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Clarity Needed Over Consensus On 'The American Side'

This report from Tbilisi by Michael Totten in the City Journal must be read, and in its entirety.

In this space we have brought to attention the Russian strategic design, the weakness of NATO in response, and a rather blunt recognition that viewing Russia as any sort of strategic partner - at least under Putin - in any endeavor is folly supported only by seemingly welcomed facade.

Selected for its consistency with that context, the following excerpt from Michael’s latest illustrates precisely that strategic competitor’s perspective from the Russians through the words of their foot soldiers. The conversation, one between Michael and a family that fled their Gori farm, takes place in a jammed Tblisi school housing refugees. He has just described “massacres, looting, and arson by irregular Cossack paramilitary units swarming across the border,” resulting in 90% of the central city of Gori’s population to flee, primarily to the Tblisi capital. (Note: “Irregular Cossack paramilitary units” = largely-Chechen marauders loosed on Georgia.)

“Did you actually see any Russians,” I said, “or did you leave before they got there?”

“They came and asked us for wine, but first we had to drink it ourselves to show that it was not poisoned. Then they drank the wine themselves. And then they said to leave this place as soon as possible; otherwise they would kill us. The Russians were looking for anyone who had soldiers in their home. If anyone had a Georgian soldier at home they burned the houses immediately.”

Her husband had remained behind and arrived in Tbilisi shortly before I did. “He was trying to keep the house and the fields,” she explained. “Afterward, he wanted to leave, but he was circled by soldiers. It was impossible. He was in the orchards hiding from the Russians in case they lit the house. He was walking and met the Russian soldiers and he made up his mind that he couldn’t stay any more. The Russian soldiers called him and asked where he was going, if he was going to the American side.”

“The Russians said this to him?” I said.

“My husband said he was going to see his family,” she said. “And the Russians said again, ‘Are you going to the American side?’”

“So the Russians view you as the American side, even though there are no Americans here.”

“Yes,” she said. “Because our way is for democracy.”

It should be clearly understood that the Russians consider the Georgian capital and Sakaashvili, their enemies, as ‘the American side.’ We had better acknowledge such in short order and without clarity-reducing nuance.

And if a consensus organization like NATO is mired in internal argument over a nuanced response, we must recognize that America does not require NATO consensus to take and stand by the principled position of defending and supporting democracies in need in the face of tyranny wrought through violence.

Meanwhile, Russia is once again reporting that their forces are beginning to pull back, particularly from Gori. But to any degree there is truth to the statements this time, it is for little reason other than Russia simply doesn’t need those forces in Gori any longer.

A larger PrincipalAnalysis is in the process of being written that makes clear Russia’s two larger and inescapably inter-related strategic aims being striven for at great expense to Georgia and emerging democracies in the region: Energy and influence.