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  • The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power (1/2)
    August 12, 2008 | 1508 GMT

    By George Friedman

    The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.

    Let’s begin simply by reviewing the last few days.

    On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.

    On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.

    On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.

    The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion

    In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.

    The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?

    It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The second is that the United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.

    If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.

    The Western Encirclement of Russia

    To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.

    That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.

    The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.

    The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.

    From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.

    Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.


    • The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power (2/2)
      August 12, 2008 | 1508 GMT

      By George Friedman

      Resurrecting the Russian Sphere

      Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.

      By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.

      The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.

      The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.

      Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).

      In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.

      The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.


      • Originalmente publicado por private joker Ver Mensaje
        de wikipedia
        "The Associated Press (AP), is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staffers. Many newspapers and broadcasters outside the United States are AP subscribers, paying a fee to use AP material without being contributive members of the cooperative."

        Mephisto no es otro nombre para Satanas? los gringos son tan pen***** que hasta el diablo cree en ellos.

        Rusia o EEUU? El Peru por supuesto, sim embargo una Rusia y China fuertes nos da muchas mas opciones contra los anglosajones.
        Mi estimado Joker, que ingenuo eres ¿Quién crees que va a escribir los comentarios pero “staffers” de la agencia?

        Lee bien el articulo que reproduzco; veras que parafrasea a varias fuentes: Kasparov, TNK-BP, Hermitage Capital, Red Star Asset Management, BNP Paribas, Alexander Konovalov, etc.

        Yo entiendo que tus simpatías están con Rusia (estoy seguro que eres “rosado o rojo”, que no es malo, pero importante de saber). Además, mi pregunta era directa con dos alternativas: USA o Rusia. No temas en defender a Rusia. Sin embargo, si tal es el caso, creo que te equivocas.

        El Perú necesita a USA para formar un frente político, militar y económico con otros países de Sudamérica: Méjico, Panamá, Colombia y Chile. A no ser que prefieras a las “casas ALBA”. A Rusia la necesitamos para que repare nuestros aviones.

        Saludos desde el Infierno.


        • Originalmente publicado por Kuntur Ver Mensaje
          The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power (2/2)
          August 12, 2008 | 1508 GMT

          By George Friedman

          Resurrecting the Russian Sphere

          Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region....

          The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.

          Saludos Kuntur, de todo el artículo que reproduces, me quedo con las dos últimas líneas:

          Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.

          Lo que el Sr. Friedman escribe, es lo que estamos escribiendo aquí; y su artículo se resume en las dos últimas líneas que reproduzco arriba. Es decir el Zeitgeist ruso es demasiado “pesado” para cambiar en una generación.

          Rusia tiene hambre de “imperio”; y el como llegar a ello nuevamente es el quid del asunto. Desgraciadamente, y desde mi neófita perspectiva, ellos han empezado por el final y no por el principio. Me explico: Rusia no tiene una economía sólida. Lo que tiene es lo que los países del medio oriente tienen: petrodólares; y en abundancia. Ello les ha obnubilado la razón y hecho que asuman una posición de aislamiento.

          Nadie está hablando de “guerras termonucleares” (las que necesitamos con urgencia); sin embargo, en tal temor es en el que los rusos están basando sus decisiones. Es decir, USA no va a intervenir militarmente en apoyo de Georgia ¡Por supuesto que no! Ello era lo que USA esperaba y lo ha logrado.

          Ahora Georgia rompe lazos diplomáticos con Rusia ¿Qué va a hacer Rusia? No los va a bombardear, no los va a ocupar; pero los eventos no son mas que una muestra de lo que puede suceder con Ucrania (que de paso pronto tendrá elecciones).

          Los rusos tienen un problema: todavía no salen de la mentalidad Stalinista y de la KGB. Y ello es lo que los va a hundir. Aquí no va a haber guerras militares, pero políticas y económicas.

          El Oeste no confía—y con razón—en Rusia. A Rusia hay que mantenerla a una distancia prudencial. Si deseas conversar del porque (algo que no se da con China), lo podemos hacer en cualquier momento.

          Saludos desde el Infierno.


          • Abriendo un poco mas las cartas y entendiendo el fin de esta guerra, quien sera el mas inteligente? Y que tanto nos conviene si es que tenemos gas en nuestro poder?

            Bajo la Lupa
            Alfredo Jalife-Rahme

            ■ Rusia impone su “juego gasero” en Asia central y el mundo

            Rusia juega magistralmente al ajedrez por el control del gas global, mientras en el “México” neoliberal los despilfarradores de lo ajeno –Fox y la pareja entreguista Calderón-Mouriño, coludidos con la dupla devaluatoria y devaluada Salinas-Zedillo, acoplados a la tripleta nihilista de Beltrones-Labastida-Gamboa– regalaron prácticamente la cuarta parte del gas a las empresas de España, que paradójicamente no poseen hidrocarburos.

            Con su triunfo en Osetia del Sur y la ocupación de Gori (Georgia), Rusia ha puesto en jaque al estratégico oleoducto BTC (ver Bajo la Lupa, 10/8/0 que abastece a Europa con los hidrocarburos del mar Caspio.

            Nueve días antes de la demencial invasión de Georgia a Osetia del Sur –que llevó a las fulminantes represalias de Rusia–, M K Bhadrakumar (MKB), anterior diplomático indio con profundo conocimiento geopolítico del Cáucaso y Asia Central, había notificado el control por Rusia del gas de Turkmenistán y, quizá, del “mundo” (Asia Times, 30/7/0.

            El giro es dramático en el contexto del “gran juego” sobre la geopolítica de la seguridad energética del mar Caspio que nunca había ocurrido: “EU ha sufrido una inmensa derrota en la carrera por el gas del Caspio”.

            Gazprom, principal gasera del mundo, concretó dos acuerdos mayúsculos con Turkmenistán: controlará las exportaciones de gas, y financiará y construirá sus instalaciones de transporte. Se trata de una decisión geoestratégica de Rusia en materia gasera, a juicio de MKB. El Kremlin no piensa realizar negocios revendiendo el gas de Turkmenistán, una potencia gasera centroasiática que colinda con la parte oriental del mar Caspio, que obtiene suculentos ingresos. Ahora Gazprom “tendrá que conceder términos similares a Kazajstán y Uzbekistán, las otras dos potencias gaseras en Asia Central. Es mucho más que dinero: “una gran estrategia del Kremlin”.

            China Daily, citado por MKB, constata un “giro de la política energética de Rusia” que “podría voltear sus ojos de los países occidentales a la región de Asia-Pacífico”. El rotativo gubernamental chino aduce en tono olímpico la colindancia geográfica y la sinergia sino-rusa “bajo un paraguas seguro (¡súper sic!)” cuando sus “relaciones se encuentran en el mejor momento”.

            En fechas recientes, China había firmado un relevante acuerdo con Turkmenistán para obtener 30 mil millones de metros cúbicos de gas cada año durante un periodo de 30 años. Al unísono, China ha dado inicio a la construcción de un gasoducto que conectará a Turkmenistán con la provincia china de Xinjiang.

            Como si todo estuviese perfectamente sincronizado, los acuerdos firmados en Ashkabat (la capital turkmena) con Rusia “colocan a Gazprom en el asiento conductor para manejar todas (sic) las exportaciones de gas de Turkmenistán, incluidas las dirigidas a China”, comenta MKB, quien agrega que “Moscú estará atento en asegurar que los intereses de Rusia y China sean armonizados en Asia Central”.

            MKB destaca que el gigante Gazprom ha adquirido una “nueva estatura” como “el único comprador del gas turkmeno lo que refuerza las manos de Rusia en poner el precio en el mercado del gas (y del petróleo) del mundo”.

            Quizá suene un tanto exagerado que Rusia sola determine el precio en el mercado de los hidrocarburos. En el mundo del gas, un mercado más oligopólico que el del petróleo, sin duda el peso de Rusia es determinante, pero existen otros actores nada despreciables como Irán, Qatar, Argelia y Libia.

            De allí la idea de concretar el famoso cartel del gas, similar a la OPEP (idea que propusimos, dicho sea con humildad de rigor, en nuestro libro Los once frentes antes y después del 11 de septiembre: una guerra multidimensional, Ed. Cadmo & Europa, 2003) y que valoró el flamante presidente Medvedev durante la reciente visita del presidente venezolano Hugo Chávez a Moscú.

            El rotativo ruso Nezavisimaya Gazeta (citado por MKB) consideró “muy tentadora” la idea de implantar el cartel del gas con el fin de coordinar su producción y su política de precios”, que impondría el “balance global del gas”. El gas todavía no alcanza los vuelos del petróleo, pero no se encuentra nada lejano el día que desplace al petróleo por ser más barato y menos contaminante. EU y la Unión Europea (UE) han manifestado estruendosamente su oposición a un cartel del gas.

            En fechas recientes, se han notado fisuras notables en la política gasera de la UE: la compra de gas iraní por Austria en medio de la alharaca de las sanciones que desea imponer el régimen torturador bushiano al régimen de los ayatolas, sin contar el acuerdo que concretó Suiza (que no es miembro de la UE) con Irán.

            MKB exulta y exalta el acuerdo de Rusia con Turkmenistán, lo que consolida su “control sobre las exportaciones gaseras de Asia Central” y que ha ido tan lejos hasta desear adquirir la producción gasera de Azerbaiyán (aliado de EU, Gran Bretaña e Israel) “a precios europeos”, es decir, muy elevados. Se trata de sacar a Azerbayán de la órbita israelí-anglosajona.

            A juicio de MKB, las “implicaciones totales de los movimientos rusos son muy serias para la campaña de EU y la UE de poner en marcha el proyecto del gasoducto NABUCCO”, que va desde Turquía hasta Austria, pasando por Bulgaria, Rumania y Hungría, y que colecta el gas de Turkmenistán y Azerbaiyán mediante un gasoducto que atraviesa el mar Caspio para luego vincularse al célebre oleoducto BTC (ver Bajo la Lupa, 10/8/0.

            Después de la guerra de Rusia y Georgia (aliada a EU, Gran Bretaña e Israel) por el alma del Cáucaso, ¿dónde quedarán el oleoducto BTC y el proyecto NABUCCO? ¿Por cuánto tiempo podrá el régimen torturador bushiano mantener a Irán fuera del mercado gasero mundial?

            Con el control del gas turkmeno por Rusia, el proyecto NABUCCO ha quedado en el aire y dependerá del abastecimiento de Irán: idea en la que trabaja la mediación de Turquía, que busca un acuerdo de EU y la UE con el régimen de los ayatolas, hasta hace poco impensable, pero nada improbable. Es evidente que EU y la UE intentarán amarrar las navajas entre Rusia e Irán, primera y segunda potencias gaseras del planeta respectivamente.

            MKB concluye que mientras se perfila el cartel del gas, “Rusia se ha colocado en la posición para influir el precio del gas en el mercado global”, cuyas “implicaciones geopolíticas para EU serán profundas”.

            Mientras adviene el fin del gas barato, Rusia se ha posicionado como el primer abastecedor de gas a Europa. Si la dupla anglosajona controló el petróleo durante el siglo XX, la primera mitad del siglo XXI podrá ser el periodo del dominio del gas global por Rusia.

            Interesante, muy interesante.


            El pesimista se queja del viento; el optimista espera que cambie, y el realista ajusta las velas y si es que no hay rema.