is adhered to by both the right and left.

    Libertarians, too.

    Especially by you. Whatever you say, chief. I’ll be sure and take advice about partisanship from someone who leaves his own grouping out of the list of people who are partisan.

  28. So while the blogosphere is abuzz with those “debunking” the notion that Georgia is the aggrieved party, challenging the sinister “MSM’s” take on the conflict?

    Thank God Moynihan has the courage to stand up for the beleaguered establishment.

  29. This comment has been taken out of context.

    Full(er) quote? Link, even? This is the blogosphere, man! Don’t make me Google!

  30. All your Georgia bases are belongs to us.

    /We’ll be back for that Black Sea real estate we were eying.

    /That is all.

  31. Peter K,

    A lot of people like “anti-war” Riamondo look which side the US and the West is on and back the other side. The opposite is certainly true: a lot of people like pro-war Krauthammer look at which side the US and the West are on and take that side. Still, while it’s very, very easy to find rightists who jumped on Georgia’s side out of nothing but taking America’s side the Great Game, it really is rare to find people on the left applauding Putin. Not Kos. Not Atrios. Not Yglesias. Not Marshall. Not John Cole, or Juan Cole, or Barack Obama, or me. But just like in the runup to the Iraq War, the reckless and dishonest accusation of sympathizing with bad guys that no one sympathizes with is being thrown around the Krauthammers and Moynihans.

    Also,: Justin Raimondo isn’t in any sense on the left; in fact, he’s what those of us on the left would call a reactionary. But then, he has shown sympathy for Putin before this, so I don’t think that even he is an example of someone siding with Putin because the Russians are against our government.

    And then, there are people also on the right – Pat Buchanan, anyone? – who take no one’s side and deplore the war.

  32. I just saw that fox news piece on ‘georgian irregulars’

    The correpsondents bottom line was ‘Georgians behaving badly’

  33. This is funny – I’ve been reading the youtube comments at the Putin link I posted at 5:50 under the name Leftist.

    sophigeo posts:
    “Mr. Putin and Bush are having conversation and suddenly Putin offers competition: “who will go through the pit full of shit without getting drown in it”?
    here come Mr Bush with the car that is latest inovation of Am. scientist goes through the pit and gets drowned..
    here comes Mr putin with old Russian CAr”MOskvichka” and goes through the pit. Amamzed George: “tell me how could you do that”putin:”do you know old saying that shit never gets drown in shit””dermo v derme ne tonet”:))lol ”

    OK, it not really funny, but sometimes these things get lost in the translation. You should here some of the jokes my “Laotion” (they don’t call themselves that, they are “Lao”) wife friend tells. At the end, you can’t tell if she is finished or even if it was really a joke, except that she busts out laughing. This isn’t one, but they go along these lines: “there was a woman and she couldn’t finish cooking her meal because her cooking pot was on the top shelf of her cupboard” HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH!

    Anyway, this exchange at the Putin youtube link cracked me up:

    zangeroo (4 months ago) Show Hide -4 Marked as spam Reply | Spam I love Putin! He is so cool! He is like, well, if you can imagine taking a piece of shit, and smearing it out over a piece of? glass, and freezing it! Whoa! In a freezer! Whoa! Like it’s transparent, and it’s shit, and it’s really cool. Like, how fucking dumb do Russians have to be to think that’s really cool! Whoa! Oh, wait, their Russians!

    Ant the reply:

    cali101101 (3 months ago) Show Hide +4 Marked as spam Reply | Spam your cool like piece of shit i leave in my toilet and then smear it all over your faggity face and then freeze it and smash with a hammer and than it brakes into million little pieces…not that be cool! Bitch!

    I’m easily amused sometimes. Make that often.

  34. Still, while it’s very, very easy to find rightists who jumped on Georgia’s side out of nothing but taking America’s side the Great Game, it really is rare to find people on the left applauding Putin. Not Kos. Not Atrios. Not Yglesias. Not Marshall. Not John Cole, or Juan Cole, or Barack Obama, or me.

    While I’ll bet that one can find examples of people on the “far left” who are enthusiastically boosting for Russia and Putin, Joe is right: there is a huge difference between mainstream righties and mainstream lefties in their reaction.

    How does this conversation

    Average-Righty: “OMG! Russia is throwing down a challenge to the West and must be stopped lest we repeat our mistakes with Hitler in Munich 1938”.

    Average-Lefty: “This is a complicated fight where no side is angels. Besides the simple fact is that we can’t do anything about it’s pointless and unwise to talk tough and and make threats we cannot back up with action”

    get chalked up as “Right = Pro-Georgia, Left = Pro-Putin”?

  35. Especially by you. Whatever you say, chief. I’ll be sure and take advice about partisanship from someone who leaves his own grouping out of the list of people who are partisan.

    I thought libertarians liked partisanship?

    “gridlock is good” i heard.

    I know I do.

  36. The correpsondents bottom line was ‘Georgians behaving badly’

    Yeah I got that as well.

  37. Also,: Justin Raimondo isn’t in any sense on the left; in fact, he’s what those of us on the left would call a reactionary.

    I really can’t fault the left for disowning one of their own when they go off the deep end. Good show good man.

  38. And the responses to the invasion of Georgia, it seems to me, are merely Rorschach tests for certain bloggers and pundits’ own politics: If you’re on he left, you’re broadly sympathetic to Moscow; on the right, Georgia.

    I’m in the middle. A plague on both their houses.

  39. I spell goodly

    Here > hear
    laotion > layocean
    ant > and

  40. I really can’t fault the left for disowning one of their own when they go off the deep end. Good show good man.

    One could say the same thing of any rightwinger who denies commonality with Stormfront or the KKK.

  41. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Justin Raimondo was a leftist.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, the one, the only, joshua corning. Let’s give him a big hand.

  42. One could say the same thing of any rightwinger who denies commonality with Stormfront or the KKK.

    One could say that with a great deal more confidence, because the KKK and Stormfont are actually self-proclaimed rightists.

  43. Everyone’s a Kremlinologist, and oddly enough nobody seems to get it – it’s not about destroying oil pipelines or infrastructure or even the Georgian military, it’s about scaring the West out of investing in Georgian pipelines. And maybe scaring the Georgian public into voting in a more pro-Russian guy, though Putin’s really seems too smart to have thought that an invasion over South Ossetia would really push the citizenry into his hands. More likely they’re just in it to scare the West away.

    Also, it’s funny that nobody in the US seems terribly interested in the very coincidental attack on the BTC pipeline just weeks earlier. Or the fact that the PKK usually attacks a different pipeline, and the BTC one has never been attacked before. But that coincidence hasn’t escaped the Turks.

  44. One could say that with a great deal more confidence, because the KKK and Stormfont are actually self-proclaimed rightists.

    True, but I still think the logic sucks.

    My explanation is pretty mundane so I’ll put it last *, but you reminded me of something I find more interesting.

    Impromptu Poll:

    Which is a more important political similarity metric?

    A) The final position of the person on the issues.

    B) The thought process used to arrive at the position.

    I normally think B is more important. I usually find that people who reason alike but disagree because they have different starting assumptions are more like each other than people who agree but reached the point of agreement through two totally different thought-paths.

    *

    1. When you divide 300 million people into only 2 groups you are invariably going to end up with wide variance within each group.

    2. Different people on the “Right” have different ideas about what the “Right” is, so two people can both claim to be “right” while meaning quite different things.

  45. Since political party is usually based more on final, often simplistic “for” or “against”, position on issues than on thought-process, its not surprising that parties group people together who think almost nothing alike but just happen to support and oppose some of the same things.

  46. Average-Lefty: “This is a complicated fight where no side is angels. Besides the simple fact is that we can’t do anything about it’s pointless and unwise to talk tough and make threats we cannot back up with action”

    You’re being awful generous. The two principal arguments the lefties have been putting forward are
    1: “It’s our fault this is happening” and
    2: “The timing is too convenient – George Bush and John McCain must be greasing Moscow’s palms”
    The “average” position of both parties is pretty lame. . .

  47. Every time I read a Moynihan article, I wonder if he actually believes the things he’s writing, or if Lew Rockwell is paying him to give Rockwell’s complaints about Reason‘s warmongering some basis in reality.

  48. To get at least a rudimentary read on the pulse of the ‘international community’, most major media outlets/newspapers throughout the world have hosted message boards to peruse. Moreover, BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ reader comments board has over 15,000 posts from a wide global readership base about the RUS-GEO situation.

    That said, the reaction is mixed. Having read the BBC HYS board over the past week, there is certainly no shortage of Hurray Russia/Blame Georgia (and Blame USA and Israel, of course) comments over there, even removing the Russian posters from the equation. Let’s just say the tone is far more hawkish than when a US or Israel conducts an overwhelming military adventure to hunt “bad guys”.

  49. It’s WWI all over again.

    USSR/Russia wants its empire back, so dominates and meddles with national concerns, causing alliances to shift.

    We’re one Prinzip away from a global conflagration, and I love it. No more of these little Vietnam/Iraq wars. Let’s get some death on; we’re overpopulated anyway!

  50. Whatever you say, chief. I’ll be sure and take advice about partisanship from someone who leaves his own grouping out of the list of people who are partisan.

    Classic joe strawman. I’m not a member of the LP, I don’t support the LP, and I question the point of politics in general.

  51. Take a look around the blogosphere and it seems that, overnight, everyone’s a Kremlinoligist, everyone’s an expert on the Caucasus

    Welcome to the sad life of the Sinologist. Actual knowledge of facts doesn’t seem to matter when discussing China, either. Though, it is good to not be alone in having to listen to people who have only just discovered their mastery in a subject talk about how everything as if it were so simple!

  52. To get at least a rudimentary read on the pulse of the ‘international community’, most major media outlets/newspapers throughout the world have hosted message boards to peruse.

    I neglected to mention earlier that Global Voices does have a special section on the crisis that also may be of interest.

    Also, I didn’t notice earlier that most of the current FP Passport coverage is actually in its “Morning Brief” section, which is not included in its listings for other topics.

  53. As a Caucasian, I feel that depite the fact that the one with Atlanta may be the only Georgia I can find on a map, that I am fully qualified to comment on any situation in the Caucasus.

    It wourks that way, right?

  54. list of people who are partisan

    Can you be partisan if you dont have a part?

    /mangling root words for fun and profit

  55. I’d like to know which “lefties” are actually pro-Russian. Every “lefty” blogger I’ve read on this has taken the position that: 1. Georgia was really stupid in what they did; 2. Georgia is hardly a beacon of democracy; 3. Russia’s response, while predictable, is far from justified, particularly to the extent they pushed past South Ossetia; and 4. This is far, far from Hitler’s invasion of the Sudetenland or Stalin’s invasion of the Baltics.

    As for me, I’d say it looks a lot more like the US’ response to Mexico’s invasion of another quasi-independent breakaway republic called “Texas.” Justified? No. But hardly evidence of a desire for global domination.

  56. One more thing: I should have included “5. Putin/Medvedev are even worse than Shaakashvili, but that doesn’t make Shaakasvili worth defending.” Put another way – the idea of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a bad basis for deciding who to ally with.

  57. This is all probably similar to the US/China Spy Plane thing from several years ago.

    Russia and US are on constant private conference calls, trying to determine what’s the best way for both countries to come out of this episode looking “tough and bold”. It’s saving face and public relations time.

    And this may very well happen. Russia will have looked good teaching Georgia a swift lesson and ‘freeing’ South Ossetia and whatsitsname province, and the US (by proxy) will look good by keeping Georgia proper entact (minus the two breakaways) and keeping Saakashvili’s power in place.

    JMHO, of course.

  58. Every “lefty” blogger I’ve read on this has taken the position that:

    1. Georgia was really stupid in what they did;

    I agree with them on this.

    2. Georgia is hardly a beacon of democracy;

    Again, agree with them on this.

    3. Russia’s response, while predictable, is far from justified, particularly to the extent they pushed past South Ossetia;

    While I again agree with the opinion in itself, I’m not completely convinced “the Left” feels the same way, based on various blogs/message boards I’ve read.

  59. it really is rare to find people on the left applauding Putin.

    Very true. Most of the sniping from the right has been aimed more at the “anti-war” community, which has been strangely silent. I think it seriously undercuts whatever claim to the moral high ground that they might have had.

    By not hitting the streets to chew on Putin and/or Shakashvili with the same vigor they show for Bush, they give anyone who cares to permission to dismiss them as merely anti-American, rather than anti-war, next time they hit the streets to protest American activities.

  60. To Pro Libertate,
    Russia is not authoritarian state, just like Georgia is not a true democratic state. There never was ‘flourashing democracy’ there. One thing I do understand… Why is it looked at as a good thing for other countries to develop economically, but for Russia it is something bad?

  61. Classic joe strawman. I’m not a member of the LP, I don’t support the LP, and I question the point of politics in general.

    Nice try, but the statement was about left and right, not Democrat and Republican. Libertarian is, exactly like the categories “left and right,” a description of an ideological orientation.

    But I’ll agree, this is a “classic joe strawman,” in that it’s a valid criticism of someone else’s argument made by me and sbusequently called a strawman by someone with no actual rebuttal.

  62. Because it is Russia, and those damn Russkies should know their place and not try to insinuate their way into a civilized company. Or something like that.

    It takes an amazing amount of self-inflicted blindness to imagine that Russia would have acted differently if it were any more “democratic” (whatever that might mean).

  63. And this may very well happen. Russia will have looked good teaching Georgia a swift lesson and ‘freeing’ South Ossetia and whatsitsname province, and the US (by proxy) will look good by keeping Georgia proper entact (minus the two breakaways) and keeping Saakashvili’s power in place.

    Not to mention, Russia gets to avoid an ugly occupation/counter-insurgency quagmire, while scoring points for going home.

  64. It will be interesting to see what happens with Georgia, in light of these conflicts with the Russians.

  65. Joe, please demonstrate where I excluded the LP from being partisans. All I said is that leftists and rightists are both partisan, and that you’re a hack. Is that so hard to understand that you have to read it to mean something else?

  66. As for me, I’d say it looks a lot more like the US’ response to Mexico’s invasion of another quasi-independent breakaway republic called “Texas.”

    Well, no. That assumes that SO was a Russian province that Georgia invaded first. Let’s not forget whose army crossed whose border here. Russia’s invasion of Georgia here would be more like the US invading Mexico over Chihuahua trying to secede.

  67. Right here, Nigel:

    joe, “With us or with the bad guys” is adhered to by both the right and left.

    Do you know what the word “exclude” means?

    Let’s not forget whose army crossed whose border here. The Georgians crossed the South Ossetian border, then the Russians crossed the South Ossetian border, then the Russians cross the Georgian border. People on this side of the Atlantic shouldn’t hold forth on who South Ossetia rightfully belongs to. The fact that Stalin decided it would be a good idea to breakit off from Russia and give it to Georgis isn’t a terribly compelling argument.

    Russia’s invasion of Georgia here would be more like the US invading Mexico over Chihuahua trying to secede. Uh, yeah, South Ossetia is and has always been an integral part of Georgia, without any political, cultural, or legal distinctions, just like Chihuahua and Mexico.

  68. This isn’t important. It doesn’t matter. Has anyone bothered to ask what SO thinks about all this? Seems important.

    Georgia is a cesspit of stupidity from all i’ve been reading.

    fuck Georgia. Honestly who gives a fuck.

  69. No one “honestly” gives a fuck, rex.

  70. Reporters are shooting at each other now? Should be fun.

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