August 7, 2007

Georgia: Russia Attacked Us

Georgian officials claim that Russian jets invaded their airspace last night and fired a missile, which turned out to be a dud. The incident appears to be an escalation of Russian hostility towards its former republic and NATO aspirant:

Russia has been accused of launching an airstrike in an "act of aggression" against neighbouring Georgia.

Russia, which has a long history of tense relations with the former Soviet state, has denied the claim.

Georgian officials said that two Russian jet fighters violated its airspace and fired a missile which did not explode.

A Georgian government spokesman said that the intrusion took place on Monday night when the aircraft entered Georgia's airspace over the northeastern Gori region and fired a missile which fell near the village of Tsitelubani, around 40 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi.

This puts a rather interesting twist on Georgia's relationship with NATO. They have made no secret about their desire for membership, but NATO has hesitated to provoke Russia with an offer. Russia has made clear that they would see NATO membership for either Ukraine or Georgia as a provocation, having drawn a diplomatic line in the sand last month on that issue.

However, Georgian independence should matter to the West, and an attack on Georgia should not go unanswered by NATO. The last thing we need in the Caucasus is another flashpoint for border wars. Violating Georgian air space and firing a missile constitutes two acts of war, especially the latter, and Georgia has to give some response to that provocation. Likely that will be a diplomatic response. Georgia doesn't have the resources to make good on a military attack, and it would probably give Vladimir Putin an excuse to invade Georgia.

Do you suppose Putin is embarrassed over the dud? Had the missile exploded, it might have been harder to prove that the attack came from Russia. If Georgia has the missile intact, though, it will show that Russia attacked Georgia, and that Russian armament leaves a lot to be desired.

Russia under Vladimir Putin seems intent on remaking its empire through any means necessary. If we value Georgian independence as a check on Russian imperial ambitions, and we should, we had better make clear to Putin that we find this unacceptable, and offer a few consequences of our own. That NATO membership application could be dusted off at any time.


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Comments (10)

Posted by PersonFromPorlock | August 7, 2007 6:13 AM

Invaded Georgian airspace why? Fired a missile at what? The story seems to lack a few details and maybe it'd be smart to stay skeptical until they're provided.

Posted by davod | August 7, 2007 6:16 AM

How, pray tell, will we come to Geofgia's aid in the event of a military clash between Russia and Georgia. Or maybe having Georgia and the Ukraine in NATO will help us by by having them take the same rolel as Checkoslovakia and Poland did before WWII.

Posted by Alan Kellogg | August 7, 2007 6:54 AM

Assuming Russia has the resources to invade Georgia in the first place, does she have the resources to occupy Georgia for any length of time? What about Armenian reaction? Would Azerbaijan come in on Russia's side, or act as a barrier to Iranian participation. Then you have the matter of Turkey. Would Turkish/Armenian animosity preclude Turkish intervention, or would Turkey decide to come to Georgia's aid anyway?

And what about Chechnya?

At the very least expect Armenia and Turkey to agree to US supply of Georgian resistence elements in the case of a Russian occupation of that country. Along with an increase of Western support for independence movements throughout the Russian Federation.

The wild card here is China. Will Beijing provide support to Moscow, or will her own domestic problems preclude such actions? And what does China when the stress results in the collapse of the Russian Federation.

What do we do when China intervenes in the collapse to "stabilize" the situation?

The prelude to World War IV was triggered in New York City on September 11th, 2001. Will World War IV itself be triggered by the American occupation and annexation of the Russian port of Vladivostock?

Posted by Andrew X | August 7, 2007 9:26 AM

Alan's a bit out there (Vladivostok??), but Davod is in tune.

It is quite mad to hear a number of people toss around potential NATO membership like some sort of kewpie doll prize (Ukraine? Georgia? Israel?)

Remember, NATO is entirely about going to war... period. As in we WILL go to war if a member is attacked. If we bring into the alliance a bunch of countries in rough neighborhoods whose stability remains a question, we are asking for trouble. Because one miscalculation will mean either full blown war, or, more likely, a situation where primary members, and we can all guess who, are confronted with mandatory war by treaty, and will find six and twenty ways and reasons to weasel out of it, and thus NATO itself will be dead on arrival and meaningless in it's primary purpose.

I happen to think the latter is already basically true, why but go out of our way to demonstrate it in the most volitile parts of the world?

Posted by Tim | August 7, 2007 10:33 AM

The Georgian spokesman, when interviewed on BBC radio, stated that the missle was 20 meters long and one meter in diameter. And that it was launched by a fighter jet.

The surface-launched Nike missiles were all between 10 and 15 meters long and about 1 meter in diameter. The 15 meter long Nike Zeus B weighed more than 10 tonnes at launch.

A 20 meter long air-to-ground missile seems a bit far fetched. But I heard it on the Beeb, so it must be true.

Posted by Ray | August 7, 2007 11:07 AM

"Remember, NATO is entirely about going to war"

NATO was created as a deterrence force to prevent wars, not instigate them. A membership in NATO allows weaker countries to increase their military strength through NATO funding, supplies, and training in a manner that doesn't overtax that member's resources. A NATO membership also acts as an effective deterrence against invasions as Russia, or any other country, wouldn't be facing just one country, it would be facing all of NATO if they decided to become aggressive and invade another country.

Granting Georgia a NATO membership will force Russia to rethink any invasion ideas it may have as Russia doesn't have the capabilities defeat NATO. Russia know this, that's why they are trying to intimidate Georgia and prevent them from becoming a member of NATO. Too bad for Russia (Not!) that their military is nearly defunct so this intimidation is nothing more than empty threats.

Posted by Papa Ray | August 7, 2007 11:56 AM

This is all a lttle far-fetched for this ol' Texan.

If indeed there is a missile on the ground in Georgia, it most likely just fell off of the rail on the aircraft.

That would of course, explain why it was a "dud".

Otherwise, this is just a story made up of improbable conclusions. btw, wouldn't Georgia have missiles with Soviet markings still in their inventory?

So many questions, but really, does anyone really care?.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Posted by Andrew X | August 7, 2007 1:50 PM

Ray -

NATO indeed IS about "going to war", not as a de facto hostile force, but by credibly threating to.... hello.... "go to war" in scenario X or Y. THAT is it's entire deterrence capability, which has in fact kept the peace since it's founding. Remove that credibility, and it's deterrence, and likely the peace, go poof. (Paradox is far from estranged from geopolitics.)

Point is, as I wrote, NATO had damned well better be ready to go to war, full bore, gloves off, nukes on the table if needed, over Georgia, or it has no business whatsoever proposing membership to same. Is it? Is the US? Are YOU?

The more nations that are on that list of nations that we are not just willing, but actually bound to, use nukes if necessary to defend, it seems the more likely we are to be forced with that choice. Particularily true when you consider the neighborhoods in question. And are you confident that France and Germany and Belgium will step up to the plate in such a case? Or will the US, yet AGAIN, be forced to bust down the door while allies sit on the sidelines, chock full of advice on how peace is so much more preferable than any military response.

I think I'm just repeating myself now, but the point apparently needs to be re-made.

Posted by burt | August 7, 2007 8:19 PM

I think this was probably only for intimidation or less likely the pilot was lost and thought he was over a test range. In either case the missile might have been intentionally unarmed.

Posted by Nicholas | August 7, 2007 10:10 PM

Papa ray, if it is indeed a missile, and it came from a Russian jet (I think Georgia has Russian/Soviet-made equipment too, so unless it's recent, I'm not sure if it will prove anything), then looking at the motor should make it pretty clear whether it was fired or not.

I'd be curious to know what model it is. If they could provide that information - and I imagine it should be fairly easy to determine, either by markings on the missile or comparison to a database - then that would go a long way to lending this story credibility.

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