Monday, August 18, 2008

What is Putin's next move?

I am not optimistic the Georgia situation will be resolved successfully. Here's why. Already successive deadlines have passed for Russia to remove their troops, as agreed. They haven’t budged. It appears to be the big stall. And they aren’t stalling because they’re waiting to top off their tanks to return to the motherland. Already there are reports of surface to surface missile installations in South Ossetia capable of hitting Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. Their troops are digging in within artillery range of Tbilisi and they still hold Gori. Fox News reports troops near Gori are demanding western media show Russian press credentials, meaning the Russians are now free from prying eyes. But it’s more than just that.

It’s just not in Putin’s nature to give in. Putin sees himself as the person who will lead his country superpower status again, following in Stalin’s footsteps. He has resumed provocative Tu-95 Bear overflights of NATO exercises, a relic of the cold war. He wants the sovereign republics that were part of the Soviet Union back in the fold by any means. He rigged elections in Ukraine and Georgia only to see them undone in popular uprisings and legitimate elections. In Ukraine’s follow-up election, Russian agents poisoned the popular candidate Victor Yuschenko with a massive dose of dioxin, but failed to eliminate him. He won convincingly in a major defeat of Putin’s agenda.

Putin has eliminated political and media opposition. Too many writers critical of Putin have been murdered for it to be accidental, the best known, Anna Politovskaya. She had written a series of highly critical articles on Russia’s brutality in Chechnya. All TV networks are now in government hands. Newspapers have been shut down for hostile reporting and state advertising withheld. A new extremism law is being used to curb criticism of public officials.

Anyone who models himself after Stalin won’t exhibit weakness. Truces are for rearming. Most likely we will see a massive swift assault on Tbilisi to remove the vestiges of Saakashvili’s government. Count on it.

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