"The Weekend War"

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150,000 people gather in Tbilisi, Georgia, to hear Mikheil Saakashvili speak. Source: Burak Kara/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Source: Burak Kara/Getty Images

Earlier today, I spoke with Charles King, chairman of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, about the conflict in Georgia, which he calls "The Russo-Georgian Weekend War." Although there is an official ceasefire in South Ossetia, there are reports of continued fighting there.

King, who wrote an opinion piece about the conflict for The Christian Science Monitor, will join us in our first hour. We'll ask him if he thinks there will be any — or many — long-term consequences to the fighting in South Ossetia.

James Traub, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, will join us too. On Sunday, The New York Times published his keen analysis of the conflict and its causes, "Taunting the Bear." "The border between Georgia and Russia, in short, has been the driest of tinder," he wrote. "The only question was where the fire would start."

Do you have questions about the cause of the fighting in Georgia? Or what it means for the region? How do you think that the international community should react? Has the United States said enough? Done enough?



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Russian power grab is to control the oil and natural gas pipelines that cross Georgia from the Caspian Sea area into Europe. Also don't forget the active gold mining operations in the Caucus Mountians that Russia would like to have back.

Sent by Howard J. Flint P.E. | 2:12 PM | 8-12-2008

What about the pledge made by Ronald Reagan and GHWB to Russia that US will NOT expand NATO onto former Soviet states?

Sent by Dev | 2:21 PM | 8-12-2008

My wife and I just had a terrible argument over the phone about the Russia/Georgia war. We rarely disagree on things like this. She is visiting her mom in Russia, and has been watching the news there. I am here in the USA. We have been reduced to tears and shaking over this. Evidently, we are watching TWO different versions of the war.

Sent by Dwight | 2:21 PM | 8-12-2008

Just a thoght that if we weren't discussing the "Russian Invasion"
we might have noticed a large armada setting off toward Iran.
The US Naval forces assembled include the following:

Carrier Strike Group Nine
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN72) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing Two
Destroyer Squadron Nine:
USS Mobile Bay (CG53) guided missile cruiser
USS Russell (DDG59) guided missile destroyer
USS Momsen (DDG92) guided missile destroyer
USS Shoup (DDG86) guided missile destroyer
USS Ford (FFG54) guided missile frigate
USS Ingraham (FFG61) guided missile frigate
USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG60) guided missile frigate
USS Curts (FFG38) guided missile frigate
Plus one or more nuclear hunter-killer submarines

Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group
USS Peleliu (LHA-5) a Tarawa-class amphibious assault carrier
USS Pearl Harbor (LSD52) assult ship
USS Dubuque (LPD8) assult ship/landing dock
USS Cape St. George (CG71) guided missile cruiser
USS Halsey (DDG97) guided missile destroyer
USS Benfold (DDG65) guided missile destroyer

Carrier Strike Group Two
USS Theodore Roosevelt (DVN71) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing Eight
Destroyer Squadron 22
USS Monterey (CG61) guided missile cruiser
USS Mason (DDG87) guided missile destroyer
USS Nitze (DDG94) guided missile destroyer
USS Sullivans (DDG68) guided missile destroyer

USS Springfield (SSN761) nuclear powered hunter-killer submarine

IWO ESG ~ Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group
USS Iwo Jima (LHD7) amphibious assault carrier
with its Amphibious Squadron Four
and with its 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit
USS San Antonio (LPD17) assault ship
USS Velia Gulf (CG72) guided missile cruiser
USS Ramage (DDG61) guided missile destroyer
USS Carter Hall (LSD50) assault ship
USS Roosevelt (DDG80) guided missile destroyer

USS Hartfore (SSN768) nuclear powered hunter-killer submarine

Carrier Strike Group Seven
USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) nuclear powered supercarrier
with its Carrier Air Wing 14
Destroyer Squadron 7
USS Chancellorsville (CG62) guided missile cruiser
USS Howard (DDG83) guided missile destroyer
USS Gridley (DDG101) guided missile destroyer
USS Decatur (DDG73) guided missile destroyer
USS Thach (FFG43) guided missile frigate
USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7) fast combat support ship

Sent by Joseph | 2:23 PM | 8-12-2008

Will you ever stop lying and twisting facts? United States' mainstream media said enough lies.

I wish you a complete failure with your newly launched brainwashing campaign.

Sent by Mark | 2:24 PM | 8-12-2008

Would anyone of your guests explain to us why Georgian troops would be engaged in "Ethnic cleansing" in So. Ossetia and What is the "racial" difference between those 2 regions

Sent by marc | 2:25 PM | 8-12-2008

I'm very nervous about the reckless nature that the west has gone about promising protection to these Baltic states. To put it in context: We are Boardwalk, Russia is Park Place, and we are not going to war over Baltic Avenue..... Maybe Marvin's Garden, but we're not coming to fight the Russian's at their border for Baltic Avenue.... it's a non starter.

Sent by johnn | 2:25 PM | 8-12-2008

Given Russia's policies towards the breakaway republics formerly part of the USSR since Vladimir Putin's rise to power why should there be any surprise expressed in the West regarding the latest situation? And a naive question, why, given that Georgia's problems were with Russia-leaning parts of the country, was Russia given a so-called neutral peace keeping role in the first place? Surely it had a vested interest all along in interfering?

Sent by Christine Wall | 2:26 PM | 8-12-2008

How does the situation with BP in Russia affect the situation with Georgia

Sent by Adam | 2:27 PM | 8-12-2008

I'd sent the same question/comment to the Forum too, pardon the spam.

As a recently naturalized American citizen, coming from India, pardon me if my ramblings sound a little confused in their perspective.

12 years of Mujahideen uprising, billions of dollars of American taxpayers money, that was invested in breaking the Soviet Union.. Do you now see any benefits of all the blood spilled?
Russia is now a major oil power, and still has all their nuclear arsenal.

Some "intellectuals" on the forum were talking about acceleration of Ukraine's entry into NATO/Greece's entry into EU and what not. Do you honestly think NATO can do anything at all,
unless you do want a global conflagration?

You know what, America has two pains in the rear end now, not just one Soviet Union. The emergence of Taliban, Al Qaeda and zillion other Islamic outfits was the direct consequence of the 12 year "feed the snake" policy adopted by Reagan and his successor. Afghanistan has all but burnt down, but you "saved" it from Communism, oh lord. Pakistan has turned into a disaster, but oh lord, they are America's "Ally in Global War on Terror".. Excuse me while I go retch and get back to you.

As an Indian by birth, I must point fingers and let you know that while Kashmir had issues way back from 1947 or even before, it started burning with the collapse of the Soviet Union and with all the unemployed jihadis rushing in to enhance their career. India has paid in blood for this stupidity, with 100s of thousands of lives lost and terrorism having firmly taken root in Kashmir and beyond.

God really bless America, because it's a Super Power, with STUPID people at its helms. It's a blessed land in terms of its people, bountiful nature and it's spirit, but has been cursed with idiots to run the country.


BTW, was there or has there been this kind of intelectualization, chest beating and introspection on the continued bleeding of Iraq?

Sent by Srinivas | 2:28 PM | 8-12-2008

Possible results if Russian force advances to the capital and conquers Georgia, and install a pro-Russia puppet government:

1)EU will lose the BTC pipeline, and EU will be more influenced on foreign affairs by Russian energy exports.

2)US and NATO in Afghanistan may suffer from risks of Georgia under Russian control, with a stable supply route gone. Russia and China want US military presence out of Central Asia, and may attempt this by using Georgia under Russian control to deny air access for supplies to Afghanistan. Pakistan is risking a regime change, and security operations may be much more difficult for NATO and US in Afghanistan.

Sent by Tamagawa Ken | 2:30 PM | 8-12-2008

This is another one-sided panel that you have in your program.

Sent by Sammie | 2:32 PM | 8-12-2008

Dear TOTN,

Since the time of Catherine the Great, Russian leaders have resorted to international conflict, similar to the events today in Georgia, to redirect their populus from the internal shortcomings of their administrations. As such, neighboring states have much to fear from Russia under current circumstances. As an indication of our commitment to the Ukraine, the Baltic States and to Georgia, shouldn't the US send at least a symbolic contingent of troops to guarantee these states against and agressive Russia? By not doing so, do we invite greater Russian adventurism?

Sent by Scott Arnold | 2:33 PM | 8-12-2008

I would like to hear some discussion on why this conflict is any different than the one in Kosovo?

Clearly all of this anaylsis on the what and why of Russia can also be applied to the USA in Kosovo.

Sent by John | 2:36 PM | 8-12-2008

to start a war with Russia
two days before the games
to spin response as "invasion"
then sit and watch
the U.S. China match
only one man can
O Dr. Henry

Sent by Joseph | 2:36 PM | 8-12-2008

1)What do you think will be the future of the Ossetia and Abkhazia after the conflict?

Sent by Alex Ivanov | 2:36 PM | 8-12-2008

James Traub is clearly biased on this topic, refusing to stick to the FACTS. Georgia's president fired the first shot, by attacking the people of South Ossetia. He waited until Putin, Bush and other leaders were in China with all eyes on the olympics. It was pure over-reach and a stupid move.
The Russians were wrong in using too much force. But let's be fair-both sides were wrong in this situation.

Regardless of Bush's statement, Georgia is NOT a democracy. They have been given arms and have U.S. military advisors currently in Georgia. The President of Georgia was filled with false confidence from U.S. support, believing that he could take on a super-power.
There is no doubt that Putin has increasing power and ambition but he is not Hilter, nor is Russia an axis of evil.
Let's try to be more fair-handed in covering this story.

Sent by Beth-Anne | 2:38 PM | 8-12-2008

this guy ur having on failed to mention that georgia had a ceasefire and broke it after 3hrs and russia called a emercny meeting before attacking and, for the cease fire this weekend u can still see georgia helicoptors fighting monday morning and georgia still fighting, please be more objective in ur reporting

Sent by mike | 2:38 PM | 8-12-2008

Let's stop talking about restoring the "Soviet empire" and start talking about restoring the Czarist empire. That's what the Russians want to do. Russian leaders are imperialists, whether they are czars, communists or faux-democrats.

Sent by Mike Schau | 2:40 PM | 8-12-2008

Once again Mr.Bush looked in to Mr.Putin's eyes
and saw Mr.Saakashvili's head on a silver platter
talking both shaken and stirred

Sent by Joseph | 2:41 PM | 8-12-2008

i dont agree with what russia done but it sickens me more the the SO civilian deaths is so discredited by the west and georgia indiscretive bombing of SO, and than still fighting on while claiming a ceasefire,

Sent by mike | 2:42 PM | 8-12-2008

dear Talk of the Nation:

Secretary Rice visited Georgia just last month. by this State Department Press
Release, [http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2008/07/106912.htm
Remarks With Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Secretary Condoleezza Rice,
Tbilisi, Georgia, July 10, 2008], it reminds me of another State Department staffer's visit to Saddam Hussein right before he invaded Kuwait.

thank you,

Stuart Leiderman

Sent by stuart leiderman | 2:47 PM | 8-12-2008

The big bad Russian Bear is back and he is bigger than ever. Putin is making it clear to all the former Soviet Block countries that he is calling all the shots and that they need to toe the line. This is the first shots in the new Cold war.

Sent by Robert F. Tangen | 2:53 PM | 8-12-2008

i believe was on the wrong side of the moral equation and will further be viewed of a joke for blindly supporting georgia aggression

Sent by mike | 2:54 PM | 8-12-2008

The first quoter of that war was covered by the Georgian state media. The triumphal nighttime artillery barrage against a sleeping city is worth a look.

Sent by Joseph | 2:57 PM | 8-12-2008

Intelligent Bias Opinions:
I have been listening and following the conflict in Sout Osetia and Georgia. I want to say that why is it that all your speakers have such a bais opinion about the conflict. they present such a one sided and bias opinion that you begin to question their objectivity. How can you say that the civilians killed by Georgia is not an issue? is it because you support them? How can you believe only the western media reports are they not the ones who lied about the run up to Iraq? War is wrong in all it manifestations, but any western country would respond with similar force and intensity as Russia did if its peacekeepers, citizens and allies are attacked like Georgia did. How can Leveling the capital of South Osetia not matter? How can you be so Naive to believe that that would not result in refugees and civilian casualitites. My believe is that your guest are knowledgeable enough to know that but their biases would not allow them to acknowledge them, so they cliam it is not verified? Most of the conclusions reached about the Russian side is not based on facts or evidence but an assumption of what the Soviet Union was, not even what Russia is today? Please try to keep a level of objectivity and critical thinking that would present an honest picture of the reality on ground.
Georgia joining Nato is a concern to Russia, just like stationing Russian troops near a US border (or even nukes in cuba) would be of great concern to the US. Why was Nato formed? even after the cold war it has not reviewed its charter? should Russia be concerned? Yes. Based on empircal evidence and history of recent times Nato memebers have more territorial expansion ambitions than Russia, but that is not important becuase it is the west or Nato.
Why do you guest ignore what the south osetians think? is it becuase it would justify Russian actions, i think so and an honest opinion would show that. How is it different from Kosovo? (the only obvious difference as such is Russia acted faster than the US and NATO did in kosovo, and the aggressor in this case is a western allie).
The world will be closer to peace when intellectuals start by presenting a true and honest opinion especially when the truth goes against our personal preferences, biases, beliefs and what our "side" beliefs.

Sent by Thomas Junior Bimba | 3:06 PM | 8-12-2008

When Russian planes crossed Georgia's border, the US should have shot them out of the sky, period full stop.

Simple truth: Russians = Thugs.

You back off, They keep coming; and next time worse. The only thing thugs understand is simple force. No reasoning with a rabid dog - - you better fence him in, since you can't destroy them.

Sent by John G. | 3:09 PM | 8-12-2008

The night before the attack, Saakashvili goes on TV and says "I love you, Ossetians, sleep well". Then he sent "Grad" systems into their houses.
Someone recalled Catherine The Great here; so, America, say thank-you to Russian Empire for Alaska.
It's pathetic to watch CNN showing Gori (as they say) while in the reality that was footage taken in Tshinvali were Saakashvili attacked. Saakashvili "had close call" according to CNN, while there was nothing going on around him. He was not in danger but as any attention-deprived mediocre leader, he loves media attention.

Sent by Mark | 3:46 PM | 8-12-2008

The cynicism in the media coverage of this war should be disturbing to any conscious human being. Let's see, US bombs civilians in Belgrade, Kosovo gains "independence" -- viva USA! Same thing happens in Georgia -- "we must punish Russia." A US citizen threatened anywhere in the world - US military are there in a blink of an eye. Thousands of Russian citizen murdered in Ossetia - Russia should be "more civilized" about it, in line with "the 21st century Europe." McCain is advised by a person who personally gains hundreds of thousands of dollars from his Georgia-lobbying business -- nothing wrong in aiding a democracy, huh? Have we all gone mad?

Sent by Mike Stein | 4:20 PM | 8-12-2008

Typical Barbarism of Russian Authorities. How dare they create Russian Citizens in a foreign country? What country can tolerate this? They gassed and killed their own citizens to save them from terrorists in Moscow. They drug grieving mothers to prevent them from making a scene as in the case of a mother of a Kursk sailor. They fire tank shells into the school in Beslan and killed more children then the terrorists and then suppress any news about any investigation if there ever was one. They killed so many journalists that front pages of their news papers look like they did in the Soviet days or have cooking recipes on them.
After almost a century of mass murder, forced relocation, assassination, and blatant aggression toward anyone within reach the Russians have all of a sudden become peace keepers.
We need to get of oil so they and our enemies in the Middle East can choke on it. Our oil producing friends in the Middle East should sip on it carefully.

Sent by Leon | 5:07 PM | 8-12-2008

A process leading to referendum in South Ossetia and Abkhazia should be established by the United Nations. If these provinces wish to stay as autonomous regions inside Georgia, an international mechanism to oversee these negotiations should be established. And if these local "republics" wish to separate -like Kosovo- they too should be granted that wish and helped to achieve independence.

As in the former Yugoslav conflict no final solution would satisfy the emotional, historical and geopolitical feelings and aspirations of all parties with the same degree, but this is the current state of our international law. As Pope Benedict XVI has often remarked, the strongest pillar in international relations must be reciprocity. Therefore as we planted in Kosovo, we need to harvest in South Ossetia, and perhaps elsewhere. The problem is - the West does not want reciprocity or justice.

Sent by Mike Stein | 5:08 PM | 8-12-2008

The United States does not create citizens in foreign countries in order to annex huge chunks of their territory. Even with the loss of moral authority the United States has suffered over the last 7 years Russia with its record has a long way to go before any meaningful comparison can be made.

Sent by Leon | 5:23 PM | 8-12-2008

The Silver Lining is that Russia has got a small measure of it's mojo back - and, after seeing the menacing Chinese Drummers in Beijing - we're gonna need a strong Russia in "our" side - ala WWII.

Sent by Jon | 5:31 PM | 8-12-2008

Stop calling democracy a country that still reveres Stalin -- take a better look at the monument in front of the main administrative building in Gori. http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/articleslideshow?articleId=USL768040420080812&channelName=newsOne#a=7
This is a monument of one of the most admired Georgian leaders who ruled one the most repressive regimes ever and whose spirit is well an alive in Georgia.
Another, although much milder "beacon of democracy" named Saakashvilli declared closed TV station that was critical of him and very much like his mentor in US -- G.W. Bush used military actions to address his declining popularity at home.
US educated thug picking up a fight with better equipped and less educated Russian thugs, a fight that has a tacit approval by the neocons in US and Europe.

Sent by ira waxmann | 7:08 PM | 8-12-2008