Monday, September 22, 2008

Colin Powell: We are NOT all Georgians

The General has not booked a seat on McCain's Straight Pandering Talk Express.

Instead he appears to be sharing a seat with The Vigil on the Saakashvili-Gate Terminal. (Bridge to Nowhere?)

Last August, I asked, Who Lost Georgia? I wrote that
The lack of American prior restraint on Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili is but the last in a long list of blunders of omission or commission by the Bush-Cheney-McCain School of Foreign Policy.
I think Colin Powell and I are in total agreement for the first and only time in history.I saw enough of this discussion group on CNN to be motivated to follow up on a part of this.
Here's what I what I would like to highlight:

..... Now, in the current situation, the Russians acted brutally. I think they acted foolishly. But it was also absolutely predictable what the Russians would do. You could see them stacking up their troops.

And I think it was foolhardy on the part of President Saakashvili and the Georgian government to kick over this can, to light a match in a roomful of gas fumes.
So you’re saying the Georgians provoked this?
They did. I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side.
And some debate in the presidential elections has basically been, “We are all Georgians now.” What does that mean? It’s the same as was said after 9/11.
One candidate said that, and I’ll let the candidate explain it for himself.

You can help a little, if you’d like.
No, the fact of the matter is that you — you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you’ve taken a good analysis of the whole situation.

This was something that might have been avoided if people had looked at the Russian troops that were stacked up, if people had realized that the Russians were serious about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and if perhaps more guidance and suggestions had been given to President Saakashvili beyond those that he received, it might have been avoided.

But it wasn’t. It’s over. The Russians are the offenders right now. And we have to see that.

We cannot say to the Russians, “We are not going to allow the Georgians or Ukrainians or anyone else to start down the path toward NATO membership.” It’s not for the Russians to decide that.

But I think it is wise for us to look at the whole strategic situation and all of our equities before deciding how fast that should happen and whether it’s the time to do it right now.
Clearly, Colin Powell doesn't think McCain has a grasp of the situation.


  1. You've got it spot on, Vig. Very interesting post.

    General Powell hit the nail on the head -- he was right (as you were or are) that the world should have looked at what was happening over at the Russian side of the border long before that fatidic skirmish and should have taken steps to prevent a confrontation.

    Over on my side of the pond, we knew that Georgia's president was gearing for a fight and in effect, provoked the confrontation with their Russian 'cousins' -- that's how we saw or see it here. And we reckon, with good reason, that they did it because they believed they had US backing (which was true) but Georgia's lil president was dumb to believe that he could jumpstart Georgia's inclusion into NATO by provoking Medevdev's troops -- how wrong he was.

    More than ever, Saakashvili compromised Georgia's chances of becoming part of NATO. I can tell you right here and now that most of NATO member nations today will not take a second look at Saakashvili's NATO membership application, not because the alliance fears Russia but because of the provision in the NATO accord, i.e., no nation with a standing border dispute or problme may be admitted into the Alliance.

    Saakashvili raised the stake stupidly and got burnt -- he should have settled Georgia's internal disputes first before taking on a much bigger force (he also would have had a better shot at that application to join NATO). (Who did he think he was, Stalin?)

    He was crazy to believe that Wasila's Palin (er, Alaska's Palin) could eventually fix his internal border disputes for him. (Ok, that's a tongue in cheek comment.) Barking mad, absolutely barking mad!

    On the other hand, it's very likely that with Russia's offensive strategy being put in place, Finland might want to join the Alliance -- we shall see.

    (But guess what, even if Finland gets accepted, I don't know what a weakened US and a 'disunited-in-defence' Europe could do if Russia does a Georgia on the Finnish. This is the stark reality on the ground viewed from where I sit today.)

    Russian 'victory' in Georgia earned Putin and Medevdev the right to overtly challenge an economically very weakened US and its allies (except for the UK) on virtually all sorts of terrains, both hostile and non too hostile to the West regions, i.e., Latin America, Africa very soon, Asia most likely in the near future, etc.

    To be perfectly honest, I think the West has more to fear from Russia than any other state at the moment. The Russians have the need to wash off the humilation they've suffered in the hands of the West and to retrieve their lost pride by showing off that they could be a super power to be feared and respected once again. (New Russian motto: If we are to become a super power again, we must be as nasty as the Americans)

  2. Ooops, delete this phrase (except for the UK)

  3. I've found Colin Powell to be disappointing. Although he warned Bush about invading Iraq, although he was reputed to be the only one who stood up to Rumsfeld in tense meetings (according to Woodward), I found him to be too much of a good soldier to Bush. Nonetheless, I totally agree with everything he's said here. What he's saying-- diplomatically, of course-- is that Sen. McCain is an impulsive, warmongering, right-wing pandering fool.

  4. Colin Powell is an enigma. While he faithfully served Bush he was ideologically opposed to the service that was required of him. Regardless, he followed the company line, helping the neo-cons make the case for war. In this case, however, I agree with him and all of those who have posted their comments before me.

    Finally I think Powell could redeem himself by openly endorsing Obama. This would be a huge plus in the senator's column.

  5. A working relationship with Putin's Russia was essential to the Afghanistan effort. This cause is going down the toilet.

    Pakistani troops have fired warning shots at two US helicopters forcing them back into Afghanistan, local Pakistani intelligence officials say. Our troops on the ground have experience Paki gunfire over their heads (for the time being). The French Socialists have withdrawn support for the French contribution to NATO's contingent. 60% of the French people back immediate pullout from this 'war of occupation'. Writing is on the wall.

  6. Dead on target, Mike. Vig, good post.