Saturday, August 09, 2008

Ralph Peters Explains The Russian Attack On Georgia

"What just happened? The Kremlin decided it was time to act, since Georgia was only growing stronger under its democratically elected government. Although NATO has been hemming and hawing about admitting Georgia, the Russians didn't want to take any chances. (Just last month, 1,000 US troops were in Georgia for an exercise.)

Calculating that the media and world leaders would be partying in Beijing, the Russians ordered North Ossetian militiamen, backed by Russian "peacekeepers" and mercenaries, to provoke the Georgians earlier this month.

Weary of the Russian presence on their soil, the Georgians took the bait. President Mikheil Saakashvili ordered his US-trained military to respond.

That was the excuse the Kremlin wanted. Immediately, a tank brigade from Russia's 58th Army (the butchers of Chechnya) crossed the international border into Poland - sorry, I meant Georgia.

How do I know that the Russians set a trap? Simple: Given the wretched state of Russian military readiness, that brigade could never have shot out of its motor pool on short notice. The Russians obviously "task-organized" the force in advance to make sure it would have working tanks with competent crews.

Otherwise, broken-down vehicles would've lined those mountain roads.

The Russians planned it. And they hope to push it to the limit.

What happens next? This is a fight between a very small David and a very large Goliath. That said, the Russians may be surprised at how fiercely the Georgians defend their homeland. At least two, and possibly four, Russian jets have been shot down while attacking Georgian bases close to the capital city, Tbilisi.

As of last night, the Georgians had retaken Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital. I'd bet American veterans helped Georgia with contingency planning for just such a situation (it worked in Bosnia).

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians and dozens of militiamen, Kremlin-funded mercenaries and Russian "peacekeepers" have been killed, along with tens of Georgian troops. This fighting is serious. And, unless Moscow pulls out all the stops, its forces just might take a surprise beating.

The Russian view: If I were a Russian staff planner (and sober), I wouldn't expect to drive all the way to the Georgian capital - that would be too much for the West to stomach (although Russia's greatest strength today is that it doesn't care about world opinion).

My objective would be to retake Tskhinvali, then strike due south to cut Georgia's lifelines to the world - the strategic highway, parallel rail line and international pipeline that connect Georgia's eastern interior with its western ports.

(Incidentally, such an offensive would take the Kremlin's tanks to the aptly named city of Gori, birthplace of Josef Stalin.)

If the Russian invaders can sever those links, they'll cut Georgia in half. Control of that road-rail-pipeline complex would not only bring the Georgian economy to a standstill - it would also allow the Kremlin's other clients in Abkhazia, on the Black Sea, to renew their attempt to devour Georgian territory.

Russian generals have always been good planners. The problems crop up in the execution.

And the Russians have several vulnerabilities:

* They have only a single route over the rugged Caucasus range. If Georgian commandos interdict it, the Russians will feel the supply pinch quickly. And any major Russian military operations need to be wrapped up before autumn snows close the passes - if there isn't a cease-fire sooner.

* The Russians also need a local airfield to sustain their efforts - that could lure them closer to Georgia's capital.

* Finally, the Russian army still relies on brute force - sophisticated combat operations are not its specialty.

We don't know how this will develop. A Russian humiliation? A Kremlin success as the world wrings its hands but looks away? A destructive, bloody standoff?

The only thing that's 100 percent clear is which side we should be on."

Georgians aren't even remotely related to those who'd remain polite while the bully boys have their fun, so I expect no surrender and the usual Russian withdrawal after taking another beating from men ready willing and able to fight back. But not until they've delivered a severe pounding. They'll then sit back to see who sends aid to Georgia, and any nation outside of the US that does so, goes on their shit list.

As a true aside, Hogtown Irregular Eugene Minks, Highmarshall of Hog Woods, took one look at a headline in one of the Gainesville rags and began calling everyone and leaving messages asking how the Russians could have made it all the way to Georgia without anyone stopping them, or was this some kind of a joke.

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