In the previous post, I was visited by three commenters.  When it became apparent the response would be lengthy, I decided to make it a post.

Response to MB’s comment – My biases are what they are, but anyone who reads your post can figure out the reference to old men.  The first post provided as recommended reading Georgia: A Reality Check for the Left because it is addressed to the left.

Response to James’ comment – I read your post.  Usually I find what you write well informed and interesting, and that was the case with this post.  Unfortunately, the post sounds to me like an argument for moral relativism.  While I suppose Putin’s invasion of Georgia could be easily construed as an exercise in Realpolitik, that hardly justifies it.  Realpolitik is essentially amoral.

Wrong is wrong.  Allowing Putin to engage in cold blooded and calculated exercise in Realpolitik is wrong.  So long as Putin wants to enforce dictatorship, I don’t give a hoot if what he wants is Realpolitik.  Even when power mad dictators are guided by the “ethics” of Realpolitik, any belief they will behave in a manner we might regard a reasonable is worthless.   Their goal is power.  The influence of such men must be fought and contained.

We must be guided by our ethics, not Putin’s.  Acceding to Putin’s demands means allowing him to stifle any democracy in Russia’s sphere of influence.    After all, would not any such democracy be a natural ally of the United States? 

Consider your definition of luck, Russia falling back and just keeping Abkasia (Sp) in addition to South Ossetia.  If Putin falls back and just keeps Abkasia (Sp) in addition to South Ossetia, it will not be luck.  It will because we choose to resist and make Putin pay for his attempts at conquest.

Response to Sam’s comment – It is apparent you did not like what wrote.  Why is unclear. 

Your comment about about the Indians was uninformed.  Early settlers untentionally wiped out larged numbers of Indians with disease.  The rest they overcame with guns and steel (See Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, a 1997 book by Jared Diamond.).  So the situation is not analogous.

I found your suggestion about calculating Georgia’s and Russia’s annual military spending more interesting so I decided to take your advice.

  • Georgia‘s military spending = ( %GDP x GDP ) / 100% = ( 0.59% x $10.29 billion ) / 100% = 0.061 billion
  • Russia‘s military spending = ( %GDP x GDP ) / 100% = (3.9% x $1286 billion) / 100% = 50.2 billion

Given the relative differences in military spending are much greater than the population differences, I concede the amount spent does contribute to a better understanding of why Georgia is unable to halt Russia’s military advance.  Obviously, Georgia never seriously considered the possibility of throwing its military weight around.  On the other hand, it is obvious that Russia has.

Your suggestions about maps and such is nice, but there are blogs specifically dedicated to strategic-level warfare and detailing the geopolitical consequences.  I am not trying to compete with those blogs.  This a local blog is dedicated to politics, and my suggestion was political.  I want to motivate everyone to write their congressman. 

Although Georgia is a small nation, the consequences of its overthrow by Russian tanks is no small matter.  If the smaller natiions around Russia cannot count upon world support, they must acquire the means to defend themselves.  What means will they seek?  I think the likely solution they will seek is nuclear weapons.


  1. CT: Yes, that is Russia being Russia.

    There has never been a time a peace since Cain killed Abel.

    Some countries have had peace for some years – Switzerland and Sweden. That isn’t a commercial for neutrality because they made serious compromises of their integrity to keep from getting dragged into WW II . If the Cold War had gone hot – they would have found how little neutrality means to belligerent Great Powers.

  2. kgotthardt – We are basically back to a strategy of containment. While that is not exactly peace, it is not exactly war either.

    Currently, the USA, because of our wealthy economy and larger population, has a military budget ten times that of Russia. That being the case I doubt Putin wants to fight us any more than we want to fight him. It would appear, however, that he wants to see what he can get away with; he wants to see who he can rob.

    That is what I think James means when he says Russia is being Russia. Traditionally, the only thing that stopped Russia from trying to expand is strong opposition. In fact, that seems to be a trait shared by most xenophobic dictatorships.

  3. I’ve been lurking on this issue for a bit because two questions without answers came to mind when I read Tom’s postings.

    1. Will the U.S. try to engage in military action in Georgia?
    2. Every day it seems there is a new war. We have had “World Wars.” Has there ever been a time of “World Peace” (outside of Pax Romana which was “forced peace” and not exactly proven to be worldwide)?

  4. TC: You are correct that Realpolitik is amoral.

    Russia will respond to a political move (the military is an extension of politics and economics is one aspect of power) not to our ethics. In other words, we may act in ways that seem ethical to us, but what counts is what message the ‘others’ are hearing. The narrative to them.

    I didn’t offer a solution. I’m not suggesting abandoning the Georgians. There are modest actions we can take.

    I’m not morally outraged. I think I understand why Russia is doing what they are doing, why it makes sense to them, and why they will do it in the way they do it.

    I’m not making a case for moral relativism, but for Great Power political relativism. Apply the morals -any morals – to our interventions since Vietnam – current times – and they fall apart.

    We may be about the same age – I’m probably older – so you recall the moral angst over Vietnam. I should post on how I came to terms with that war. I decided that politics determined morality, rather than morality determining politics as everyone was arguing.

    Better said, world view determines morality. Not morality determining world view.

    Considering Russian intent, is there a build up of Russian forces near the Baltic republics? I don’t think so.

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