• Post-Conflict Georgia


    Shortly after the release of the Atlantic Council’s report, Restoring Georgia’s Sovereignty in Abkhazia, Russia invaded Georgia and war broke out over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The United States and its European partners were put to the test; Moscow’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia not only challenged Georgia’s sovereignty, but by demonstrating its willingness to use military action, Moscow also sent a message about Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations as well as the viability of energy transport projects running from the Caspian, through Georgia, to western markets.

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  • Georgia Crisis: A View From Russia

    Eighteen months ago I published an op-ed in the Washington Post, where I urged the prevention of a new Cold War.  And only a couple of months ago it seemed possible.  But since the Georgian-Russian war last month, the situation has drastically deteriorated.

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  • Georgia Crisis Reverberates to Latin America

    Sitting in Bogota, I didn’t expect to see Colombian television coverage of the four-ship Russian squadron departing Severmorsk. After all, Colombia is very much focused on consolidating its recent gains against the narcoterrorist group FARC. There is now tremendous optimism in Colombia with a series of successes that began with a spring operation that killed the FARC deputy Raul Reyes and a summer operation that recovered three American hostages, Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven others. It was strange to me that the Caucasus should matter in Colombia, but to overuse a phrase, the world is interconnected now.

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  • Wake Up, Gassiev is Calling!

    Wake Up, Gassiev is Calling!

    In the predawn hours of August 7, Russia invaded Georgia.  Gassiev, a border guard of the separatist regime in the Georgian territory of South Ossetia, was at the southern end of the Roki Tunnel that leads from Russia.  At 3:52 a.m., he used his mobile telephone to tell his supervisor: “The armor and people . . . 20 minutes ago; when I called you, they had already arrived.”  The intercepted telephone call, first reported in the September 16 New York Times, explodes the myth that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili precipitated Russia’s assault on Georgia with an ill-conceived attack on Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia.

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  • Russia Back in the Game: It’s the West’s Move

    With its invasion of Georgia, Russia demonstrated the determination to “come back into the game” in style. Regenerated through the surge of energy prices, Russia’s leaders want to make up their losses from the 1990s and get payback for the accompanying humiliation. Her aggressive policies, heralded by the political use of the energy weapon starting in 2006, have been beefed up now with a willingness to openly employ military might.

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  • NATO's Tunnel Vision: Seeing Beyond Russia

    Perusing the media reports after the meeting of NATO defense ministers in London, I was most struck by what did not appear.

    For instance, no apparent discussion about what is a growing threat to the economic security of the entire Euro-Atlantic world—the increasing ability of both "rogue states" and non-state actors (warlords, rebels and terrorist groups) to disrupt the shipping lanes that are vital to the prosperity of every Western state. Should Iran prove its ability to close, even for a short time, the straits of Hormuz; if pirates operating in the Red Sea cripple or destroy an oil tanker; if continued rebel attacks further reduce the supply of energy coming from the Gulf of Guinea—the ramifications would be quite serious. Already, the navies of individual NATO countries have begun to increase their activities to ensure that some of the most vital waterways remain safe for passage.

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  • Debate: Is Russia Rational?

    A question that has been raised repeatedly, both explicitly and implicitly, since Russia's invasion of Georgia is the degree to which Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev are rational actors.  Surely, many argue, it makes no sense for Russia to risk isolating itself from the West to make a point?

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  • Russia a Rational Actor? Nyet!

    After all the huffing and puffing about what civilizations don’t do in the 21st century (does Abu Ghraib ring a bell?) on the one side, and finger-wagging about spheres of influence on the other, what does the Georgia tragedy add up to? Is cooperation with Russia fading beneath a new Cold War? Is Russia facing unintended consequences by turning the states in the former Soviet Union and ex-Warsaw Pact that they are trying to put on notice toward the West -- not to mention further damaging their own sinking economy and financial markets?

    There is no debate about the nastiness and bloody-mindedness of the Russian military expedition under the eerily familiar pretext of protecting its citizens. The dominant view in the U.S. seems to be something close to a comfortable reversion to a Cold War paradigm of Russia; though some, while also condemning Russian behavior, argue that the U.S. and NATO crossed one too many of a resentful Russia’s redlines, particularly in disputed territories on its border. The two competing views were nicely summed by James Traub in a NYT analysis: “It is either an expansionist, belligerent power whose ambitions are insatiable or a ‘normal’ state seeking to restore influence and regional control along its borders, commensurate with its wealth and power.”

    The problem is that is it neither, but rather, a bit of both, driven more by a sense of grievance and seething resentment than rational calculation of its broader self-interest. Therein lies the policy dilemma. For Washington, it is a question of supporting a democracy; for Moscow it is visceral nationalistic reaction to a troublesome neighbor. It appears a case of values bumping up against interests.

    It might be argued that all are rational actors within their own internal logic: The U.S. values safeguarding democracy in Georgia ahead of its relations with Russia; Moscow places dominating its “near abroad” more than its economic interests and integration into the world system; and Georgia had reason to believe assault on South Ossetia would not trigger a full-blown Russian invasion.

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  • Russia a Rational Actor? Da!

    The world sat startled when Russia heavy-handedly violated the sovereignty of Georgia.  It is currently aggravated at Russian reluctance to promptly leave.  In the aftermath, everyone is hurriedly analyzing, grasping for reasons why Russia felt the need to go all in.

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  • Cold War II

    The dramatic escalation in tensions between NATO and Russia that followed the West's recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia and, especially, Russia's invasion of Georgia, have many analysts fearing a return to the bad old days of the Cold War.   Jim Townsend, the Atlantic Council's vice president for international security programs, declared to a C-SPAN audience on August 13 that preventing "a new Cold War" must be the highest priority of both sides.

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