Understanding the Caucasus

Rick Moran
I am not an expert on the Caucasus (although I play one on this site!)

Seriously, the issues involved in this conflict are sometimes hard to discern. We can be reasonably well informed of some of the history of the region as well as being aware of the stakes involved.

But there are obviously nuances that are at play which if revealed, can give us a better understanding of what is happening. What is Putin's end game? How bad would it be if Saakashvili were removed by the Russians? What does this humiliation for the Georgian army mean to American interests in the region.

Here a couple of people you should be reading to develop a good basic knowledge of the issues as well as a clear explanation of the military strategy and goals.

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the
Belmont Club has several crackling good pieces up at his site. He believes the Russians are far from finished
The most important development is that the Georgians have been driven from Tskhinvali, though it is not clear whether they have given up all positions on the surrounding high ground. Tskhinvali is the "cork in the bottle" leading from the Caucasus passes to the long plain that runs west to east across Georgia. Sky News now says the Georgians are falling back on Gori, which is the key to keeping Georgia intact. If Gori falls, Georgia will be cut in half with Tbilisi to the east and the Black Sea ports to the West. On the map at least, the battle for Gori will be the battle for Georgia.

Whether or not the Russians move on Gori depends on Moscow and international power politics. A map (click on the thumbnail for a big image) below the "Read More" is provided for the reader's convenience. In my opinion, while it may take a while for the Russians to bring up enough force through their tenuous road link back across the Caucasus, they will eventually be able to marshal enough force to take the Georgian positions. The clock is ticking. Reuters reports the Georgians saying they will fight for positions around Gori.

The BBC is now reporting that Georgia is seeking a ceasefire with Russia. No response from Russia has yet been recorded. "Georgia has ordered its forces to cease fire, and offered to start talks with Russia over an end to hostilities in South Ossetia, Georgian officials say. Earlier Georgia said its troops had pulled out of the breakaway region and that Russian forces were in control of its capital, Tskhinvali."


Another good site for information ( and to view the conflict from Russia's perspective) is Russia Blog:

1. War in Georgia: Russia's aggression against an independent country or Georgian genocide against Ossetian people overlooked by U.S. media?

2. What would have United States done if a bordering country (let's say Mexico) slaughtered 1,400 U.S. citizens and 10 U.S. marines overnight, leaving dozens of thousands civilian U.S. citizens without food and water?

3. If ethnic cleansings on Russia's borders shall not be Russia's business, and shall not result in Russian military response against the aggressor, how can one explain NATO invasion of Serbia, a country that does not share a common border with the U.S.?

Both of those sites are fascinating in that they take the same information and, through a nuanced look at what is happening, offer two basically opposite analyses of what is going on.

But to get both sides of the issue, you can do no better than visit both those sites daily.
I am not an expert on the Caucasus (although I play one on this site!)

Seriously, the issues involved in this conflict are sometimes hard to discern. We can be reasonably well informed of some of the history of the region as well as being aware of the stakes involved.

But there are obviously nuances that are at play which if revealed, can give us a better understanding of what is happening. What is Putin's end game? How bad would it be if Saakashvili were removed by the Russians? What does this humiliation for the Georgian army mean to American interests in the region.

Here a couple of people you should be reading to develop a good basic knowledge of the issues as well as a clear explanation of the military strategy and goals.

Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the
Belmont Club has several crackling good pieces up at his site. He believes the Russians are far from finished
The most important development is that the Georgians have been driven from Tskhinvali, though it is not clear whether they have given up all positions on the surrounding high ground. Tskhinvali is the "cork in the bottle" leading from the Caucasus passes to the long plain that runs west to east across Georgia. Sky News now says the Georgians are falling back on Gori, which is the key to keeping Georgia intact. If Gori falls, Georgia will be cut in half with Tbilisi to the east and the Black Sea ports to the West. On the map at least, the battle for Gori will be the battle for Georgia.

Whether or not the Russians move on Gori depends on Moscow and international power politics. A map (click on the thumbnail for a big image) below the "Read More" is provided for the reader's convenience. In my opinion, while it may take a while for the Russians to bring up enough force through their tenuous road link back across the Caucasus, they will eventually be able to marshal enough force to take the Georgian positions. The clock is ticking. Reuters reports the Georgians saying they will fight for positions around Gori.

The BBC is now reporting that Georgia is seeking a ceasefire with Russia. No response from Russia has yet been recorded. "Georgia has ordered its forces to cease fire, and offered to start talks with Russia over an end to hostilities in South Ossetia, Georgian officials say. Earlier Georgia said its troops had pulled out of the breakaway region and that Russian forces were in control of its capital, Tskhinvali."


Another good site for information ( and to view the conflict from Russia's perspective) is Russia Blog:

1. War in Georgia: Russia's aggression against an independent country or Georgian genocide against Ossetian people overlooked by U.S. media?

2. What would have United States done if a bordering country (let's say Mexico) slaughtered 1,400 U.S. citizens and 10 U.S. marines overnight, leaving dozens of thousands civilian U.S. citizens without food and water?

3. If ethnic cleansings on Russia's borders shall not be Russia's business, and shall not result in Russian military response against the aggressor, how can one explain NATO invasion of Serbia, a country that does not share a common border with the U.S.?

Both of those sites are fascinating in that they take the same information and, through a nuanced look at what is happening, offer two basically opposite analyses of what is going on.

But to get both sides of the issue, you can do no better than visit both those sites daily.