As Georgia Turns

by Joshua Foust on 8/27/2007

Might there be a low-level, undeclared war between Georgia and Russia? Tblisi is claiming nine Russian jets have violated its airspace in the past three months—and claim one fired a dud missile at an air defense station, and one was shot down by Georgian forces. Naturally, the Russians offer unpersuasive counterarguments (claiming Georgia colleagues are “hallucinating” doesn’t really help matters)… which of course doesn’t mean they’re guilty of anything.

The big snag here is there is no such thing as a neutral actor in the dispute: inviting in American, British, Estonian, and Polish investigators doesn’t really make their report objective, since they all have incentives to favor Georgia and to disfavor Russia. Similarly the Russian inspectors have no incentive to be fair or neutral in their evaluations, either.

Now Abkhazia has chimed in, claiming Russia is probably telling the truth, though they does think there was a plane crash. I am inclined to believe Georgia—not because of any inherent anti-Russian bias, but because their constant stream of invocation of “bad actors” trying valiantly to fake all of these aggressive actions to discredit Russia wear thin after a while. I mean, they’re blaming foreigners for the murder of Anja Politkovskaya, and now some other mysterious cabal of foreigners is faking missile attacks and losing air craft just to discredit Moscow and add some two-bit Caucasian country to NATO?

Color me skeptical. I would wager Moscow has been stretching its legs a bit, and doesn’t like its aching joints (to torture a metaphor). Why not blame it on foreigners? That’s the standard excuse for failure anyway.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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