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In my previous diary on this topic, I examined the background to the South Ossetian war. Today, I try to examine the current situation in the war.

Yesterday, most of us probably heard the news that Russia had taken the cityof Gori, only 40 miles or so from Tbilisi.

Below is a typical selection of comments from Georgian officials:

"Russian forces are occupying Gori. Georgian armed forces received an order to leave Gori and to fortify positions near Mtskheta to defend the capital. This is a total onslaught," Mr Lomaia [secretary of the Georgian Security Council] said.

President Saakashvili told Georgians in a televised address that Russia was attempting to occupy the whole country. He said: "This provocation was aimed at occupying South Ossetia, Abkhazia and then all of Georgia."

- The UK Times Online

Russia for the most part did not comment specifically on this, and most of us probably took that as confirmation.

The Kremlin declined to say whether its troops had entered Georgia proper but said all its actions were intended to strike at Georgian military forces that had fired on its peacekeeping troops in South Ossetia.

A senior Russian military official, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said early Sunday that Russia did not intend to "break into" Georgian territory.

- the International Herald Tribune

Today, however, it seems that those statements could have been an exaggeration:

Lomaia has since claimed that Russian forces have "captured" the city. However a Reuters reporter in Gori said: "We are right now driving through the town and I see no trace of troops or military vehicles. It is absolutely deserted."

- the UK Telegraph

More significant are the comments by US defence officials reported by the AFP (highlighting is mine):

Georgian officials said Russian troops had moved out of South Ossetia into Georgia proper, occupying the city of Gori while Georgian troops were retreating to the capital.

But US defense officials said they were unable to corroborate the Georgian claims.

"We don't see anything that supports they are in Gori," said a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I don't know why the Georgians are saying that."

Considering how many satellites our tax dollars have paid for, I think our Defense department would know if Russian troops were truly moving into Gori.

Russia has indeed taken the town of Senaki, in western Georgia proper, but that looks to be more like a raid to destroy the Georgian base than any full-fledged invasion.

So the real question is why this disconnect between Georgian words and fact has occurred. One possibility is that this is simply the result of a massive communications breakdown in Georgia - with important infrastructure such as radar and airports destroyed by Russian bombing, people are unable to determine the actual situation, and panicked rumours can spread quickly, causing an army to flee from an illusionary foe. A prime example of this occurred at The Battle of Karansebes, more than 200 years ago, where an Austrian army panicked from a nonexistent Ottoman attack and ended up destroying itself. Western news agencies have certainly reported fleeing Georgian soldiers - its only the Russian advances that they are unable to confirm. Russia has also showed an aptitute in cyberwarfare (one of its first demonstrated uses occurred against Estonia last year), and appears to have used it effectively in this conflict, a fact which may also have contributed to a total breakdown in Georgian communications. In a way, the Russian advance seems to be a modern version of Blitzkrieg, working to paralyze the Georgian command structure and impede communications.

The other possibility is simply that Georgia is trying to make its situation look as terrible as possible in an attempt to win the support of the West. If that's the case, they seemed to have fooled the not-so-honorable Senator from Arizona, but little else.

Originally posted to Michiganliberal on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 07:09 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for peace (10+ / 0-)

    Comments and more analysis will be appreciated too

    •  I don't like asking for recommends (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ohcanada

      But there seems to be a lot of misinformation and panic about how Russia's supposedly going to conquer and annex Georgia, which doesn't look like its going to happen. So I would really appreciate it if you could get this onto the Rec list.

      •  There is one more thing worth considering here... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        houyhnhnm

        Georgia is mostly mountain country.  Moreover, it ain't that big (click here for a nice scale map in English).   As the crow flies, it's about 50 miles from Tskhinvali to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.  It's about 20 miles along a nice highway from Tskhinvali to Gori.

        We are talking lots of artillery-range distances here, especially if elevations are taken into consideration,  and (no pun intended) all these elevations lead to a slippery slope - if you are a legit peacekeeper with OSCE mandate and your position, say,  in Tskhinvali is shelled from a mountain 10 miles away (in Georgian territory), are you still legit if you call an air strike on this position?

  •  Presumably (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pluto, KenBee, jfromga

      American satellites could determine the exact position of the Russian armies and the current state of the city of Gori.

      John McCain could have access to that information, or a summary of it, if he wished. (I don't know about Obama -- I wouldn't put it past the White House to withhold information from a Democrat).

      The point is that there is no excuse for the White House or anyone connected with it to pretend to be speaking from a position of ignorance -- and no excuse for them to make a characterization that's wide of the truth.

  •  A few things I can attest to firsthand... (4+ / 0-)

    There is an information blackout in Georgia. Practically no email, very spotty phone connection. Some of it is supposedly due to a Russian cyberattack, some definitely from damage to communication infrastructure, some may be self-imposed.

  •  This from a Georgian site (0+ / 0-)

    Russia said it has sent troops deep into Georgian territory as far as Senaki, as part of its "peace enforcement" operation in South Ossetia

    from Civil.ge

    The White House will be The People's House--B.Obama

    by Phil S 33 on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 07:20:54 PM PDT

  •  I'll guess #2 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mikolo, Pluto, Rogneid

    The other possibility is simply that Georgia is trying to make its situation look as terrible as possible in an attempt to win the support of the West.

    Was't that Shaakashvili's gambit from the start?

    He was willing to kill Ossentians, Russians, and risk his own people in this gambit.

    Now he wants Americans to be drawn into a direct conflict with nuclear Russia.

    He'll gamble everything and everybody.

    The most successful war seldom pays for its losses. - Thomas Jefferson

    by Judgment at Nuremberg on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 07:22:49 PM PDT

  •  one would think (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KenBee

    between satellites and other intelligence means we could fairly well monitor russian movements and radio chatter that would indicate positions of  troops.  Of course, Bushco could have spent so much on surveilling americans, they let the real spy networks fall apart.

    •  Bushco's satellites know (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto, jfromga

      but won't tell CNN, the AP, or or Faux News because they'd rather have those organs just repeat hysterical Georgian disinformation.

      The most successful war seldom pays for its losses. - Thomas Jefferson

      by Judgment at Nuremberg on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 07:28:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why would you think so? (0+ / 0-)

      We haven't found Bin Laden with those satellites yet, have we?  Also, radio communications in the Caucasus Mountains?  It's a very remote area.  Radio signals don't go through mountains very well.

      •  armored columns (0+ / 0-)

        leave bigger footprints than Bin Laden.  Plus I've gotten the feeling we've known more than once where Bin Laden was and failed to act.

        And radio signals don't go through mountains very well, but I perhaps wrongly thought that that even if coded, we could recognize transmissions up to satellites and triangulate origin points.

  •  Because of the "fog of war", (0+ / 0-)

    I wouldn't believe anything from either side (Russia or Georgia).  This is one of those conflicts that has been going on for decades (read about it going back to 1918-1920).  The Caucasus' have always been a wild area (read Pushkin or Tolstoy), and it's doubtful any American satellites would be able to figure out what is really going on (they haven't found Bin Laden yet, have they?).  Also, Georgian language is a very unique rare language, and Ossetian even rarer, so I doubt the UN or CIA or NSA types have been able to "listen in" on what is really going on.  Take EVERYTHING you hear about this with a grain of salt - remember, the MSM can't give correct information about events here in the US much less in an isolated region like Ossetia.

  •  Putin (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfromga

    is making it very clear that Russia has also arrived back on the world scene complete with its oil wealth. If it takes Georgia to do it, so be  it. I don't think he much cares..he is very much a Russian nationalist and he wants Georgia back into Russia's sphere of influence.

    Did Israel and the US really think Putin wasn't peed off at the arms sales to little Georgia? Look at the US response to Cuba when the Russians were there.

    Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

    by ohcanada on Mon Aug 11, 2008 at 09:13:26 PM PDT

  •  Yep (0+ / 0-)

    They invaded Georgia proper on Saturday.

  •  If there is fighting going on (0+ / 0-)

    There will be a ton of propaganda. Somewhere in all of the statements being made there will be some truth.

    The reality of the situation for Georgia is now been quite simplified.

    If they stand and fight at Gori - the Russians will smash them and the city, if necessary to do so.

    If they stand and fight anywhere within artillery or rocket range of South Ossetia the Russians are going to roll them back.

    As long as the Georgians continue to fight the Russians will continue to strike Georgian military bases, weapons and ammunition manufacturing plants, and troop encampments wherever they may be.

    If the Russians truly wanted the Georgian people scared to death and in the dark (literally) they would have made strikes on the phone system both land and cellular, strikes on power plants and major transmission lines, strikes on bridges and infrastructure to restrict access or egress, and hit civilian government facilities throughout the nation. As I have said before the Russians are not known for their restraint. It could be quite worse.

    Until the Georgians sign the Russian document - which calls on Georgia to never again use force with respect to South Ossetia (not unlike a surrender) the Russians will continue.

    On this last point, the problem really comes from the West. The Georgian leadership is not going to be allowed to capitulate on this. But it matters not. The Georgian leadership is unlikely to survive this debacle - at the ballot box at a minimum. If the citizenry believe that the person in charge is going to get them all killed they will remove that person from being in charge.

    That is why the French are being used as the go-between to try to give the Georgians back what they have lost and get the Russians out so that things are as they were last Thursday. The Russians will reject this. Georgia will be forced to be the loser and will not receive the do-over that the West is pushing.

    Whatever goals the Georgians and the West had are now long lost. At least that is how it appears. However, the goal may have been exactly the outcome we are seeing - so it may, in fact, be a success - just one more tactical step in a long-term strategic plan of the US and the West.

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