Streetwise Professor

August 21, 2008


Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 3:03 am

For those with strong stomachs, I recommend reading Vlad Socor’s piece in today’s EDM turning over the rock that is the farcical “cease fire” agreement in Georgia. Thanks, Sarkozy (or should that be “Sarcozy”–which is the misspelled version of his name in the Russian written draft for the cease fire, and which also communicates the essence of his relationship with the Russians on this one.) Great job, there, Frenchie. I know you guys are experts in humiliating surrender, but couldn’t you just surrender on your own behalf, rather than someone else’s?

For those with even stronger stomachs, Ralph Peters’ column about the deployment of the Vostok Battalion–a gang of marauding Chechen thugs–to Georgia is a must read. For more information on these charmers, a trip to Strategy Page is a must. According to SP (which is a must read for anybody interested in military subjects), the Vostok Battalion came out at the short end of the brutal, bloody internecine combat in Chechnya. The Vostok gang was led by the Yamadaevs, bitter foes of Putin’s puppet in Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, whose muscle is the Zapad battalion. (“Zapad” means “West” and “Vostok” means “East,” in case you’re wondering.) So, in order to keep the level of bloodshed down to a manageable level in Chechnya, the Russian military (in the form of the GRU) wants to keep the two groups apart. And what better way to do that than sic a bunch of pissed off gangstas on the Georgians. Beautiful! That’s what I call peacekeeping! This would be the equivalent of the US sending in a detachment of Al Qaeda in Iraq headchoppers in an invasion of Mexico. It probably makes the Georgians pine for the days when mere Cossacks rode in the Russian van.

The gratuitous violence does present an opportunity for asymmetric warfare, however. Specifically, it is the perfect pretext to unleash lawfare on Russia as a state, and its leadership personally. Russia has already threatened to prosecute the Georgian government, and Saakashvilli individually, under Russian law. Georgia should see that threat, and raise it. It should file suits in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Since the EU has also often asserted extraterritorial jurisdiction, Georgia should file actions in European courts. To the extent that any American-owned assets were destroyed, it may be possible to file actions in the US as well.

These legal attacks should be for monetary damages against both Russia as a state, and for its leadership as individuals–including Medvedev and Putin. Actions against individuals provides a justification for identifying, revealing, and potentially attaching, the personal assets of Russian decision makers. This will hit them where it hurts. Even if Georgia never collects a cent, widespread publicity revealing large foreign holdings by Putin et al would be highly damaging politically.

I don’t know all the legal ins-and-outs, but lawfare is a potentially powerful asymmetric response to Russia’s actions in Georgia. In particular, it seems likely that any damage inflicted after Georgia acceded to the terms of the “ceasefire” would be actionable. Medvedev’s and Putin’s duplicity in the period after the ceasefire theoretically went into effect would provide highly compromising circumstantial evidence of their personal culpability for this damage.

The gratuitous nature of the destruction also led me to ask an Azeri friend about the Russian actions. He grew up under the thumb of the Soviets–and as he views it, the Russians–and admittedly has no love lost for them. He said that they act this way because they enjoy it. Beyond any punitive motive designed to make an example of the Georgians pour encourager les autres who might dare challenge them, in my Azeri friend’s view Russians in power get a visceral, emotional, sadistic pleasure out of inflicting pain on the weak and defenseless.

There is some evidence in support of this hypothesis. It is evident that Russia may well pay a heavy cost for its actions in Georgia. Perhaps they miscalculated and underestimated the cost, but perhaps they calculated it properly but were willing to pay it because it was offset by some psychic compensation. Moreover, there is a longstanding, and widely recognized, tendency among some Russians to revel in power, to derive satisfaction from dominance. And lastly, it is clear that Putin harbors a deep personal hatred of Saakashvilli and glories in the ability to destroy his enemies utterly. The scorched earth nature of the Russian invasion of Georgia bears the mark of personal malice rather than considered policy.

Whether my Azeri friend’s hypothesis is correct or not is really relevant, however. What is important is that this is how some people on the front lines perceive Russia and the Russians. By its actions in Georgia, Russia has validated a very prejudicial stereotype. As a result, they will likely stiffen the resolve of those that they intend to cow into subservience instead. This is another reason to believe that Russia will be the biggest loser of all.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress