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“I will Make Georgia Howl”

Perusing the latest news on the Russo-Georgian War via the always excellent SWJ Blog, I fear some of my analysis from the other day will come to pass, simply because the only restraint on Putin’s disposition to use force against Georgia thus far is Putin’s self-restraint. Of which I’m not seeing much.  If something constructive in terms of statesmanship is to be done to end the crisis, we ought to move toward doing it while the Georgian Army is still intact.

 Western bluster is not going to help Saakashvili as much as would quietly putting the squeeze on the far-flung economic interests of the siloviki clique in Putin’s inner circle, or of the Russian state itself. That would be a practical and proportionately useful response to signal displeasure with Moscow’s actions. Far moreso than invoking comparisons with Hitler or Saddam Hussein or other rhetorical nonsense by folks who know better.  But doing that would require that the Europeans – the nations that wanted the BTC pipeline, after all – rapidly act as a diplomatic united front with Washington and accept some risk of retaliation – say, a 100 % increase of gas prices by Gazprom.

Kudos to President Sarkozy ‘s efforts but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Adam Elkus suggested that we may be seeing an example of military theorist Frank Hoffman’s hybrid war in action. Possibly. Or we may see a combined arms version of an EBO attack by Moscow against the Georgian state. The critical variable will be if the Russians try for an occupation of Georgia proper, which will likely result in an open-source insurgency, or if they are engaged in what used to be called a “punitive expedition” and intend a prompt departure while they are still ahead.


In addition to linking to me ( gracias!) Galrahn is chasing down some very interesting rumors regarding Israelis and also of threatened executions of POWs. 

Addendum II.

Discussion at Small Wars Council rises to the occasion.

Addendum III.

Registan has a series of informative posts and lively commenters (some anti-Barnett mania as well). Dr. Dan Nexon has a good post up at Duck of Minerva with a priceless quote:

“We don’t look very good,” said a former Pentagon official long involved in Georgia. “We’ve been working on [Georgia] for four years and we’ve failed. Everyone’s guilty. But Putin is playing his cards brilliantly. He knows exactly what he’s doing and the consequences are all negative.”

That kind of truth telling is good. The fact is that if you look at Georgia and the U.S. backed Ethiopian intervention, there seems to be a systemic failure to anticipate and plan a response for the likely eventualities when carrying out proxy operations. It’s almost as if there’s a rule somewhere forbidding the raising of “What if ”  questions during the interagency process.

26 Responses to ““I will Make Georgia Howl””

  1. Tatyana Says:

    There are also rumors on Russian blogs (I had to take a shower after 2 hrs of torturous reading yesterday) of Georgian government consisting entirely of Mossad agents. And that Georgian Minister in control of Ossetia is a Jew (and, "naturally", guilty of instigating genocide). It should be clear whose ears are poking through these messages.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    Is the invasion a 2GW?  If so, why?  If 2GW is a club, and 3GW is a rapier, and 4GW is a mindf*ck that makes you quit and 5GW is hypnosis you don’t know is happening — do you use the club because that is all you know how to do? Or because clubbing somebody to death is scary to everyone who sees you do it, and hence, in a way, a variant form of mindf*ck? 

  3. zen Says:

    "There are also rumors on Russian blogs (I had to take a shower after 2 hrs of torturous reading yesterday) of Georgian government consisting entirely of Mossad agents"
    The Russians are reaching the Arab nationalist-Islamist message board level of idiotic, anti-semitic conspiracy theories. Of course, complaining about Georgian officials with ties to French or German intelligence are only going to elict yawns from Russian readers and reinforce European solidarity with America.
    What’s obvious from this crisis and the unusually adept actions by Moscow is the degree to which the SVR thoroughly penetrated Saakashvili’s government. When a fairly well-trained group of brigades, as the Georgians allegedly were, are routed that quickly, chances are good that the Russians have been fed information for some time. That sort of perfect performance is heavily dependent on early intel for good staff work. The Russians did not wing this one by the seat of their pants as they did in the first Chechnyan War.
    Perhaps we ought to look at out our own CI situation for that matter

  4. zen Says:

    Will need more data but it seems the Russians were sometimes executing 3GW – fast, coordinated, manuver warfare and sometimes doing trademark 2GW firepower/attrition attacks.

  5. Tatyana Says:

    There was info somewhere that we had about 150 advisers present in Georgian Army (not a definite figure); I too want to ask – what were they doing? where was our intel? Why they didn’t see what’s happening on the other side of Georgian border?

    1st Chechen War – wasn’t led by a kgb-operative.

  6. arherring Says:

    Lexington Green,

    Even from the confused, muddled picture coming out of the mainstream media (I still have yet to see a quality map or timeline on any of the news channels) this conflict seems to me to represent for the most part a progression upwards along the XGW framework’s ladder with the Russian forces keeping the initiative as they climb each level.
    1GW – The initial movement to occupy, geographically, the territory of South Ossetia.
    2GW – The use of overwhelming force when encountering resistance by Georgian troops in order to attrit them and drive them back.
    3GW – Once a firm foothold was established in South Ossentia drives made toward key crossroads (specifically the east/west highway), port facilities and the capitol itself.
    It remains to be seen if the Georgian forces will sieze the initiative by progressing to 4GW but the possibility exists. There also appear to have been some cyber warfare and propaganda attacks that have accompanied the conflict from both sides and it will be interesting to see how those progress.

  7. NYkrinDC Says:

    Sorry Mark…Here’s my comment, this time with the links correctly embedded.Tatyana,In my post on the subject, which Mark kindly linked, I noted that Jews on the border between Russia and Georgia began fleeing away from Russian tanks and toward Tbilisi. Hearing your reports of the vile anti-semitism in Russian blogs adds greater context to that report, which I originally found at JTA.org. It’s distressing to say the least.

  8. Lexington Green Says:

    Arrherring, that sounds about right.  There is a 3GW element also, from some things I have read, in apparent Russian (I typed Soviet and had to re-type it!) attacks which crippled the Georgian military’s signals traffic.   Ralph Peters says the performance of the Russian army and particularly air force are mediocre.   I wonder how Putin will avoid a bog-down and occupation, hence opening himself up to a 4GW response.  Probably get local proxies to become the new government of Georgia and pull out, do the whole operation as a punitive raid.   On the other hand, the Georgians may be docile in the face of conquest compared to a Muslim population.  One Russian guy I work with commented that the Georgians want to sit around drinking wine all afternoon, and they will not resist the Russians once the initial conflict is over.  We shall see. 

    Glad I live in the Midwest instead of the Caucuses.   

  9. A.E. Says:

    Zen, thanks for the link. As the first major conventional force-on-force engagement of note since Desert Storm I&II, this little war is going to have big implications for the future. I think another symposium may be in order (on more theoretical–rather than political–analysis) once this has receded a bit and we have more detailed information available about the operational side.

  10. Arherring Says:

    " I wonder how Putin will avoid a bog-down and occupation, hence opening himself up to a 4GW response.  Probably get local proxies to become the new government of Georgia and pull out, do the whole operation as a punitive raid. "
    I heard a report on NPR on my way home from work that discussed Saakashvili and specifically mentioned that a puppet government likely wouldn’t be very effective because even the opposition parties in Georgia don’t like what Russia has done. To me this means even if a puppet is installed Russian military force would still need to be present to back up the hollow government.
    It does beg the question though. What would be the possibility of Saakashvili or another Georgian leader using a puppet government as a rallying point for a 4GW movement?

  11. Ski Says:

    I think this started out with 4GW overtones within Ossetia.  The seperatists there seemed to goad Georgia into conducting a 3GW raid into Ossetia (an argument can be made that it was a 2GW raid designed to mangle some villages/towns).  The Russian response so far has been 3GW, with coordinated air/ground/sea maneuver resulting in the isolation of Georgia from the Black Sea, and the country being split in half by Russian forces.  The next phase may very well go 4GW if the Russians decide to perform the regime change operation or just decide to occupy Georgia for the rest of the summer.  The weather is quite lovely there at the moment.

  12. Tatyana Says:

    NYkrinDC: I can supply a sample, there are many more where it came from (thread is  more vocal than the post) – in Russian, naturally.

  13. Joshua Foust Says:

    Zen, I appreciate the link (anti-Barnett mania? that’s a bit much), but I’m curious — what evidence do you see for this war not simply restoring the status quo? I haven’t yet seen any evidence for Russia conclusively moving on Tblisi, and they know better than most commentators that internal Georgian politics will not permit a Russian puppet to rule the country. In other words, annexation and subjugation are non-starters, in part because the Russian military and state are really not as strong as a lot of commentators seem to imply. The Cold War is over, and the Soviet Union collapsed into rust and old age almost 20 years ago. Russia, in other words, is a paper tiger — all bark and very little bite.

  14. zen Says:

    Hi Josh,
    I wrote the above post the night prior to Medvedev’s statement. I don’t believe a puppet regime in Georgia is sustainable either but I could not have ruled out the possibility of Russia attempting one. I think what we will see now is a degree of " Finlandization" in the Caucasus and Moscow attempting to set limits on the relationships the states there can have with the EU or other organizations (i.e. –  Transcaucasia will not be another Baltics if Moscow can help it).

  15. Joshua Foust Says:

    That could easily be the case. Though the news coming out right now might make this all moot, if we begin sticking the DOD into the country and Russia doesn’t act like an adult.

  16. arherring Says:

    Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have publicly stood with Georgia in opposition to Russian aggression, what is the possibility of a new military alliance outside of NATO? Perhaps a new Warsaw Pact of former Soviet states oriented to the east instead of the west (but heavily connected to the West) in order to contain or dissuade Russian military actions. Does the invasion of Georgia trigger the possibility of a new arms build-up in the Russian near-abroad? Who would be the suppliers of that military equipment and know-how, or do these countries have that capability and capacity already?
    I’m thinking if there ever is a 5GW campaign attached to this conflict this may be a possible goal.

  17. eddie Says:

    I see reports of Russian irregulars being left behind by Russia. After Russia destroys some more Georgian infrastructure and humiliates the Georgian military further, what kind of havoc can the irregulars inflict and for how long?
    A commentator on NPR opined that the military training the US provided was mostly COIN-oriented… is this true and if so is this a good reason they were beaten so handily (in addition to the Russian air advantage)?

  18. zen Says:

    I would think that near abroad states are doing a lot of re-calculations right now. The "Little Entente" of the interwar period does not give much hope for robust defensive alliances of small countries but Finland’s Winter War and many other examples provide a lesson on small states employing military strategies to greatly raise costs for great powers.
    "what kind of havoc can the irregulars inflict and for how long?"
    Soviet military doctrine incorporated "stay behind" SPETSNAZ/OSNAZ forces as a regular feature of state on state warfare in a far more integrated and systemic fashion than did American use or treatment of "special forces". It was part of their model of warfighting.

  19. Fabius Maximus Says:

    "what is the possibility of a new military alliance outside of NATO? Perhaps a new Warsaw Pact of former Soviet states oriented to the east instead of the west…"
    .. ..
    The mice working together to bell the cat?  That would be interesting to see.  There are historical precedents, but are there any successful precedents?

  20. Arherring Says:

    Well it doesn’t look like Georgia will be getting into NATO any time soon and now Russia has show the willingness to ‘discourage’ other former Soviet states from following that route. What other options are there besides insurgency and capitulation?
    Georgia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are increasingly connecting to the West (with or without NATO membership) and should reap the resulting  economic rewards. They just need to demonstrate their security to encourage investment. There may not be precedent but there certainly is the argument for incentive.

  21. Fabius Maximus Says:

    States inside Russia sphere of influence have the same range of choices faced by other states in this situation throughout history:  some mixture of concessions and defenses.  A mutual alliance is more on the bold side of this range than anything I suspect they will choose.  Their relationships with each other and with Russia will probably evolve to some mutually agreeable (not necessarily happy) balance.  My guess is that they will have security in some form of client relationship with Russia.

  22. Lexington Green Says:

    "My guess is that they will have security in some form of client relationship with Russia." With some countries that would work.  There is zero security in a client relationship with Russia, unfortunately.  The smaller countries will probably have to shade toward the "defenses" side as a result, or so I speculate.  The apparent solidarity between former Soviet Socialist Republics suggests they would rather find a way to resist than a way to surrender, at least for now.  They apparently want to be perceived as NOT "inside Russia’s sphere of influence", whatever the hard facts of geograpny may seem to require.  During the Cold War we protested at the status of "captive nations" some of which were actually imaginary.  Will just now say, "you are in Russia’s sphere of influence, so your natural fate is to resume your captive nation status, to spare us any hassle"? Small states, or substate populations, often export more history than they can consume locally, and cause big states to have out-sized headaches.  Chechnya comes to mind, as does Serbia. We will see what happens. 

  23. Fabius Maximus Says:

    I agree, we can only wait and see.  However this — "There is zero security in a client relationship with Russia" — seems a bit extreme, even manichean.  Any experts on Russia — past or present — care to comment?

  24. Lexington Green Says:

    OK, saying "zero" violates the rule against unqualified superlatives.

    But most "client" relationships with Russia, where the "client" has contiguous borders, have been thinly disguised subjugation.  I think of two long periods.  First, post-1945, the Warsaw Pact countries were ruled, harshly, by local proxies with the Red Army as a backstop.  Second, during the 19th Century, the central Asian khanates that became "clients" were pretty soon annexed outright, as Russia expanded.  Similarly, after the Bolsheviks secured their power, they reasserted control over the peripheral areas of the Czarist empire that had briefly obtained independence. 

    Being a client of a maritime power like Britain or the USA is better, if you can get it. 

    The Finns, post-1945, had an unusual relationship.  But they had obtained a seat at the Big Table by beating the crap out of the Russians and making the Russians respect them. 

  25. Fabius Maximus Says:

    Russia was the last of the great empires to expand, and (as you note, the USSR was a continuation phase) the last to fall.  However, Russia’s behavior during the age of empires might not reliably forecast their behavior during the 21st century. 
    ..  .. 
    I agree with your last point.  While better than outright conquest, being a client of Russia will probably be no fun.  I suspect even our Latin America neighbors will agree that US "patronage" is far better than Russia’s.

  26. Seerov Says:

    It should be clear whose ears are poking through these messages. (Tatyana)

    No, its not clear?  Whose ears are they?

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