This is getting rather threatening:
Russia sent forces into Georgia on Friday to repel a Georgian assault on the breakaway South Ossetia region and Georgia’s pro-Western president said the two countries were at war.
South Ossetia’s rebel leader Eduard Kokoity said there were “hundreds of dead civilians” in the main town Tskhinvali, Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
A senior Russian military commander said parts of Russia’s 58th army were approaching the rebel capital, where fighting raged between Russian-backed separatists and Georgian forces sent in on Friday to seize it.
A senior Georgian security official said Russian jets had bombed the Vaziani military airbase outside the Georgian capital Tbilisi, and President Mikheil Saakashvili said 150 Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles had entered South Ossetia from neighboring Russia.
“Russia is fighting a war with us in our own territory,” Saakashvili told CNN, calling on Washington to help.
Given that Russia is a dying nation, you’d think that Russian imperialism would be a dead letter – but the effects of Putin are far reaching and disasterous in the extreme. Russia, for Lord only knows what reason, seems to have imperial ambitions in the tiny, insignificant territory of South Ossetia and thus has backed a rebel movement in the area – the Georgian government, which is backed by the United States, has had enough of this and has moved agains the rebels, and now the Russians are moving in. Does Russia want war? Or is it that the Russian leadership doesn’t realise the level of contempt Russia’s military is held in (couldn’t even take Grozny without levelling the town) and thus they don’t realise that the world isn’t over-awed by Russian units on the move?
It is to be hoped that Russia will come to its senses soon as this is the sort of idiotic, blind but typical Russian move which in the past has led to large wars.
UPDATE: McCain weighs in with the exact right policy – from NRO’s The Corner:
Today, news reports indicate that Russian military forces crossed an internationally-recognized border into the sovereign territory of Georgia. Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. What is most critical now is to avoid further confrontation between Russian and Georgian military forces. The consequences for Euro-Atlantic stability and security are grave.
The government of Georgia has called for a cease-fire and for a resumption of direct talks on South Ossetia with international mediators. The U.S. should immediately convene an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to call on Russia to reverse course. The U.S. should immediately work with the EU and the OSCE to put diplomatic pressure on Russia to reverse this perilous course it has chosen. We should immediately call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to assess Georgia’s security and review measures NATO can take to contribute to stabilizing this very dangerous situation. Finally, the international community needs to establish a truly independent and neutral peacekeeping force in South Ossetia.
UPDATE: Russia is acting entirely insane:
Georgia demanded a cease-fire Saturday in the separatist province of South Ossetia, with the Georgian leader calling Russian attacks there “annihilation of a democracy on their borders.”
“This is 100 percent, unprovoked brutal Russian invasion,” Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili told the BBC. “We on our own cannot fight with Russia. We want immediate cease-fire, immediate cessation of hostilities, separation of Russia and Georgia and international mediation.”
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s office said Saturday evening that Russia had not received the Georgian cease-fire proposal.
A defiant Russia is defending its actions in South Ossetia as fighting there threatens to escalate into a full-scale war between Russian and its fellow former Soviet republic, with at least 1,500 people reported dead.
Russia, which has close ties with South Ossetia, has sent hundreds of tanks and troops into the separatist province and bombed Georgian towns Saturday in a major escalation of the conflict, while Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, has fought to regain control of the province.
This is the authentic Muscovite of old – demanding, brusque and determined to get his way regardless of the justice of his cause. That a dying Russia would try this indicates a level of desperation and paranoia in Moscow – South Ossetia is nothing to a Russia in terms of territory or wealth and certainly Russia could by international pressure get a lot for the South Ossetians in terms of automony, if that is really what Russia was after here. The worst thing about this is that Russia might not even know what it wants – this might just be an insane lashing out.
The world teeters on the brink of a large war, and I hope we can defuse this quickly – but Russia must leave Georgia.
UPDATE: It just gets worse and worse. At this point, I think that its time for NATO to present a demand to Russia to case forthwith their attacks on Georgia. There is no need for Russia to be bombing anything outside Ossetia, and no reason to be in Ossetia as the Georgian troops have withdrawn. This is now becoming a crime, pure and simple, on the part of Russia.
UPDATE: President Bush weighs in:
BEIJING (AP) – President Bush on Monday sharply criticized Moscow’s harsh military crackdown in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, saying the violence is unacceptable and Russia’s response is disproportionate.
The United States is waging an all-out campaign to get Russia to halt its retaliation against Georgia for trying to take control of the breakaway province of South Ossetia.
Bush, in an interview with NBC Sports, said, “I’ve expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn the bombing outside of South Ossetia.” He said he did so directly to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who’s here for the Olympics, and by phone to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
On Sunday, Vice President Dick Cheney told Georgia’s pro-American president that “Russian aggression must not go unanswered, and that its continuation would have serious consequences for its relations with the United States,” Cheney’s office reported.
While Georgia said its troops have retreated from South Ossetia and are honoring a cease-fire, Russia disputed the claim, and U.S. officials said Moscow was only expanding its blitz into new areas.
“I was very firm with Vladimir Putin,” Bush said. “Hopefully this will get resolved peacefully.”
Cheney spoke Sunday afternoon with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, Cheney press secretary Lee Ann McBride said. “The vice president expressed the United States’ solidarity with the Georgian people and their democratically elected government in the face of this threat to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” McBride said.