Embargoing Georgia

One country has already applied an arms embargo on Georgia before the Russians even presented their draft resolution to the UN Security Council. Nicaragua? Nope. Israel.

Here’s Haaretz:

The officials say the blanket directive was decided upon this week because Israel is concerned about damage to its relations with Russia. For the same reason, Israel decided to stop most weapons sales to Georgia even before the Russia-Georgia war last month. One of Israel’s primary concerns is that Russia could sell Iran advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles.

Israel had previously supplied drones and urban warfare training to the Georgian military. (That probably had as much to do with Georgia’s Iraq deployment as any conflict with Russia.). ITAR/TASS has a similar report on the Israeli directive.

This shouldn’t be surprising, nor should Russia’s courtship of OPEC. Russia has been using the past few years to parry American strategic advances in Central Asia and its former satellite states, and its renewed presence in the Middle East serves as an effective leverage point. It’s a leverage point that Russia has been using effectively, balancing its obstructionism on the Iran crisis with displays of what a cooperative relationship could look like (postponing the opening of the Bushehr reactor yet again for “technical reasons,” for instance).

Finally, I’ve written that the one blunder (from a realpolitik point of view) of the Russians’ handling of the post-crisis was its recognition of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. So I had trouble understanding the logic behind its decision to not only maintain a military presence in the provinces, but to replace its peacekeeping mission with Russian regular forces. That is, until I noticed the fine print in the most recent UNSC resolution (.pdf) for UNOMIG (UN Observation Mission in Georgia), under whose mandate the Russian peacekeeping forces were stationed in the two provinces. It’s set to expire on October 15.

So the only way Russia could maintain its military presence was at the request of two sovereign “countries” that only Russia recognizes. Apparently the Russians considered that presence worth the cost of occupying the territory of a neighboring state. But that strikes me as the kind of overreach that, more than the initial invasion, will come back to haunt them. If there’s one thing recent history has demonstrated, you can win a war, but you can’t win an occupation.