The Russian bear woke up

Actually his sleep was rather short. I wasn't expecting such an early manifestation of Russian expansionist desires. The Russian population has been smarting ever since the reviled Mikhail Gorbachev ceded territories that had been part of Russia for centuries along with those that were recent acquisitions. Moreover, the Russians lost not only land but their comfortable though broken economic system. Capitalism as practiced in Russia was alien to them, more akin to the Wild West (with a mafioso overlay). The Russian people were humiliated, their economy in ruin, political chaos, illegal business practices that resulted in ill-gotten wealth for some people while most of the people couldn't even get their monthly paycheck. Medical care, never that great, crashed: life expectancy dropped precipitously. The armed forces were in shambles. All in all, it looked as if Russia would not be an active player on the international scene for a long time to come.

It was about this time, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the discussion of Hungary's membership in NATO was hotly debated. By now few people remember that the first person who came up with the idea that Hungary and the whole Eastern European region should join NATO and the European Union was Gyula Horn. That was on February 24, 1990. Gyula Horn was foreign minister in the Németh government, the last before the change of regime. Lawrence Eagleberger called Horn's statement revolutionary. See The New York Times ( http://tinyurl.com/63tzc2 ).

It seems that Horn learned something from history. Perhaps he remembered the interwar period when the Allied and Associated Powers created a string of small states between the two prostrate great powers, Germany and Russia, and left them high and dry. Indeed, in the 1920s there was no trouble; neither Germany nor the Soviet Union was strong enough to threaten the Baltic States, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia or Bulgaria. However, we know what happened later. Therefore, I for one, from day one, became an ardent supporter of Hungary's joining NATO. However, to my great surprise there were a lot of people in Hungary at that time and even later who kept saying: why does Hungary need military protection? Who would want to attack Hungary? I suggested that one day Russia would be a great power again and would most likely echo Russian history where Muscovy spread its territories (in Russian history this is called the "Gathering of Russia") and later kept expanding even into territories that were not populated by Russians or Slavs. In this case Eastern Europe should take out an insurance policy. I don't think I was successful convincing those who thought  NATO was for the birds. Joining  NATO was not important and belonging would mean further military obligations for the country. In fact, some people went so far as to announce that keeping up an army was totally unnecessary.

Russia recovered and started to flex its muscles. For a while it seemed that Russian pressure on Europe would be only economic, through oil and natural gas. (This, by the way, is not insignificant as Russia works to gain greater leverage/monopoly in the international oil industry.) Russian bombing  of Georgia, a sovereign state, was unimaginable a few years ago. As far as I can ascertain the contested territories were only an excuse for Russia to attack Georgia. What really troubled Russia was Georgia's pro-western orientation and its intention to join NATO.

Nor surprisingly Vladimir Putin and Mikheil Saakashvili don't like each other, but Russian antagonism toward Georgia has little to do with the personality of the Georgian president. Georgians want to belong to the western alliance. The Russians say that they refuse to deal with Saakashvili. But their problem is not with the personality of the president of Georgia. As far as I can see to the Russians only a pro-Russian, anti-western Georgia would suffice, and if that is the case that could involve installing a Russian puppet government in Tbilisi. And then there is Ukraine, as Viking rightly pointed out in his comment. Ukraine would also like to join the European Union and most likely NATO as well. In Ukraine there is a very large Russian minority that would prefer to be in Russia rather than in Ukraine. What will Russia do if they feel that Ukraine is joining the forces of Russia's adversaries? Will they start bombing Kiev and install a puppet government there? Or repeat the old tricks from the 1920s where the people themselves beg Russia to incorporate them into the Soviet Union? In this case Hungary again could have a new/old neighbor. Yes, Viking, I also think that the situation is serious.

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Öcsi
Guest
Any comment about the conflict between Russia and Georgia that doesn’t mention the illegal American war in Iraq and America’s threats against Iran is seriously flawed. The greatest threat to world peace is not Russia but the United States. I know many people don’t want to hear that for a number of reasons but the evidence is undeniable. According to a list in Wikipedia, in the last century, the United States has been involved in the following wars: * Boxer Rebellion, 1900 – 1902 * Banana Wars: * United States occupation of Nicaragua, 1907-1933 * United States occupation of Honduras, 1907-1933 * Intervention during Panamanian Election, 1908 * United States occupation of Cuba, 1912 * United States occupation of Veracruz, 1914 * United States occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934 * Mexican Expedition, 1916 – 1917 * United States occupation of the Dominican Republic, 1917-1924 * Battle at Nogales, Arizona, 1917 * World War I, 1917 – 1918 (time span of U.S. involvement) * European Theatre, 1917 – 1918 * First Battle of the Atlantic, 1917 – 1918 * Polar Bear Expedition, 1918 – 1919 * American Expeditionary Force Siberia, Soviet Union, 1918 – 1920 * Yangtze Patrol, 1922-1927 * World War… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
Russia now has three dreams. The oldest is the dream, which Russia has held since the time of Peter the Great has been for an ice free port to the open oceans of the world. Her last attempt at that was the occupation of Afghanistan. Just south of Afghanistan there is a narrow (500 Km) strip of land called Balochistan, a tribal part of Pakistan. Her Ice free ports on the Black Sea are blocked by the Bosporus and Dardanelles, which are controlled by Turkey. Her Northern ports Archangle and Murmansk give access to some of the worst seas in the world. I know I have patrolled in those waters. To the east is Vladivostok whose access to the pacific is blocked by Japan. Her second dream is to rid herself of all non-Russian peoples (“Gathering of Russia”). In the in the tsarist times she called herself ‘Holy Mother Russia’. Which implied she was a ‘Central Kingdom’ in the old Chinese sense. Her third dream, which is quite recent, is to control the world through the use of oil and energy What is going on in Georgia is part of the third dream. Georgia forms part of a land corridor… Read more »
Öcsi
Guest

Eva S. Balogh wrote: “I find the iraqi war a big mistake, and I wish the Americans left Iraq immediately, but the iraqi war has nothing to do whatsoever with the Russian war against Georgia.”
I’m not too sure about that. Everyone wants the oil in Iraq and Iran. Whoever controls those oil fields controls most of the future. Actually, the Americans would already have attacked Iran, on some pretence or another, but disabling the Iranian oil fields would have crippled the Chinese and Japanese economies because they are dependent on Iranian oil. And the Americans don’t want to be at odds with those two economic super powers. At least not at the moment.
From a geo-political perspective, the Russians don’t want the Americans on their border. So they’re taking a stand in Georgia. And if anyone thinks this is only a localized conflict between Russia and Georgia, they will be in for a nasty surprise.

Adrian
Guest

Odin,
“What is the flag of South Ossetia;”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_South_Ossetia

Sandor
Guest

The long lis of wars that included the Americans is somewhat misleading. You must consider all those wars, or at least most of them after WW II, where the Americans fought the Soviets through proxies. From Angola through the Congo and the latter Israeli wars were all inspired, started and executed by proxies of the Soviet Union.
Therefore, it is quite simpleminded to blame the US alone. Even in Iraq, until the last minute just before this war, the Russians and the French were strenuously trying to secure their financial and political interests.

Sandor
Guest

I also would like to add an other observation about this skirmish.
In my view, this destructive episode was utterly futile and thoroughly stupid.
The nationalistic fervor of the Georgian president completely peeled away even the last vestiges of his judgement. What did he think when he attacked the Russians? Did he intend to teach them a lesson? And what could that lesson be? What was the goal and did he really stopped for a moment to measure up the chances of success? I don’t believe so.
This is a very good example of the havoc blind nationalism can wreak. It should be a warning to Hungarians too of what may be expected from Orban.

Sandor
Guest

I also would like to add an other observation about this skirmish.
In my view, this destructive episode was utterly futile and thoroughly stupid.
The nationalistic fervor of the Georgian president completely peeled away even the last vestiges of his judgement. What did he think when he attacked the Russians? Did he intend to teach them a lesson? And what could that lesson be? What was the goal and did he really stopped for a moment to measure up the chances of success? I don’t believe so.
This is a very good example of the havoc blind nationalism can wreak. It should be a warning to Hungarians too of what may be expected from Orban.

Viking
Guest

Maybe we should wait a bit in our judgement on what happened in the ‘opening’ phase of this war. Check out http://georgiandaily.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5072&Itemid=130. We can all have our opinion on the author and the Jamestown Foundation, *but* the interesting part is the date this piece was written, before it all started, as we have been told by mainly Russian media.
We should all remember that Nazi-Germany just ‘defended themselves against attacks from Poland’. Same thing with ‘Soviet bombed Hungary’, when it was German planes with Soviet markings giving the reason for Hungary to attack the United Nations.
War is propaganda and it is the victorious part that write the history.

GDF
Guest

Sandor:”The long lis of wars that included the Americans is somewhat misleading. You must consider all those wars, or at least most of them after WW II, where the Americans fought the Soviets through proxies. From Angola through the Congo and the latter Israeli wars were all inspired, started and executed by proxies of the Soviet Union.
Therefore, it is quite simpleminded to blame the US alone.”
I think it is more than simple minded. Especially when I see in the list
“* European Theatre, 1944 – 1945”.
Is anyone blaming the US for that? Does anyone prefer the alternative?

Viking
Guest
Öcsi: “Any comment about the conflict between Russia and Georgia that doesn’t mention the illegal American war in Iraq and America’s threats against Iran is seriously flawed.” No, you do the same logical error as Mr Ape and his animal friends. He counts bodies, you count wars. You both seem to beleive that 2 wrongs make a right, which seems to be a deficit in your upbringing. We, the Europeans, do not want to be parts of a game betweeen the US and Russia. Your logic builds on the acceptance on the idea; ‘Europe cannot do anything but just wait for the US to help us’. Orban stated something similar the other day. Not exactly the line of Churchill (which Odin can elaborate on). If we want to break out of this circle of European impotence the we need to start do things of our own. One thing, maybe the most important thing at the current situation, is to bolster the Ukraine’s defense capacity, with forreign troops on the ground, to disturbe the Russian use of their Black Sea Fleet. The Ukraine is making such claims and it is our responisbility, for our own sake, to support them. If we… Read more »
GDF
Guest
Viking: “We, the Europeans, do not want to be parts of a game between the US and Russia.” According to some experts here in the US, this game has not much to do with the US. It looks more like an attempt by the Russians to gain total control on the energy resources of the EU. “Your logic builds on the acceptance on the idea; ‘Europe cannot do anything but just wait for the US to help us’.” Unfortunately this has been the pattern for a very long time, and I agree with you that it would be time to change it. I am not sure what the EU voters would do though, when some of their social services would diminish and the money would be spent on weapons and armies. “If we want to break out of this circle of European impotence the we need to start do things of our own. One thing, maybe the most important thing at the current situation, is to bolster the Ukraine’s defense capacity, with foreign troops on the ground, to disturbe the Russian use of their Black Sea Fleet. The Ukraine is making such claims and it is our responsibility, for our… Read more »
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