Sunday, August 17, 2008

Russia, Georgia, & Disinformation


Between 8 and 11 August the Georgian-Russian dispute over the separatist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia came to a violent head. Regardless of who is more at fault, the separatists, Saakashvili's Georgian government, or the Medvedev/Putin government in Russia, the entire affair has been surrounded by massive amounts of disinformation thanks in no small part to an apparent total disregard for accurate reporting by the media.


There is an absurd amount of inaccurate information being propagated throughout the media regarding the current conflict between Russia and Georgia. Supposedly professional and well-respected media outlets have been severely lacking with respect to fact checking and corroborating the news they have been reporting.

Oil Pipelines Were Not Struck

The Associated Press, among other sources, has been spreading the story that Russian warplanes were dropping bombs in close proximity to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the second longest oil pipeline in the world. Various media sources have claimed that there were attacks which in some cases resulted in bombs impacting within close proximity to the pipeline itself. The alleged pipeline attack was mentioned, for instance, in an 11 August Associated Press report. The date of the report itself tells any intelligent reader all they need to know about the fact-checking abilities of the Associated Press; on 9 August, Agence-France Presse reported that British Petroleum, one of the shareholders of the pipeline, was not aware of any such attack. An 11 August interview with BP officials published in The Telegraph indicated that BP workers had in fact inspected the pipeline and found absolutely no evidence of any bombing raids whatsoever. One would think that if the Russian air force had been attempting to bomb the pipeline, that evidence of impact craters would have been found. There was also an ironic incident where Russian Su-25s (FROGFOOT) bombed a factory near the Tbilisi airport, a factory which had at one time produced Su-25s! This was translated into a Russian attack on the airport itself, a claim which was even denied by the Georgian government.

Advanced Weapons?

In another example of erroneous reporting, New York Post columnist Ralph Peters stated that Russia was employing precision guided munitions (PGMs), in part of a 12 August column seemingly written with the sole intent to disparage the performance of Russian military units. Russian General Staff Deputy Chief General-Colonel Anatoly Nogovitsyn seemed to provide evidence to back up Peters' claim in an August 12 Kommersant report. General-Colonel Nogovitsyn claimed that Russia possessed "weapons allowing to hit only the facilities threatening our troops instead of fighting by carpet bombing", claiming that this is what the Russian military was doing. Here's the issue: Nogovitsyn did not necessarily specify that these were air-delivered weapons. Russia has employed the 9K79 Tochka (SS-21 SCARAB) SRBM against Georgian positions, and while the Tochka is not necessarily a PGM in the truest sense of the word, the 90 meter CEP does provide far more accuracy than other Russian SRBMs and battlefield support systems. Furthermore, there have been various images spread around the internet showing Russian Su-24 (FENCER) tactical bombers uploaded with weapons. Some of these images have depicted the Cyrillic script applied to the weapons by Russian aviators as messages to their intended targets. The weapons in question were all unguided gravity bombs of various sizes. If Russia was air dropping PGMs, what are these Su-24s doing toting standard dumb bombs? Various international media outlets are also carrying stories detailing Georgian claims that cluster bombs were employed by the Russians; cluster bombs are indiscriminate, inaccurate weapons designed to saturate a portion of the battlefield. Again, where are the PGMs?

Peters also claims that Russian pilots are flying their latest combat aircraft. This is patently false. The combat aircraft employed by Russia on bombing sorties over Georgia are Su-24s (FENCER-D) and Su-25s. Anyone with a basic knowledge of the Russian air force will be aware that both the Su-27SM and Su-34 are currently in service to varying degrees, both of which are far more capable air-to-ground platforms in most respects than their legacy Sukhoi counterparts. The Su-34 is in fact currently entering service, with five series-produced examples undergoing trials at Lipetsk. The Su-34 has been trialled in combat before over Chechnya while still in prototype form, so operational use over Georgia would certainly have been a possibility.

Peters' problem is an apparent desire to paint the Russian pilots as ill trained and incapable of performing simple combat tasks. By claiming that the Russian aircraft are employing PGMs he creates an illusion that the bombs being dropped are not being employed properly as they are not striking targets with a high degree of accuracy. By claiming that Russia is employing the most advanced aircraft in its arsenal, he creates an illusion that the Russian pilots are not competent enough to handle modern warplanes. Unfortunately the evidence simply does not support any of his ludicrous and obviously biased claims against the Russian Air Force. Peters has traveled through Georgia, and may therefore have a sympathetic view of their situation, but his (admittedly op-ed) piece does nothing to reinforce his credibility as an objective journalist.


One of the most propagated theories behind the Georgian conflict is that it was preplanned and prepared for in advance by the Russian military. Logically, this should of course be partly true. Any military worth its salt will always be preparing for likely future conflicts. Two American examples of warplanning are OPLAN 5027, outlining plans for a conflict on the Korean peninsula, and OPLAN 8044, dealing with nuclear warfighting. Given the recent history of the Georgian situation, it would be illogical to assume that Russia had not at least outlined plans for a military action against Georgia. Russian troops based in Georgia pre-conflict were described as peacekeepers; peacekeepers would not be necessary were it not for the potential for open conflict, and where there is potential there will most assuredly be a contingency plan. But does this mean that Russia purposely created an environment where such a contingency plan would be called into action?

The interesting aspect to this theory is that it can only survive in blind ignorance of the events leading up to the conflict. Prior to the outbreak of serious hostilities, South Ossetian separatists and Georgian military forces had begun trading fire as early as 1 August in response to separatist shelling of Georgian villages in South Ossetia. By 3 August Russia was warning Georgia that the conflict would escalate if it continued further. After declaring a cease-fire on August 7, Georgian forces began to assault South Ossetia during the early hours on August 8 in response to further shelling by separatist forces. By August 11, Russian forces were entering Georgia, seemingly to end the conflict on their own terms. The idea that Russia preplanned and provoked the entire operation is clearly absurd. There were multiple meetings within the framework of the UN and multiple talks regarding a ceasefire well before August 11, and in some cases even before August 8. The South Ossetian separatists do appear to have been the primary instigators of the conflict, but this was a full 10 days before any major Russian military involvement in the area.

The main evidence used to support the idea that Russia was behind the conflict as a means of invading Georgia was that the 58th Army or some other force was prepositioned near the Roki tunnel to allow them to advance into Georgia. A US defense official was quoted by AFP on 12 August as stating that there was no evidence to support a buildup of Russian forces prior to the invasion. Rather, American military officials were suprised with the rapidity with which Russian forces mobilized and deployed into the conflict zone. This should not necessarily have been much of a shock, as there were Russian troops in the area prepared to enter South Ossetia. These troops were taking part in the Kavkaz-2008 exercise in the region, and Russian Army spokesperson Igor Konashenkov claimed that they would in fact be reporting to South Ossetia in the near future as replacements for the current peacekeeping force stationed there. As a result, according to Konashenkov, part of the Kavkaz-2008 exercise would focus on that peacekeeping mission.

Kavkaz-2008 ran through the end of July and it is possible that the troops had not left for their garrisons when initial signs of conflict appeared on 1 August. Russia's warning of expanded conflict on August 3 may have led to many of the troops involved with Kavkaz-2008 remaining in the area. Of course, moving troops rapidly and with little warning has been a hallmark of former Soviet doctrine for a European war. Given Russia's knowledge and infrastructure, it is also just as likely that troops were mobilized on 3 August and moved towards the battlefield with lightning speed once Moscow decided to become seriously involved. The Russian 58th Army, for example, has been cited as being involved in the conflict. The 58th Army is based at Vladikavkaz in the North Caucasus Military District, less than 50 kilometers from the Georgian border. If mobilized on or about 3 August, moving elements of the 58th Army into South Ossetia by 11 August would not be a difficult task, particularly if they had been involved with Kavkaz-2008 and were therefore already at an increased state of readiness.

Returning to Ralph Peters' journalistic slaughtering of the facts surrounding the conflict, Peters claims that airstrikes were launched against pre-planned targets, citing this as an example of how Russia had clearly been planning for the conflict. This is both accurate, and absurd. Anyone remotely familiar with the concept of ISR will state that any area of potential conflict is monitored for enemy forces and scanned for potential targets. This is all part of the contingency planning process described earlier. Russia has likely searched the United States to derive aimpoints for its ballistic missile force, does this mean that Russia is also looking for an excuse to engage in a nuclear exchange with the United States? It is absurdity such as this that only serves to propagate the appearance of a decidedly anti-Russian bias throughout the West, a bias that will ultimately hinder continued relations between the US and Russia as it begins to affect the populations of both nations. Further demonstration of Peters' decidedly anti-Russian bias can be found in another New York Post column from 9 August. In this diatribe, Peters claims that the Russian 58th Army was incapable of short-notice combat operations due to readiness issues. Apparently he failed to make a journalistic inquiry to the US defense community, as they have a decidedly different opinion, and decidedly better sources.

Another piece of information used by the media to paint the picture that Russia decided to provoke a conflict was the April 2008 placement of artillery pieces in Abkhazia. This can be partly explained by referencing the UN Arms Register, which details the acquisition of mobile artillery pieces by the Georgian military well prior to this date. Once again, standard military practice rears its head. In a potential conflict zone, it is ludicrous not to be prepared to fight your enemy on at a minimum the same level. In the West, however, this must only mean that the Russians are planning a war.

NO S-200

Russian government officials and media outlets are not, of course, above fabricating their own news regarding the conflict. Russia claimed that a Ukrainian-supplied S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON) SAM system was used to down one of their aircraft. However, there is simply no evidence to support such a claim. Georgia did operate the S-200 at one point in time, an S-200 battery having been present under the USSR to defend Tbilisi. As of November 2006, however, the S-200 site sat unused, with all of the military equipment having been removed and many of the structures having been razed or fallen into disrepair. A satellite image of the S-200 site in question can be seen below:

Furthermore, the Georgian newspaper Kviris Palitra ran a story in June of 2008 detailing Georgian air defense assets. The assets mentioned included the S-125 (SA-3 GOA), Osa-AK (SA-8 GECKO), and Buk-M1 (SA-11 GADFLY). The Osa and Buk systems are known to have been sourced from the Ukraine, while the S-125s remained from Soviet times. A May 2008 article in the Kiev Kommentarii detailed numerous arms sales by the Ukraine to Georgia, and made mention of a Buk sale in 2005. A glance through the UN Arms Register shows that the Ukraine delivered Osa systems in 2006 and Buk systems in 2007 as well. No serious mention has ever been made of an S-200 sale by anyone except the Russians, and the Ukraine denies having provided such a system. Given the status of the S-200 facility in Georgia and the evidence provided by Kiev, Tbilisi, and the UN, there is no credible evidence to support the assertion that any S-200 was ever sold to Georgia. The S-200's role in Georgian air defense seems to have ended with the deactivation of the battery near Tbilisi.


One final example of faulty reporting relates to the purported S-200 sale. Russia claimed that a Tu-22 was downed by the Ukrainian-supplied SAM system. This led to various media outlets reporting that a Tu-22M3 (BACKFIRE-C) was lost over Georgia. A Tu-22M-series aircraft was downed, but proper examination of the facts would suggest that it was not a Tu-22M3 but in fact a Tu-22MR (BACKFIRE-D) reconnaissance aircraft. In this case, deliberate misrepresentation or altering of the facts behind the story does not appear to have taken place (excluding the aforementioned S-200 report, of course). This would appear to be representative of the media's lack of knowledge and attention to detail rather than deliberate false reporting.

The crewmembers who were flying the Tupolev were recovered and hospitalized by Georgian forces, and have been interviewed by the media. The pilot claimed that the aircraft was on a reconnaissance mission, flying from Engels air base. Engels is not a Tu-22M operator, so any BACKFIRE operating from there would have been forward deployed. Furthermore, the basic Tu-22M3 is a sub-strategic bomber, capable of carrying a variety of weapons but not possessing any credible capability to conduct reconnaissance sorties. The Tu-22MR, on the other hand, is a dedicated reconnaissance aircraft. If the pilot of the aircraft is to be believed, then he must have been flying a Tu-22MR rather than a Tu-22M3.


Neither Georgia nor Russia are entirely without fault in the current conflict. Georgia escalated the conflict by attacking the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali following clashes with separatists. Russia took it to a wholly different level with a massive military campaign designed to deny Georgia the ability to inflict further damage to South Ossetia. However, misreporting and deliberate distortion of the facts by the worldwide media has led to a convoluted picture of the events that have taken place. The fact that so many of the most commonly reported news items can be disassembled piece by piece with a few minutes of research places doubts on the credibility and objectivity of these establishments. When dealing with Russia after the cessation of hostilities, it would be wise to remember that there is no evidence to suggest a preplanned and orchestrated campaign to allow Russia to invade South Ossetia and Georgia. Painting Russia as a resurgent Evil Empire is a sign of unsubstantiated bias and nothing more. After all, Russia did warn Georgia that escalation was possible, and Saakashvili chose to give them the excuse needed to ensure the integrity of South Ossetia, perhaps permanently. Arguing that Russia's methods were overkill is one thing, accusing them of trying to take over the Caucasus is another thing entirely.


-Satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Ralph Peters' claims of PGMs and advanced aircraft
Ralph Peters' claims of Russian buildup
Russia created the crisis
Russian pilot was flying a recon mission
OPLAN 5027
OPLAN 8044
Kavkaz-2008 (second source)
Did Russia use cluster bombs?
Artillery in Abkhazia
BP says pipeline not damaged
BP pipeline attacks disproven
Oil pipelines attacked
Russia hints at precision weapon use
The UN Arms Register
No evidence of Russian troop buildup

Georgia's Air Defense - Kviris Palitra, 14 July 2008
Ukraine acknowledges Buk sale - Kiev Kommentarii, 30 May 2008


Jeffrey said...

Thanks for putting in the work, Sean, and your call to balance the blame across both States actions.

You might check out Jeffrey Lewis' post at Danger Room and see if you can answer his questions. He's asking a few that are right in your area of expertise.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, there have been various images spread around the internet showing Russian Su-24 (FENCER) tactical bombers uploaded with weapons. Some of these images have depicted the Cyrillic script applied to the weapons by Russian aviators as messages to their intended targets. The weapons in question were all unguided gravity bombs of various sizes." Plese, could you say where I can find that images?
Thak you!

Sean O'Connor said...

Jeffrey is asking about the SS-21 vs SS-26 debate; I answered over at the Wonk and basically told him he had pictures of both of them, meaning that both systems were employed.

Anonymous said...

The first paragraph is contradictory.Your point against bias seems mainly against Ralph Peters btw.

The fact that the media ignored more or less the South Ossetians assault against Georgia is a clearely indication they are not Anti-Russia. And who can separate by default these South Ossetians and Russians? I would be very careful there.

"obliterating the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali"

No exageration there?

Sean O'Connor said...

Ralph Peters was used as a convenient example because he propagates most of the myths sent through the rest of the media. If I tried to cover every single media inaccuracy, I'd be working on this until around 2011.

The media ignored South Ossetia's attacks initially because they simply weren't that big of a deal. Once Georgia really started laying into them and Russia was calling for UN meetings, then the media started to notice. And once Russia got heavily involved, they became the bad guy.

Anonymous said...

I am the anonymous above.

Here a link that says "obliterating the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali" was a gross exageration. And as such cuts weight in saying that the media has blatant anti-russian bias since
"obliterating the South Ossetian capital" obviously came via media.

"The media ignored South Ossetia's attacks initially because they simply weren't that big of a deal."

But painted Georgians as agressors when it was an answer(not wise but legitimate) to the shelling of Georgian villages.

Sean O'Connor said...

I have changed "obliterating" to "attacking" in the conclusion to better reflect the situation.

Sean O'Connor said...

I've made a few other minor edits here and there throughout the article to clear it up a bit and hopefully help the intended point become clearer.

Anonymous said...

Good one, SOC! I think you should replace the line

"This is all part of the planning process described earlier."

in the part where you discuss the supposed planning of the attack by Russia with something like

"This is commonly done as a precaution by any nation with interests in a potential conflict zone, and not dependent on any expectation of near-term hostilities."

Similarly, IMHO you should say

"Two American examples of *cautionary* warplanning are OPLAN 5027, outlining plans for a conflict on the Korean peninsula, and OPLAN 8044, dealing with nuclear warfighting. Also, such schemes are usually defensive in nature and in no way predestine the country doing the planning to become the aggressor."

I know, it may seem redundant but as the inimitable Churchill once said:

"If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack."

There is a very real danger that any slightly ambiguous point will be taken out of context or given a convenient spin. Also, complex military concepts like MAD and acronyms such as ISR are going to be way above the heads of many readers, further increasing the potential for misunderstandings.

So - depending on whom your article is directed at - don't give even someone who is trying to be deliberately obtuse any wriggle room to put words in your mouth ;)

Anonymous said...

Jews! Jews! Neocons! Love Russia, kill Jews!

See, it is possible to be far more succcinct.

Sean O'Connor said...

How do you get that I have anything at all against the Jewish people from what I wrote? If it comes out as pro-Russia, so be it; the fact of the matter is that there has been a good deal of inaccurate reporting regarding the Russian side of the conflict.

To the previous commenter, point taken. I've been going back and forth between a few things tinkering with this article, so it will probably undergo further revision over the next day or so.

Anonymous said...

"Furthermore, there have been various images spread around the internet showing Russian Su-24 (FENCER) tactical bombers uploaded with weapons. Some of these images have depicted the Cyrillic script applied to the weapons by Russian aviators as messages to their intended targets. The weapons in question were all unguided gravity bombs of various sizes." Sean, could you say where did you found that information, please? Thank You!

Anonymous said... Defence, Geopolitics and International Relations

Sean O'Connor said...

Here's one of the Su-24's bombs that has been the subject of some aircrew scribing:

Sean O'Connor said...

This is a pretty interesting perspective to the whole mess:,1518,druck-572686,00.html

Anonymous said...

"Here's one of the Su-24's bombs that has been the subject of some aircrew scribing"

Sean - that pic is from spring 2006. Image taken during 67th FBAR Siverskiy training at the Ashuluk range.

Original picture posted in early 2007. Link:

Other similar pics from the same occasion:

Regards Dima

Sean O'Connor said...

He must have gotten the wrong one then. I'll find the rest of them and some of the video clips showing dumb bombs being dropped after I finish a few more things around here.

The Red Son said...

Kudos for doing the job of any good journalist, working hard to make sure that the truth is known.

Michael Collins said...

Great article. It's one of the few real critiques I've seen, serious stuff. Your interaction with the comments says a lot for your commitment to accuracy. I'll be back;)

Anonymous said...

I am not convinced by the evidence from which you conclusion that the invasion wasn't preplanned by Russia.

A more likely interpretation of the same evidence is that Russia did plan it and considered propaganda and information warfare as part of their planning.

You write:

"By 3 August Russia was warning Georgia that the conflict would escalate if it continued further."

"The South Ossetian separatists do appear to have been the primary instigators of the conflict, but this was a full 10 days before any major Russian military involvement in the area."

"There were multiple meetings within the framework of the UN and multiple talks regarding a ceasefire well before August 11, and in some cases even before August 8. "

"A US defense official was quoted by AFP on 12 August as stating that there was no evidence to support a buildup of Russian forces prior to the invasion.
This should not necessarily have been much of a shock, as there were Russian troops in the area prepared to enter South Ossetia."

It was instigated by rebels, close allies of Russia, Russia tries to generate moral authority by using diplomatic means, Russia didn't need to overtly preposition troops on the border because troops were already in the area for war games that had been schedueled in advance.


You might be right that the Russians didn't preplan to invade Georgia, but you didn't prove it with the evidence you cited.

Anonymous said...

Here is better evidence that the invasion was not pre-planned:

"Former Russian Defense Minister Gen. Paul Grachev cast blame on all the Russian intelligence services for lack of warning and commanders of the North Caucasus Military District for not having a detailed contingency plan in case of an attack by Georgia.

Gen. Mahmut Gareyev, president of the Academy of Military Sciences, also blamed military intelligence for the classic failure of miscalculating Georgia’s intentions. The resulting confusion in Russia’s command and control was pointed to as the reason that Russia’s air force took so many losses including a number of Su-25 Frogfoot close attack aircraft, possibly an Su-24 and a front-line, high-performance Tu-22M aircraft which may have been either a bombing or reconnaissance variant operated by the Black Sea Fleet."

The information in that article is best explained by the supposition that Russia had plans for invasion but no time for commanders to review or act upon them.

Punk Floyd said...

Re: precision weapons

It has been claimed in several russian military blogs that Russians have used cruise missiles.

One source (e.g., specifically claims they launched several X-555s and X-101s from Tu-160s that were flown in from Engels (121th heavy bomber regiment, 37th army)
The source is unreliable (being a LiveJournal post and all), but doesn't contradict anything I know.

if you read Russian, also check out this:

Bulba said...

On Russian preparation see the article of P. Felgengauer, a well-reputed journalist and military expert in the only Russian not-pro-putin newspaper:
His previous articles are also remarkable and show the dynamics of preparation:

Can you comment on that?

Sean O'Connor said...

Felgengauer's article is interesting but changes little. Come on people, Russia was going to prepare for potential conflict during the beginning of August, which coincides with the end of Kavkaz-2008 as Felgengauer mentions, as there were multiple incidents between the Ossetians and Georgians and Russian appearances in the UN to get the mess sorted out. But that does not mean that Russia instigated the whole conflict just to invade Georgia. I never said that they weren't likely preparing for a possible conflict, just that there is absolutely no evidence to show that they created the entire conflict in the first place, and did so just to put down Georgia. Preparation? Of course they were preparing. It's the motives that people are getting crossed signals on. And again, this guy is claiming that the lack of rapid advance had to do with lack of ability. Where is the unbiased consideration of the simple fact that maybe they just had to get things organized and weren't actually planning an all-out invasion in the first place?

I'm starting to wonder if the people berating my article on the web (and I don't mean the readers and commenters here who have the integrity to actually engage me in a discussion, which I always welcome) have even bothered to read it fully and understand the context, which is that everyone is partly to blame for this, and that there is no reason to paint the Russians as an Evil Empire for doing something that there is absolutely no tangible evidence of them having done, namely setting this all up and instigating the war. Even the US DoD is stating that there was no evidence of any buildup setting up an invasion. But I guess paid bloggers have access to far better intelligence collection methods and technologies. Their overhead imaging satellites must be outstanding, maybe they can hook me up with more imagery of areas outside Kiev and Moscow so I can finish the Russian and Ukrainian Air Defense Analysis pieces.

It is totally hilarious that the West is on some high horse over Russia's desire to separate Ossetia from Georgia. Where was the desire to retain the territorial integrity of Serbia when Kosovo wanted to separate?

Once again, let's make this clear:

-Who was at fault? Everybody.

-Was Russia increasing readiness for a potential military action? Yes, otherwise they would have been stupid given the situation the first week of August.

-Is there evidence of a mass buildup as a precursor to an outright invasion of Georgia or evidence of Russian planning of the entire sequence of events to allow them to do just that? No.

Li said...

Great post here Sean. Thanks for standing up for accurate information.

And your point that everybody has to share the blame in this is spot on.

Tom said...

Great article.
Thx at Sean O'Connor for the link.
Exactly what I was looking for.

Bulba said...

Sean –

First, Felgengauer’ sources are high placed in Russian military, like Gen. Staff and GRU, etc., and he claims that the decision to create the entire conflict and do so just to put down Georgia was made up as early as April. He gives proofs however you interpret them differently. You do not argue with him, you just dismiss him and reiterate your interpretation.

Second, multiple incidents between the Ossetians and Georgians in the beginning of August were initiated and escalated by the Ossetians. You treat Ossetians as a separate entity. But this is not so. They do what they are told. On 3 Aug. Russian deputy minister of defence and deputy head of GRU paid a secret visit to S. Ossetia: (sorry, in Russian). After that, the shooting had escalated greatly. Note that by that moment, the children and other civilians had been already moving out of the city “for summer vacation”.

Another matter is who had commanded S. Ossetians into escalation? Either Russian military or Kremlin via the military. It is somewhat exotic to think that some “war party” could do that over the head of Kremlin. Still the Georgians could believe that Kremlin was not going to approve a massive invasion – this is the idea first expressed by a well-informed journalist Yulia Latynina:
However, even in this case the Kremlin had chosen to take the leadership rather than oppose to the military that makes the search for who is more responsible almost irrelevant.

Edward said...

Sean, I find your work incredible, especially considering you do it without access to "secret" government data. With that said, I believe you expose a blind spot in your analysis of this conflict. I actually agree that Ralph Peters got some stuff wrong, even some basic stuff that a number of other folks (who aren't very pro-Russian right now) picked up, so he is not without error, but he did just spend a lot of time in that specific region and knows a lot about the Russian and how they do things and has plenty of contacts to help him shape his opinion.

The Georgians screwed up and took the bait IMHO. I don't think they thought we would "save" them, that would of been a miscalculation of biblical proportions, but I think they thought a punitive incursion to end the shelling would be supported internationally and wouldn't generate a far bigger punitive expedition and standoff with a belligerent Russia.

Why do I say belligerent? The Russian government has been fomenting violent revolution in three separate provinces of Georgia, not a friendly act. The Vosthok (sp?) unit from Chechnya being brought into the fight; a unit with such a heinous reputation for thuggery and brutality the Russians said they been disbanded for it. The theft and/or destruction of weapons in bases the Russians took control of and unrelated to the stated reasons Russia invaded. Shit, they plain just stole three HMMWV's we had sitting on the docks waiting to come back to us. And let's not forget their threatening language to the rest of their neighbors during this crisis.

I tend to shy away from theories unproven by facts but merely suggested at by events, but if someone doesn't believe that this invasion was Russia putting on a show for her neighbors who seek NATO membership and closer ties with western Europe, that person does not understand world politics very well. Russia helped precipitate these events in a number of ways that aren't very subtle, is it too much to imagine that they did so in other ways we don't have immediate omniscient knowledge of?

Georgia, as I said, is no saint, but when it comes to who are we going to side with, shouldn't we give the people who aren't currently being repressive, controlling dicks a little more of the benefit of our doubt? If only Russia wasn't so damn paranoid, this whole thing would probably have never happened. It's like they are afraid we want to invade them. Sadly, I feel it is our promotion of freedom that worries Putin the most.:(

Keep up the good work.

Bulba said...

Another piece of the puzzle:

and some others:

What is amazing, the Chechen underground had apparently got the info on the decided invasion one month before it started, although the first script was different:

The efforts of German diplomats who started shattle negotiations on
Abkhazia in July had spoiled that plan and caused a switch to S. Ossetia.

Anonymous said...

Can't you see that this "Sean O'Connor" is another Russian spreading the lies all over the net? They all (Russian hackers) are trying to save their informational war spreading lies. As you all can see this guy here was changing others posts to the point he wanted you all to see. But he doesn't know that the only ones who don't know anything are Russian people. The Russian people are completely locked out in the informational vacuum, created by their government. For example 75% of those who have been questioned during the sociologic research in Russia think, that Georgian population is 45-50 million (real figures; 5 million and 2 million among them are abroad the country) and that Georgians are Muslims (Georgia became Christians in the second part of VI century, when Russian didn't even have the parliament and government). Russians will give any excuse, regardless if it's true or not, just to show the world that they are right.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhaaaa considering the long windedness of the author's comments on Mother Russia and how innocent she is...

hmmm often times the simplest answer is often the most correct.

Political propaganda is very sophistocated and extended arguments are ment to decieve not enlighten.

What does that say about this article? Hogwash. Russia had plans all along to recapture its former glory and string the former soviet republics back togather like some broken necklace.

One small step for Ivan, one giant leap for totalitarianism. Democratic republic my butt.

Sean O'Connor said...

Russia may well be guilty of more than a few things in this conflict, such as spreading disinformation about Ukrainian S-200s as I pointed out. The point is that the evidence is not yet there so it is counterproductive to fostering a healthy relationship to simply fabricate evidence as the sources I cited have clearly done. I'm not saying Russia did nothing wrong, I'm saying that the reporting of the conflict has been severely flawed. All the examples I give bear that out.

Anonymous said...

Your work and analysis is outstanding!
Your latteral thinking superb!

Leonid said...

Hi Sean,

Thanks for interesting article. Rissians warned Georgia that they will follow peacekeeping agreement if Georgia attacked S.Ossetia and shit happened. In general you are right but some details were not [officially] covered:
- major part was handled by 58 Army which is equipped with old weapon to operate on North Causasus area.
- Su-34 were used in Codori Gorge (Abkhazia), very effectively
- Iskander (SS-26) wasn't used, only Tocka/Tocka-U (SS-21)
- no Mi-28N nor Ka-50/52 were used.

As a result of this invasion and murdering of Russian peacekeepers Russia desided to increase 25% budget for new weapon but still it is very little fraction of the US military budget.

If you be able to read Cyrillic scripts you are welcome to that forum,164.0.html

There is some interesting information provided by BlackShark which is a real Colonel from GABTU (kind of General Headquarters tank forces control).

Mr. Felgengauer, is not an expert in military, he faulted many times as well as here. He wrote that "Georgian army is the best in CES and will destroy Russians in a week". His background is in biology but he is not very well-known in own area.

Conor O'Brien said...

Very good work. As noted by others there are some sentences that could be more specific, but no written work is ever truly done.

I like especially that you list your sources, and it is easy to follow your line of thought. Maybe a short list of explanations of acronyms might be handy. Mayeb try and have that as a permanent side column, or link to another page, so that your articles remain clear.

I would have like to see you tear into more ppl than the unfortunate Mr. Peters - i read his article, and it did seem very shallow on detail- more of an "impression/opinion" piece, with very little factual backup.

But i doubt that he, alone in his little world, "propagates most of the myths sent through the rest of the media". He be pretty powerful if he could do that...

Id liek to iterate again that I find your style, approach and handling of comments to be clear, mature, very insightful and thought-provoking. This is the kind of writing that makes me go and find out more.

Great work, keep it up!


Leonid said...

Hi again,

The nice article about Russian Air Forces and Georgian Air defence pointed by URL below.

Unfortunately, it is in Russian. Briefly Georgian AD includes: Osa-AKM, Kolchuga, S-125, Buk-1M, Shilka, Python-4 and Grom (aka Igla made in Poland).

Anonymous said...

Disappointed that the South Ossetians get the blame Sean.
Takes two to tango and I would suggest that it is the Georgians that clearly had more to gain from the confrontation than South Ossetia did.
Also blaming the Russians for not expecting Georgia to attack South Ossetia again (there is a reason there were peace keepers there in the first place you know) is like blaming the US for not expecting the 11/9 attack.
The world trade centre had been bombed before after all. How could they not see that coming?
Did the Russians really expect Saakashvili to be that dumb?
Saddam invaded Kuwaite because he thought he had US support.
Saakashvili no doubt believed he could do no wrong.
Rather than blame Russia or South Ossetia or even Georgia I think it is pretty clear Saakashvili deserves all of the blame for what happened, with the west sharing because they seemed to enjoy the little side shows before hand and after the event like night trips with foreign leaders to disputed borders at night.
Saakashvili is a clown.
BTW the Russian manouvers you mentioned finished well before the start of the conflict.
A large portion of the forces the Russians ended up using were volunteers from North Ossetia and other parts of the region (ie Chechens included).
The very idea that Russia started anything is clearly shown to be false when you look at how fast the Georgians ran when the Russians actually did start coming.
If the Russians had started it, it would have been artillery in Tiblisi rather than the SO capital.
Those decrying Russian aggression should think about what would have happened if Serbia had done what Georgia did.
A Serbian attack on Kosovo that killed lots of NATO peacekeepers would have ended in regime change in Serbia no less.