Retreat from Gori, Skirmish in Poti

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Russian tanks are retreating from Gori, but have taken prisoners and commandeered American military equipment in the occupied port city of Poti. The AP reports:

Russian soldiers took about 20 Georgians in military uniform prisoner at a key Black Sea port in western Georgia on Tuesday, blindfolding them and holding them at gunpoint, and commandeered American Humvees awaiting shipment back to the United States.

The move came as a small column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles left the strategic city of Gori in the first sign of a Russian pullback of troops from Georgia after a cease-fire intended to end fighting that reignited Cold War tensions.

The two countries on Tuesday also exchanged prisoners. However, Russian soldiers also seized Georgians in Poti—the country's key oil port city—and commandeered four U.S. Humvees that had been used in U.S.-Georgian military exercises.

It was the latest example of Russia still demonstrating its military prowess, leaving Georgians to wonder if Russia planned an extended military occupation or was still inflicting punishment before adhering to a promised troop withdrawal.

The Columbia Journalism Review expands on a theme I mentioned last week—the "tremendous failure on the part of the blogosphere" (CJR's words) to provide unique coverage of the Georgia conflict.

NEXT: No Cause for Alarm

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  1. They took our Hummers? Bad move, Russia- that’s just giving us an excuse.

  2. Maybe the coverage is so shotty because there are no bloggers in Georgia? To pretend that this is like “Rathergate” or even the Iraq War is to mistake it with something that most Americans give a shit about. And the ones that do probably aren’t there, so they don’t know anything more than the MSM. Plus, the Olympics are on (ok, even I don’t believe that excuse).

  3. “tremendous failure on the part of the blogosphere” (CJR’s words) to provide unique coverage of the Georgia conflict.

    I eagerly await the regular, CJR approved, media’s unique coverage. Oh, wait, not so much happening there, either.

  4. “tremendous failure on the part of the blogosphere” (CJR’s words) to provide unique coverage of the Georgia conflict.

    Compared to who?

    And I’ve learned much more from the blogosphere about this conflict than I have from the CJR’s precious MSM.

  5. The Russians wiped out the ISPs in Georgia to prevent Georgians from getting their story out and allowing their toadies to dominate the internet on this issue. That is why there are no Georgian bloggers writing from the ground the way there was in Iraq. The Russians learned some lessons from Iraq and have launched a pretty effective information OPS campaign.

  6. So now you’re providing “unique coverage” by linking to the AP? I would guess that eight of the eleven people who could talk intelligently about the two breakaway (or not) provinces in Georgia (or Russia) work for the State Department.

    Still, I would like to see someone draw a meaningful distinction between Russia in Georgia and China in Tibet, or explain why the death of several thousand East Europeans is more upsetting than the death of several hundred thousand Africans. And I would also like to see Obama have the nerve to go beyond the “me too, pretty much, most of the time” reaction to a foreign “crisis.”

  7. the “tremendous failure on the part of the blogosphere” (CJR’s words) to provide unique coverage of the Georgia conflict.

    The Russians launched an extensive and successful cyberattack on Georgia. Blogger reporting relies on the ability of ordinary people to reach a wide audience via the internet. No internet, no blogging.

    Hopefully, the rise of mesh networking in the next decade or so will put an end to such attacks by providing millions of routes for information to flow out any region.

  8. They took our Hummers? Bad move, Russia- that’s just giving us an excuse.

    To, uh, ask for them back? Come on, Russia is securing military materiel from the field. That’s what any army would do, and no they wouldn’t give a shit who ultimately has the receipts.

  9. “It was the latest example of Russia still demonstrating its military prowess”

    I can’t tell if AP is saying this sarcastically or if they actually believe this.

    Anyone?

  10. El,

    I don’t think the concern is with rational people thinking that’s an excuse for military action. Some people seem to be looking for any excuse. Russia leaving them there might be more profitable in the long run is what he’s getting at.

  11. Oh, ok, we should ask for them back. But I would find considerable black humor in military exercises that target our own equipment, and just happen to sink whatever Russian transport ship was carrying them…

    I know, I know. That would be entirely juvenile and counterproductive. But let me enjoy the vision.

  12. That’s just wonderful about the Humvees. It’s great, because it’s totally not embarrassing. Who wants a military attack on Russia to get that stuff back? How about a counter-offensive to retake the breakaway regions for Georgia? John? Shannon?

    Whatever you think about the merits of admitting Georgia to NATO, this half-way stuff has left our hindquarters swinging in the wind. Russia knows they can invade Georgia and we won’t do anything about it. Russia knows they can take American equipment and parade it around and we won’t do anything about it.

    So, everything we do to show the flag in the Caucasus, short of actually putting American troops and armor in large numbers there a la West Germany, is a set up for the Russians to stick our noses in it. Any rhetorical support or promises we make that embolden the Georgians to, say, think it’s a good idea to settle their territorial disputes with Russia by force, are empty.

    Poland and Bulgaria and Latvia are one thing, the Caucasus are another. They’re Russia’s back yard, and we’re not going to send thousands of Americans there if push comes to shove. Like it or not, that’s just the way it is, and we shouldn’t lie to ourselves or anyone else about it being otherwise.

  13. “Poland and Bulgaria and Latvia are one thing, the Caucasus are another. They’re Russia’s back yard, and we’re not going to send thousands of Americans there if push comes to shove. Like it or not, that’s just the way it is, and we shouldn’t lie to ourselves or anyone else about it being otherwise.”

    We are not going to war over it. But we would go to war over somewhere and that somewhere is probably east of the Oder. That is why this thing scares me to death. I worry that Putin will miscalculate and go after Poland or the Baltic states and really start a war. Also, what about Ukraine? Would we go to war over Ukraine? I am not sure but they are asking for US assistance and if we give it to them we are a lot closer to war for doing it.

  14. joe, I don’t know if it’s won’t or can’t. Russia knows we are tied down in Iraq and any other major involvement would pretty much require the draft. Which nobody, save Rangel, wants.

    Certainly waging a war with Russia to get a few Humvees fails the cost benefit analysis.

  15. “”” I worry that Putin will miscalculate and go after Poland or the Baltic states and really start a war.”””

    Putin is not interested in a war with us. He might be interested in how far he can push us and it’s well known that he has worked to rebuild Russian clout. Besides we already know how to assist in defeating Russia by proxy, like we did in Afghanistan in the 1980s. As long as the citizens see the invading Russians as an occupier, Russia can’t win. A long term stalemate at best and that’s a slow loss for a foreign force. Russia is not going to get involved in another Afghanistan.

  16. It’s nice to see that the writer from the CJR reads Reason. It’s only somewhat related to that, but it’s disappointing to see Google’s new Reader page, with Reader feeds listed from Obama, McCain, and a heap of heavy hitter journalists, and not one of them have Reason listed in their feeds.

  17. Hey, Moynihan, don’t go all Michael Young on us, now. Especially over this.

  18. “Putin is not interested in a war with us.”

    I don’t think he is either. He is interested and taking back the Russian empire. The risk is that he blunders into a war with the US by going one country too far in his quest to rebuild the Russian empire. I don’t think the Germans were particularly interested in getting into a war with England in July of 1914, but it didn’t turn out that way.

  19. I think you’ve got it about right, John, about the Oder. Ukraine? That’s a great, big question mark, isn’t it?

    I’ve seen the Putin regime do a lot of things, but “miscalculate” hasn’t been among them. Crafty bastards, not nuts.

    I don’t think Russia wants to conquer it neighbors and literally rebuild the Russian empire. I think they get mighty persnickety at the thought of someone else nosing in, though.

  20. There are millions of people in eastern Ukraine who would greet the Russians with candy and flowers. Which might make pushing them out a bit dicey.

    Not so with the rest of NATO. Even the Russians in the Baltic states are a pretty small minority.

  21. This is what the Russians do – they step on ant hills and boast about how great they are. It doesn’t really say anything about Russia’s strength, just about its lack of self esteem. But that’s not the problem here. We’re supposed to be the guys who grab these petty bullies and pin them to the wall, throw the anthill dirt in their faces and show them who’s the boss. But what are we doing instead? Trying to tell them who’s the boss. From a distance. While throwing crackers on the anthill. As if that ever took care of a bully. Listen to the petty rhetoric coming from Medvedev and LiliPutin. These guys are either delusional, insane or very calculating. They’ve taken a page right out of the North Korean handbook. Act crazy, and nobody will mess with you. Not even the biggest kid on the block. The tactic worked for lil’ Kim. And where’s Condi in all this? They said she missed the boat on Iraq because she was a Russian specialist. Let’s see some of that expertise, Rice. Or did you specialize in Russian art history?

  22. Many people in that region of the world seem to prefer to have national boundaries drawn based upon ethnicity, rather than upon democratic principles imported from the West.

    Russian politicians such as Putin understand this point, and use it to their advantage. But they are not really interested in pushing it any further.

    They wanted to make a statement to their immediate neighbors not to get too cozy with NATO, and they did so. That’s the end of it; the conflict is essentially over, with the U.S. and NATO looking ineffectual.

    Let’s all move on.

  23. …unique coverage of the Georgia conflict.

    I’ll take that as a cue to plug IWPR and RFE/RL (in addition to what I mentioned in the earlier thread, here and here).

  24. We’re supposed to be the guys who grab these petty bullies and pin them to the wall, throw the anthill dirt in their faces and show them who’s the boss.

    We are?

    Not just, we might. We’re supposed to?

    Why aren’t we supposed to show the guy who sent the tanks rolling in the first place who’s boss?

  25. “However, Russian soldiers also seized Georgians in Poti – the country’s key oil port city – and commandeered four U.S. Humvees that had been used in U.S.-Georgian military exercises.”

    I starting to feel a little underwhelmed by U.S. trained soldiers first in Iraq & now in Georgia. I realize Georgians are hopelessly overmatched but you could a least give the schoolyard bully a few blackeyes before he makes you cry Uncle. Russia historically only give respect to power not weakness if you show weakness they’ll piss all over you.

  26. Lack of unique coverage? Excuse me? Bloggers, from what I see, are the only ones (except the Turkish press) covering the PKK bombing of the BTC pipeline as it relates to the war in Georgia. I myself had three entires about it, for all 17 of my readers to see. Maybe 18 after this comment.

    Russia, the PKK, and the South Ossetian energy war
    Stratfor on the not-so-PKK bombing
    BTC pipeline is “dead,” says Russian

  27. However, Russian soldiers also seized Georgians in Poti – the country’s key oil port city.

    They were right the first sentence. This is their key *port* city period. Of the other three ports in the world port index, one is classified as a ‘very small, open roadstead with poor sheltered afforded’, while the other two are in the other autonomous regions.

  28. We’re going to end up fighting the Russians and Chinese anyway someday, so why not now?

  29. I wonder what a black market Humvee goes for in Russia? This whole operation looks like it’s more about looting and protecting the safe areas of operation for the Russian Mafia, than it’s about promoting any Russian national interests.

  30. Why are we so concerned about this conflict? Russia’s power waxes and wanes. In 1908, they could not beat Japan. In WW I, they got smacked by the Germans. In the early 1920’s. western countries ( including the USA )landed expeditions on their territory with impunity. They learned a lesson and grew stronger. 1939, they made a pact with Germany that eliminated the Polish thorn in their side but with side-effects. Their power grew reaching a zenith in 1958 ( Sputnik.)
    Then they had a humiliating fall. In the 1990’s their economy was shit, their neighboring states were joining a hated anti-Russian alliance, and their main overseas rival was bombing the capital of one of their traditional little brother states in support of a breakaway province.
    Then their luck changed with the advent of climbing oil prices. Now they are beating up on a little country that their rival supported.
    Seems understandable.
    Are they a threat to the western world? Even if they get a lot bigger, I imagine that in 2050 they will still be militarily behind the USA, China, India. They will never be bigger in the world of the future than they were in the Europe of the pre-WW I past.
    Russia is no threat to the USA. Stupidity, shallow thinking, poor planning, living for slogans those are the dangers that are bringing us down.

  31. Anti-Globalism | August 19, 2008, 7:13pm | #

    We’re going to end up fighting the Russians and Chinese anyway someday, so why not now?

    Totally. Why wait until they get the Bomb?

  32. Joe:

    Or until they get missile shields of their own.

    Had we crushed the Soviets after WWII, of course, we could have skipped the horrors of the nuclear age.

    Sometimes it’s good to have a Roman empire 🙂

  33. I’m just glad you weren’t the President during the Cuban Missile Crisis, dude.

  34. You know what the problem with the “crush the Soviets after World War 2” theory is? Beyond the sheer immorality of starting a global scale war when it’s avoidable, I mean.

    We might have lost.

  35. They took our Hummers

    That’s ok. Nobody else wants them.

  36. It is covered by bloggers, including blogs from Georgians and Russians living in Tbilisi and Poti.

    It is just that people there prefer blogging in Russian and thus unavailable to the most of the english speaking world.

    And no, ISP was not disabled. The girl blogging from Poti wrote that she was surprised when she got by mail a bundle of books from Ozone (Russia’s version of Amazon.com).

    Georgia did turn off access to .ru domain, but livejournal.com was, natually, unaffected.

    Here are blog samples:

    Tshinvali pictures: http://krig42.livejournal.com/

    Blog from a girl from Poti: http://pepsikolka.livejournal.com/

  37. “””They took our Hummers””” It was a mistake, they thought they were getting Monica Lewinski.

  38. I am surprised you haven’t found a way to blame the latest actions of the Russians on McCain and the neocons. I am also surprised you don’t somehow also blame the democratically-elected leadership of Georgia for this Russian hostage taking; after all Reason and its “writers” have been engaging in a ridiculous moral equivalence ever since the invasion occurred.

  39. I’m a PCV who was evacuated from Georgia because my site was overrun by Russian tanks. To the commentator who said that maybe 12 people can talk intelligently about the breakaway regions, add at least 50 Americans who have lived, worked, and spoken Georgian for years. This is a real tragedy on so many levels that it’s hard to explain. I speak Georgian, and I can honestly tell you that there are very few blogs to begin with, let alone blogs in english. Russia did have a systematic cyberattack on georgia, but most of the isp traffic has cleared in the last few days.

    Overall, there has been significant coverage from the BBC (the only english-language news available where I’m currently evacuated to), but other than jokes about how funny it is that UNDP trucks are being hijacked by Ossetians, the coverage on the internet by private citizens has been spotty and pretty shitty. I’ve called my friends in Georgia and have a more accurate view, but that’s all predicated on having a good command of Georgian.

  40. Test comment.

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