Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Russia's strategic objectives in Georgia

In a commentary for the website of the British Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, Jeffrey H. Michaels ponders the Russians' likely strategic objective in their war with Georgia. Michaels writes (my emphasis):
Russia has the advantage of time, and will likely use this to great effect, delaying diplomacy to achieve a more favorable long-term strategic balance. The main intent of Russian military actions will be to degrade Georgian military capabilities to the extent that the progress Georgia has made in improving its military forces over the last several years, mainly with US help, will be completely reversed. This strategy is likely motivating Russia's targeting of Georgian military facilities and infrastructure, and the timing of Russia's willingness to agree to a ceasefire will probably be determined by the degree to which Georgia's air force and heavy ground units have been attrited. Even if Georgian forces are withdrawn from the conflict zone, Russia may choose to continue attacking these units if it feels they have withdrawn with most of their equipment intact.
Michaels suspects it is the intention of Russia to seek "a new status quo." He writes that
Russia probably has at least four primary goals in mind:
  1. Strengthen Russian control over the separatist regions, to include the replacement of 'peacekeepers' with permanently stationed Russian army units
  2. Revise the regional military balance in Moscow's favour for a number of years to come
  3. Humiliate President Saakashvili and dissuade future military adventurism
  4. Discourage future US and NATO military engagement with Tbilisi. Russia's diplomatic and military policies in the days and weeks ahead will likely be designed with these limited objectives in mind.
Michaels stresses that Russia's objectives are limited: "It is important to note Russia has no intention of taking control of Georgia itself, as this would be a much more expensive prospect, with no guarantee of success."

In regards the last point, it should be kept in mind that prudence did not restrain George II from trying to take Iraq. Are Russia's leaders wiser? Let's hope so.

1 comment:

  1. Michaels seems to correct in his judgement. It should be fairly easy at this stage to maximize damage to the Georgian military installations. While Pres. Medvedev announced an end to the active phase of the peacekeeping operation today, he has also instructed the Russian forces (perhaps meaning primarily the air force) to eliminate potential hazards to South Ossetia.

    Besides M.Saakashvili's reputation is likely to come under attack. Even the leader of South Ossetia (S.Kokoity) was blamed by his civilian population for the lack of adequate response, and specifically for the fact that he abandoned Tskhinvali while many women and children were trapped in the city. For now Russian press reports that Saakashvili is still managing the Georgian media in his favor, but the overall impact of the campaign will sure be used no in his favor as soon as a potent opposition appears, not necessarily pro-Russian...



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