War & Organized Crime

My son-in-law, just returned from Russia, sent an e-mail linking to Yulia Latynina  who “writs for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta (you may remembet Anna Politkovskaya, who also wrote for the N.G. before she was murdered in 2006).”  Latynina argues “South Ossetia Crisis Could Be Russia’s Chance To Defeat Siloviki.”   He acknowledges she may overstate the role of organized crime as motive, but visitors to Eastern Europe (and Russia) often speak of violence and pervasive corruption.  Indeed, “Saakashvili did say that fighting organized crime as among the reasons for attacking S. Ossetia.”  To buttress this point, he linked to another article, the older and lengthier one in Atlantic Monthly, “A Smuggler’s Story”.   The stories of a couple of their contemporaries who have spent summers in Tblisi are often of the lack of transparency in almost all day-to-day transactions.

1 thought on “War & Organized Crime”

  1. My daughter was in Russia last month, too. I like to tease her by saying she will be the last one to speak the language, as the Russians are proving to be too drunk to … um … reproduce. Although, in fairness, I admit they stayed upright long enough to stagger into a neighboring country.

    I don’t know what Saakashvili was thinking when Georgia launched its “offensive” (within its own borders!), but a quick glance at a map should have told him that if he was counting on US help, he would have to have it lined up in advance. Judging by the quick and massive counter-attack by Russia, Georgia was played. Russia was waiting for this chance.

    Georgia had US support but no substantial US presence. The lesson the other former Soviet colonies may draw from the invasion of Georgia is that they had better have substantial US military assets in place, not just US sympathies.

    But look how quickly the US and Poland finished their ABM deal. The Russians certainly got the attention of the former Soviet bloc. The lesson I think they will learn from this is that the Americans are far away, but the Europeans (excluding those truculent bits offshore and on the perimeter) are useless. They can either try to bring the Americans closer or try to get Old Europe to grow a pair, and the geographic problem looks easier to solve. Look for Poland and the Czech Republic to try to expand the anti-missile sites to full US bases. Hungary, the Baltic countries, and Ukraine will want the US on their side.

    The brutal truth is that France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the core of the EU have nothing to fear from Russia, and are not likely to step up their military spending regardless of what Russia does. Again, look at the map; the Russians would have to get through considerable territory before reaching them. They got along just fine without Poland or Ukraine until 1991, and would not lift a finger to defend them now. Unfortunately for the EU, those buffer states have figured it out, too, and are not content with that kind of thinking. They need the EU as an economic alliance, but they will want to get the US and UK on their side militarily.

    The imbalance between economic and military interests is likely to force a choice between NATO and the EU, and a choice within NATO between the willing but incapable and the unwilling but capable. From the US prospective, it would be much easier to arm the Poles than to inspire the Belgians to fight. There is going to have to be a realignment.

    We live in interesting times, don’t we?

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