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Did Russia Employ Communist PKK Ahead of Georgia Invasion?

On vacation and woefully disconnected from most of the civilized world (and marginally civilized, as it may be), did I miss anyone noting the likely connection between the Kurdish PKKs bombing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline in Turkey a mere 72 hours ahead of Russian tanks rolling on Georgia?

If someone has clearly and I have missed it in disconnection, good. If not, call me crazy, but let’s keep in mind that the PKK is a communist group - the Kurdistan Worker’s Party - and therefor the type of rebel group that stays near Putin’s KGB heart.

ThreatsWatch reader Michael F. Halasz left this comment at Warren’s earlier Recon item, which is the closest to making the direct connection I have seen. It’s been bugging me while away and offline, and popping online for a few minutes, I was glad to see someone at least flirt with what seems to me an obvious employment of a useful terrorist group.

The Baku-Ceyhan gas pipeline - built to by-pass Russia to Europe - will no longer be secure even if Russia withdraws to the South Ossetian “border.” Given that Europe is ever more dependent on imported gas, windmills notwithstanding ,this is a momentous defeat for the anti-Russian faction in Europe. For Germany of course alignment with Russia has always been an alternative to war with it. [consider that ex-chancellor Schroder now has a good job with Gazprom]. I’m afraid that the U.S. -overextended and virtually without a functioning government -now holds the short end of the stick. America’s reckless Georgian clients walked into a trap. Russia’s longer-term objective is likely to be full participant in any broad Middle East settlement, as was always the case during what we might call the Henry Kissinger era.

Meanwhile, reports that the Georgian army flees in disarray as Russians advance are not encouraging. I was online just long enough this weekend to read Ralph Peters’ latest at the New York Post (‘Raping Georgia’) at the outset of the fighting, and found his initial observations spot on.

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.

Though it doesn’t look like his suggestion of a possible “surprise beating” of the Russians at the hands of fierce-fighting Georgians has happened at all. But it is very early in this conflict, and a stubborn Russia may find the longer they stay, the deeper they go, the worse for them it gets. They’re certainly not at that point now, though.

[Interjection: Fernandez makes excellent observations in a comment at the Belmont Club:

BBC is now reporting that the Russians have withdrawn from Gori. I must admit that I have been impressed with their tactical flexibility. They avoided a pitched battle at Kodori gorge, raided Senaki and Zugdidi, and don’t seem interested in holding the ground at Gori. Their linkage of kinetic action with the information war seems to be aimed at the purely political goal of toppling Saakashvili. The clumsy bear is showing a surprising agility. They seem perfectly aware of the dangers of a protracted counterinsurgency in the Caucasus and appear to be confining themselves to probing attacks.

The Russians are performing better than in the old days. But still, they’re only up against a few brigades. They have the air, they have the sea. They have the numbers. But they can’t bag the Georgian Army. In the information warfare sphere, the Georgians are whittling away at the Russian meme that this is all about South Ossetia. If the Russians don’t withdraw this will be about Georgia.

Taken together, the performance of both sides has created an opportunity. If the Georgians had collapsed or if the Russians had run an old style Kursk-type campaign, things would be far worse. Think of it as two fighters in a ring, both of whom can plausibly claim victory. You can get them to shake hands yet. Putin’s best move, as I wrote above, is to declare victory, beat his chest and go back into South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But is Putin like that?

Deeper does not appear to be in Russia’s dealt cards, and for the good reasons noted by many.]

Two cents while I have a minute. Perhaps less on both accounts.

UPDATE: Some video that caught my eye…



UPDATE II: With thanks to Corlyss for his comment reminding me, apologies to John Batchelor, who, upon distant reflection, was way ahead of this particular curve and in fact the one who planted the seed in my foggy memory banks. He had sent a note Friday highlighting Georgia right before I headed out on vacation. Within the link sent, the PKK highlight. See for yourself.

Not a Pipeline Conspiracy, a Pipeline Coincidence
It is mighty strange that this Russian attack comes within twenty-four hours of a reported Kurdish guerilla attack, by the well-financed PKK, on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline. This was the first explosion ever reported on the pipleine that carried 1% of he world’s daily need; and the report that the pipeline will be shut for up to two weeks reversed the sell-off in oil and sent it back up through $120. Am I suspicious? Yes. Is it significant that the attack took place outside of the PKK region? Yes. When BP declared force majeure on the pipeline, it freed BP and all members of the consortium from contractual obligations. In other words, your money is no good when there is trouble with that pipeline. And now there are tank battles, air strikes, refugees and anarchy within 40 kilometers of the Tblisi section while the exploded Turkish section near Refahiye must burn itself out for days before it can be replaced.

In a word: Bingo.