Alternative Insight

Russia Defrosted
Is Russia a Threat to World Peace?

Analyses of the Russian government's attempts to interfere in the 2016 United States' presidential election (
and the exaggerations that attribute the Putin government to the deaths of Russian dissidents and officials (
show that Putin's Russia has been unfairly demonized. The thrust of the demonizing attacks has been to steer the public to the belief that Putin's Russia is a threat to world peace. Placed in proper perspective, the attacks deter the public from recognizing that Moscow's policies might be constituted to prevent the United States from imposing its hegemony on the world and shaping events in accord with American interests. The counterpunch to the argument is that a United States, which allies with Russia and treats Russia as an equal partner, can provide a route to international stability and peace. Survey the record.

Accusations that promote Russia as an aggressor nation started with its participation in the violence that occurred in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and eventually led to a Russian short and temporary invasion of the Republic of Georgia.

After centuries of partial freedom, self-governing kingdoms, and occupation, the Georgian people suffered the ultimate ordeal when the Russian Empire, during the 19th century, annexed their land. Finally, in 1918, Georgian nationalists proclaimed Georgia as an independent nation, which lasted until the Soviets took control in 1921. After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Georgia again successfully declared its independence and incorporated Abkhazia, previously an Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR) in the Georgian SSR, and South Ossetia, which had status as an Autonomous Oblast, within its borders.

In 1992, the non-Georgian minority in Abkhazia and the overwhelming Ossetian majority in South Ossettia rebelled against integration into the nation of Georgia. The Ossetians, whose people were 2/3 of the population in South Ossetia, were not successful. The Abkhazian separatists, whose people were less than a majority of the population (less than one-fifth of the population was ethnic Abkhaz), with assistance from North Caucasus volunteers, rescued victory from a likely defeat and managed to defeat the Georgian military. The horrendous war resulted in deaths of thousands and the flight and eviction of the Georgian population.

South Ossetia
Never defeated, the relatively tiny enclave of South Ossetia, population only 53,000, continued to petition for independence. In November 12, 2006, by referendum, South Ossetians overwhelmingly voted for independence, which the Georgian government refused to recognize.

The separatist movement re-emerged in August 2008 with hostile actions between South Ossetians and Georgian peacekeepers. Battles between Russian peacekeeping forces and Georgian military, and destruction by the Georgian army of several neighborhoods in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, brought Russia to retaliate with a full-scale warfare - sending aircraft and armored columns into South Ossetia and invading Georgia.

An official EU fact-finding report concluded that during a five-day conflict, "170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians from Georgia were killed and 1,747 wounded; sixty-seven Russian servicemen were killed and 283 were wounded; 365 South Ossetian servicemen and civilians (combined) were killed."

On 7 August 7, 2008, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili announced a unilateral ceasefire and called for peace talks.
On August 26, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order that officially recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Nicaragua and Venezuela are the only other major nations that have accorded similar recognition.

What was modern day Russia's role in these wars of succession?
Firstly, it was during the Yeltsin era that Abkhazia achieved independence. Russia supplied both sides with armaments; the government sided with Georgia, and its military sided with the separatists. Figure that one out.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated: "Although the Russian government continued to declare itself officially neutral in the war, parts of Russian public opinion and a significant group in the parliament, primarily Russian nationalists, who had never been favourably disposed toward the Georgians, began to tilt toward the Abkhaz at least by December," which was four months after the start of the war.

As for Russia's role in the 2008 Ossetian War, objective analyses and observations of actions are difficult to reconcile. A European Union study,,
provides some enlightenment.

In more than 1,000 pages of analysis, documentation and witness statements, an exhaustive investigation by the European Union yesterday found in Russia's favour. It laced its judgment with caveats. It found that there had been an influx of volunteers and mercenaries through the tunnel in early August, and that the Russian air force attacked targets outside the disputed zone long before they admitted to doing so. However, on the central issue the report found there was insufficient evidence for a large-scale Russian incursion before the morning of 8 August. Nor could it be verified whether Russia was on the verge of a major attack, and nor could Georgia's actions be justified under international law.

Perceived from one perspective, Russia interfered in Georgia's internal affairs and defied the international community by recognizing the breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. President Putin's 2014 treaty with Abkhazia, which has Russia subsidizing the modernization of Abkhazia's military and Abkhazia integrating its trade laws with the trade bloc that Russia formed with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, solicited the complaint that "Russia is tightening its grip on Abkhazia." By strengthening relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia excused the evictions of native Georgians (200,000 in Abkhazia) and made it less likely the lands will be returned to Georgia. All true, but from only one perspective.

From Russia's perspective, it has no choice. Relations with its Caucasus Republics are delicate, and any favoritism toward Georgia will incite reactions in the Republics. Unless Abkhazia is defended, Georgia will one day invade, the violence will be horrific, not have an ending, and eventually draw in Russia. Its policies have stopped the bleeding, saved lives and brought a measure of peace and stability to the region. Solution of the refugee problem is another matter, which has no likelihood in the year 2017, but might be resolved if Russia, Georgia and the western nations cooperated in finding a solution. U.S. increased military assistance to Georgia has made this unlikely scenario more difficult.

Although the Obama administration stressed not taking actions that inflame the situation and claimed "no lethal military assistance was being provided to Georgia since the August 2008 conflict," there has been closer U.S.- Georgia defense cooperation.

Military assistance to Georgian troops engaged in the Afghanistan conflict can be viewed as a disguise for equipping and training Georgian troops under the umbrella of support to the NATO efforts (Note: Georgia is not a NATO member). Under the label of Peace & Security, the U.S. has supplied Georgia with almost one billion dollars in assistance since Georgia's independence.
Russia knows that invading and occupying Georgia would give it a lifelong headache and has no reason to cross the border. Despite the lack of alarm, the U.S., in July 2017, performed military exercises with Georgia; dubbed Noble Partner, the drills employed 1,600 US and 800 Georgian troops and involved M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks and M2 Bradley infantry vehicles.

The U.S. military actions antagonized Russia and moved Moscow to closer alignment with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This diplomacy at its worst creates an appearance that the U.S. wants to provoke Russia to more offensive actions, which Moscow did in the Ukraine.

The February 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, which ousted the democratically elected and Russian friendly Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, followed by Ukraine's swift move to repeal the 2012 law that allowed the country's regions to make Russian a second official language (an estimated 40 percent of the Ukrainian population speaks Russian) were necessary but not sufficient provocations for Russia to seek means to protect its interests. Western nations, led by the United States and United Kingdom, despite their insistence that "the Ukrainian military should not step into a situation that could be resolved by civilians," provided the sufficient provocation by siding with the Ukraine rebels and giving the impression they were lending support to a western dominated Ukrainian government.

Although, then acting Ukraine President Oleksandr Turchynov declared on March 3, 2014 that he will not sign the repeal bill until a replacement law is adopted, protests by militant Russian speaking and ethnically related Russians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine moved Moscow to take advantage of the confrontations and protect its interests by giving assistance to related Russians in Ukraine.

From Russian perspective, Crimea had been a vital part of Russia since the time of Catherine the Great -- its outlet to the Black Sea -- and Putin's Russia searched for the opportunity to reclaim the area. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's attachment of Crimea to The Ukraine Republic had been regarded as an administrative move, and as long as Ukraine allowed Russia free entry to Crimea, Russia would not seek annexation. To the thinking of the Russia government in the year 2014, the Euromaidan Revolution changed the arrangement, and the rebels emphasized antagonistic intentions by destroying Russian statues in the Crimea. Putin easily rationalized annexing a Ukraine region whose population was 2/3 Russian, considered a part of Russia, and was under attack by Ukrainian nationalists.

Maintaining Ukraine in the Russian orbit, or at least, preventing it from becoming a NATO ally, is a natural position for any Russian government, a mini-mini type Monroe Doctrine that neutralizes bordering nations and impedes foreign intrusions.

What do we have?
Russia did not incite the violence in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. The moves for independence occurred during the Yeltsin administration and the Putin administrations have inherited the mantle to defend both breakaway nations.
Ukraine had been perceived as a neutral buffer between Russia and NATO. Change in its status dictated a change in Russia's position.
Accusing Russia of annexing the 10,000 square miles of the Crimea peninsula, which is recuperated land area of only 0.001 the size of the former Soviet Union, and supporting the independence of tiny Abkhazia and South Ossetia as attempts to recreate the Soviet empire, is ridiculous. Analyze the situations and, compare them to other international conflagrations, and they seem insignificant. Georgia is without Abkhazia and South Ossetia; Ukraine is where it has always been -- trying to stay independent without antagonizing the western nations or Russia. Unlike the Koreas, entire Middle East, Kashmir, and much of Africa, the Georgian border is stable and peaceful and, hopefully, the Ukraine border will ultimately find its own peace and stability.

What are the comparisons?
France sent troops to Africa -- Chad, West Africa, Central African republic, Sahara -- when its interests were threatened.
United Kingdom went far to recapture the Falkland Islands from Argentina.
Saudi Arabia has fought to preserve its interests in Bahrain and Yemen, pulverizing the people of the latter nation, causing death, destruction, starvation and illnesses that border on genocide.
India and Pakistan thrash it out along their borders.

However, no interventions or battlegrounds compare to those originating from the United States and its willing partner, NATO. They go uninvited everywhere, reinforcing the death and destruction, and never completely resolving the battles. In the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia, their violent actions and divisiveness still linger.

Comparing Russian aggressive actions to those of the United States and its allies is comparing the effects of having someone step on your foot to someone hitting a hammer on your head. A more valid comparison of Russia's aggressive actions is to those of Albania. From the perspective of Albania's antagonists, such as Serbia, Macedonia and Russia, Albania intends to expand, incorporating Kosovo, eventually Macedonia, due to a high Albanian birthrate in Macedonia, and parts of Montenegro into a Greater Albania, and they can cite facts to prove the assumption.

TIRANA, Albania - Albania's prime minister said a union between Albania and Kosovo cannot be ruled out if EU membership prospects for the Western Balkans fade…. Some Albanian nationalists would like to see Albania unite with Kosovo, the majority ethnic Albanian territory to the northeast that unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Kosovo's largest opposition party wants to hold a referendum on forming a union with Albania, even though this is explicitly ruled out by Kosovo's constitution.

The SDSM opposition party and its Albanian allies tried to swear in former ethno-supremacist militant Talat Xhaferi (ED: An ethnic Albanian who once commanded a regiment in an Albanian revolt against the Macedonian government) as the Speaker of Parliament during a closed and illegal session, but were prevented from doing so at the time by the throngs of Macedonian patriots who swarmed into the building and chased them out of it. The legitimate authorities denounced this blatant attempt to assemble a 'shadow government', though the US openly supported it, creating yet another rift between Washington and Skopje. Many in Macedonia have accused the US of being behind the country's two-and-a-half-year-long political unrest, and the American move convinced a lot of people that the US is pursuing its own interests at their expense.

Russia's intervention in Syria is another example of demonizing the benefactor.

Debate has not clarified why Russia intervened in the Syria civil war. With minor casualties to Russian military, Putin's assistance to the Syrian government halted Daesh's' offensive, and enabled Syrian and Kurdish forces to launch their own offensives and recapture territory. Without Russia's interference, Daesh would have captured much of Syria, including government controlled areas, Damascus would be under constant siege, and the civil war would have entered its final stage -- lasting forever.

Several nations have worldwide interests and been willing to fight to preserve these interests without being sanctioned and verbally attacked in the manner in which Russia has been castigated.

Russia as a menace to peace
From two resolved insurrections, which Russia did not promote, its military intervention in a localized Ukraine conflict, and its contributions to diminishing the strife in Syria, Russia is accused of being a menace to European security and world peace.

Proven facts contradict these assertions and show president Putin to be an adept leader, who, except for Syria, only interfered in disputes with nations that border Russia, is decisive, and gets the task done to his nation's advantage. In contrast, U.S. administrations have intervened in all continents, have rarely, if ever, resolved the situations in which they intervened, have mostly intensified the havoc, destabilized regions and been counterproductive in their efforts -- causing more damage to U.S. interests than what might have occurred.

Commentators characterized the Soviet Union as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. After it became scrambled eggs, Russia's characterization became simplified; a cold, icy and heartless land that preys on its neighbors and causes misery to the world. No matter what Putin's Russia does, it is viewed as a cold, icy, and heartless land that preys on its neighbors and causes misery to the world. Apply a little warmth, defrost the ice, and Russia has another appearance.

alternative insight
september 10, 2017