Orthodox Orthopraxis

Story today from the NyTimes on the Georgian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church acting as mediators, as the only channel of communication between the two countries, over the recent war.  Both churches have played a constructive peace-seeking role in the conflict:

During the fighting in August, both Patriarch Ilia II of the Georgian Orthodox Church and Patriarch Aleksy II of the Russian Orthodox Church called for an end to bloodshed between Russians and Georgians, who share a common Orthodox Christian faith.

And doing what churches ought to do they stand in conflict even with the governments of their own countries on certain points:

The Russian Orthodox Church has been seen as taking a position at rare odds with the Kremlin in rejecting appeals by South Ossetians who would like to join the Moscow Patriarchate. The issue has not been resolved — Orthodox churches in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia recognized by the Kremlin, are still in jurisdictional limbo — but church officials in Moscow have said that canonical territory cannot be dictated by political lines.

There have been strains as well in the relationship between Patriarch Ilia and President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia.

God be with them in their workings.  They need our prayers.

Update I: As a political update to this conflict, it is worth noting that the evidence is now much clearer that Georgia did initiate the aggression which as Yglesias notes does not give a green light to Russia’s increased counter-aggression, but if nothing else it is further proof that McCain was an awful choice for president because he was so in the tank for Georgia.  It also suggests that NATO entrance should not be in the offing for Georgia.  It ought also to cause a re-think of the Obama-Biden plan of mass aid to Georgia so that it does not end up propping up and encouraging President Saak because he appears more than ever a bit off his rocker.

On the other hand, looking at the war, Russia’s army is not the big scary monster to be feared.  It was pretty old and creaky and beat up a small-time opponent who had dumbly bought into a “big army” for a small army model of dealing with this problem.  Instead of practicing or at least threatening if needs be a kind of Global Guerrilla tactic as a way to defend their territory.

Somebody Shut This Guy Up

From HuffPo:

A defiant Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the former Soviet republic would not relinquish South Ossetia or Abkhazia _ both now overrun with Russian troops and abandoned by Georgian soldiers _ as Western leaders pushed for a swift Russian withdrawal from positions it has held for days of warfare.

Saak has become the Peter Lorrie of World Politics (even kinda looks like him). Talking smack he can’t back up, starting some violence, then playing “somebody help me, somebody hide me”, wanting Humphrey Bogart (The US) to come to get his back but it ain’t happening.

Published in: on August 17, 2008 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Background Russo-Georgian War

Mostly to do with Russia. Recall when the Soviet Empire fell in 1989 and the immediate aftermath of its occurrence. Russia was promised (by the realists like Scowcroft of George HW Bush’s administration) that NATO would not expand East. And recall that the Soviet sphere covered all the way to East Germany.

Well obviously that didn’t take. First to go of course was German unification. Then Russia gave up Central Europe (Hungary, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles). Next Russia ceded the Baltics (ok, they still got a pro-Russian dictator in Belarus!!!). There was the ham fisted cyber war against the e-government of Estonia as the last gasp of influence in the region.

Continuing the trend, the Russians lost the Balkans having backed the losers (Serbs) and were unable to stop the eventual train to Kosovo independence. And again minus some balking and some abortive cyberwarfare attempts, Russia accedes to all of that loss of influence. Hell even Serbia is working hard to make themselves able to gain EU membership.

Russia also had the hugely face-losing moment in the early 1990s of Western backed Economic Shock Therapy (see Naomi Klein’s book on the subject). The rest of the developing world as a result looks to China not Russia for economic/political guidance (i.e. how to open your markets and keep one party rule/stay in power). Russia now seems to be taking a dangerous, more militaristic inspired path (plus the playing of petropolitics particularly vis a vis Europe and the Iranian nuclear issue).

Then comes the next inner core, what Thomas Barnett calls GUAM: Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan/Armenia, Moldova.

The GU pair of the quartet is where the Russians are making their stand. Particularly now the former. They are also are feeling of their oats after two decades of decline and humiliations.

Of those four, the two As so far seem closer to the Russian sphere (Moldova is mostly neutral), while Georgia and Ukraine both have majority pro-Western populations with large rump pro-Russian populations. Russia recall was involved in trying to back the (what appeared to be) vote rigging in the Ukranian elections (backing Yanukovich over Yukashenko).

So the line has clearly become Ukraine and now more dangerously Georgia. Both wanted into NATO and both were put on hold because of fear of domestic illiberality (both Saakasvili and even Yushchenko have had their marital law like episodes and are involved in their own political shenanigans it seems) as well as the obvious point of pissing off Russia and not wanting to get in a fight with Russia over these countries.

Not only that but the US is attempting to shore up relations with the Central Asian “istan” [former Soviet] republicans. Russia sees NATO undertake a mission outside of Europe, in its own former sphere/Vietnam (Afghanistan). Then the US wants Russia in on Iranian embargoes and the like. And now you see the Russians starting like they are being encircled and dictated to. The Russians see NATO increasingly as an anti-Russian alliance and their fears I think are pushing them in a direction of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Update I: I was assuming in my mind, but I realize I didn’t make explicit, that part of what is going on is Saak’s absolutely reckless (possibly immoral) stupidity in the initial round of escalation. That of course does not excuse Putin’s equally (even worse) further escalation–beyond simply South Ossetia into non-disputed Georgian territory. And civilians are getting killed as a result.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 10:35 pm  Comments (2)  
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Russia-Georgia: Bad to Scary Worse in under 3 seconds

WTF is Putin thinking going beyond Ossetia, extending the war to the air and navy and perhaps a push on the capital?  This is even worse than Saakasvili’s ham-handed failed putsch. 

The Georgians are tough people–see how many times Tamerlane had to put down (bloodily) revolts there.

The US should make clear to Russia that this could be their Iraq (or Afghanistan #2).  Namely the Georgians deploy their defenses to irregular warfare, let the Russians in, and bleed them dry. 

Clearly after a day of this Putin had Ossetia and Abkhazia within his orbit/on their own Kosovo-like trip to independence or Kurdish-esque autonomous power.  Recognized in some fashion in the international community.

But this s–t is spiralling out of control and only plays into the worst hardline US elements (i.e. McCain). 

See James P. on the subject.  Key quote:

The real bottom line is a tragic one: Saakashvili drove his country headlong into an unnecessary war, and Putin seems set to press forward with an even less necessary conflict — squandering a golden opportunity to reach final status in the Caucasus without destroying any shred of basic good will, or even begrudging patience, in the West.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 3:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Georgia-Russia War Time

James Poulos has got your coverage of the Georgia-Russia/Ossetia War. [I don’t know what the official title is going to be].

On Update VII, JP writes of Obama’s statement regarding the issue:

That puts him closer to the Bush administration line — that is, the line of restraint and evenhandedness — than McCain!

Further proof of my reverse Sidney Poitier theory of US prez foreign politics. Bush is moving to a quasi/de facto support of Obama’s view on Iraq, Iran, (Pakistan?) and Afghanistan, so why not on this one? McCain has consistently shown himself more hawkish than the somewhat chastened Bush of ’07 and ’08. And McCain’s long held crazy opposition/desire to saber rattle with Russia is well known.

Published in: on August 8, 2008 at 11:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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