Tag Archives: ossettia

Is the Russian-Georgian conflict heating up again?

Sure looks that way. Go over to Information Dissemination and read this post. Here’s a taste:

The low capacity narrow roads leading from Russia into Georgia (one into Abkhazia and another leading into South Ossetia) create immense logistical problems in rapidly deploying large military contingents into Georgia if Moscow opts for a “humanitarian intervention” to bring about “regime change.” The insertion of a sizable marine force with heavy weapons was used last August to bypass the clogged up overland routes and this could prove important again. The Russian military knew beforehand the exact timing of its pre-arranged invasion and fully controlled the pre-war armed provocations by the South Ossetian forces, whereas in the present crisis the situation is much more volatile.

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, Georgia, guns, navy, Politics

Georgia on my mind

It’s been a while since we looked at the situation in Georgia. Now’s a good time for a review. EU Observer has an update for us that we found courtesy of the Instapundit.

Things are better for Georgia than I would have expected. Truth be told, I was somewhat surprised that Russia didn’t press their advantage and overrun the capital. I would have. They had already forfeited any international goodwill, but there would be no real response from the West in terms of shooting. But for whatever reasons, the Russians held off from invading all of Georgia proper, and while they hoped to topple the government, decided to let that slide.

Now, the EU is doing a surprisingly good job of pushing the Russians back. Since Russia has recognized the independence of South Ossettia and Abkahzia they will balk at leaving them. We’ll see how that goes. I’m just surprised they haven’t kept outposts in Georgia proper.

UPDATE: I tend to agree with MikeD’s analysis below in the comments:

My personal belief is that they stopped at the bridges to Tbilisi because they would have taken much heavier casualties than they were prepared to. Sure they WOULD have taken the city, but they would have paid heavily for it in blood, and Putin would not have wanted the loss of face involved in that. Kicking over an anthill should not cost you a foot. Yeah, you won, but you look stupid now.

Furthermore, holding Tbilisi is great… but the government would have just moved into the southern mountains, and suddenly the Russians are fighting Afghanistan all over again. Plus, at that point, there’s no “peacekeeping” pretense anymore, you’re a conquerer.

Once we had US troops on the ground with “humanitarian aid”, Putin was sunk. He COULD have pushed on at that point, but if he hurt one hair on the chinny-chin-chin of one of our airmen, that’s pretty much an act of war. And contrary to what a lot of folks were saying, Putin’s not really crazy. Evil? Sure. But not crazy.

But the point here is the strategic importance of time. If the Russians had pressed as far and as fast as possible with the intention of deposing the government, I think they could have taken Tiblisi before the Georgian government could evacuate and set up a guerrilla war in the south. But while the Russians were prepped to go into Ossettia and Abkazia, they had no real operational plan past that. It is kind of nice to see that the US isn’t the only ones who have trouble planning past the first push…

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Filed under army, ARMY TRAINING, Georgia, ossettia, Politics

Georgian War Update

The invaluable Michael Totten is on the scene and brings us an update. Go check him out. This is the kind of reporting that the blogosphere brings that the MSM should quit decrying, and instead should instead leverage to its benefit.

It is a long read, but well worth it.

H/T: The Moron-in-Chief

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Georgia and the Roki Tunnel

I’m seeing a lot of folks asking why the US doesn’t use Stealth bombers or cruise missiles to take out the Roki Tunnel. Simple answer? Too late. That ship has sailed.

The Roki tunnel goes from North Ossettia to South Ossettia and is the only real road connection between them. The thinking goes that if the tunnel were closed, the Russian forces would be cut off from supply and reinforcement.

Indeed, it looks like the Georgians plan was to sieze the tunnel and prevent the Russians from using it. If they had, things might have gone differently. But the Russians were more than prepared for the Georgians. They secured the tunnel before the Georgians could get there. Taking out the tunnel with airpower is virtually impossible without precision guided munitions and thus beyond Georgia’s capability.

So why wouldn’t it make sense to do so now? Because the Russians aren’t foolish enough to stick their necks in the noose. A quick glance at the map below will shed some light.

The map is a few days old and the positions of the forces has changed a little. But notice the large part of western Georgia occupied by the Russians. Also notice that Gori is occupied by Russia, despite their assurances that they are pulling out. The main East-West road in Georgia runs through Gori. And it ends up in Poti which is also under Russian control. Alternatively, there are good roads leading to Abkazia and Russia itself in the northwest. While the map shows Georgian units between Poti and Gori, these are not very significant and the terrain is not very suitable for the defense.

In effect, the Russians have secured a second supply line, running from the Black Sea to the heart of Georgia. That’s why the Russians invaded on the Black Sea coast. Any attempt now to destroy the Roki tunnel would be fruitless.

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Georgian Update for Friday

I was trying to get a post together on this, but Kat over at The Castle has done a better job than I was going to do, so just go read her.

The Russians are advancing on Tiblisi while claiming to be observing a cease fire. It appears the Georgians are refusing combat under terms not favorable to them. The Russians are advancing, claiming that they are securing military depots for safety’s sake. Currently, there are reports that they are only a few miles from Tiblisi. While the Georgian army is in no shape to stop this, these gains will be hard to pry from the Russians at the negotiation table. Or the Russians may just decide to advance and seize Tiblisi.

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Journalism and War

The profusion of journalists on the battlefield makes it easier to get information in real time about conflicts today. But that comes at a price. We have heard many complaints that US forces target journalists in Iraq. So how come they never have videotape?

h/t Ace

Whether that was a sniper or just a stray round, I don’t know. I suspect stray round, but your guess is as good as mine.

h/t Hot Air

The video refers to a Russian soldier, but I’m thinking this was an Ossettian “militiaman”, based on the beard. Still, it was right in front of a convoy of Russian vehicles. Seems maybe the Russians aren’t as committed to the rights of noncombatants as some would like. Will Code Pink be picketing them?

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Diplomatic Blowback for Russia?

I find it interesting that mere days after the Russians began their attack on Georgia, a treaty between Poland and the US that had been stalled is suddenly signed.  This treaty actually goes farther than what had been discussed before. Where earlier versions of the treaty were about installing a missile shield in Poland, this one includes mutual defense provisions beyond that of NATO membership.

Between this treaty, Secretary Rice travelling to Tiblisi, and the leaders of the Baltic states travelling there as well, and the humanitarian assistance arriving, the Russians risk widening a conflict they saw as limited and easy to win. Georgia may well end up surviving this, albeit in a terrible strategic position with Russia in the disputed regions.

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Will the Russians take Tiblisi?

Maybe, maybe not. But for a great look at some of the considerations of terrain and maneuver they would face, head over to The Castle and see what Kat has to say. She’s got some great maps and a pretty clear explanation of how that terrain affects the choices for the Russians.

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Georgian Update

While the Russians claim to have agreed to a cease-fire, they haven’t actaully, you know, ceased firing. Russian forces are in or around Gori and today CNN is showing tape of Russian forces in the Georgian port city of Poti. And while the Russians appear to be able to gain territory, are they achieving their strategic objectives?

Remember, in strategy, merely gaining ground is not the goal. Even gaining ALL the ground is not the goal. The goal is to impose your political will on your oponent. So what are the Russian goals. We see them as threefold:

  1. Depose the current government of Georgia and install one friendly (or submissive) to Moscow.
  2. Discourage other former states of the USSR from aligning themselves with the west.
  3. Show the west as too weak to assist former USSR states.

So how are the Russians doing? The end state is unclear, but my feeling is that the longer this goes on, the less the Russians will gain. Currently Saakashvili is holding rallies with huge numbers of Georgians in attendance. Furthermore, the Presidents of Poland and the Baltic states have all traveled to Tblisi to express support for Georgia. And our President has announced humanitarian assistance to Georgia, to be delivered by the US Air Force and the US Navy. Based on these indicators, it would appear that the Russians have not met their strategic goals, in spite of tactical success on the battlefield.

The humanitarian efforts by the US are interesting. The Russians will likely not dare to interfere with them for fear of widening a conflict that they had planned to be short and relatively painless. They cannot attack airfields or ports that the US is using for fear of causing US casualties during a humanitarian mission. Even the Russians have to give lip service to public opinion. The non-trivial risk of starting a shooting war with US forces is not what they were looking for.

Further, this humanitarian presence makes it less likely that Russia will continue its attack during this putative cease fire. If the Georgians can maintain some territorial integrity over the coming days and weeks, the Russian presence in Georgia will draw more criticism and sanctions from the west. They can hardly continue to claim to be protecting their “peacekeepers” in Ossettia and Abkazia by invading Georgia.

It appears Georgia has been trading space for time. This is a very old tactic and it just may work this time. The Russians were prepared for considerable criticism for their aggression, even building a considerable maskirovka to justify it. But the longer the conflict goes on, the higher the political price they will pay.

As we see it, Russia has very  few days left to conquer Georgia before that price becomes too high. But they may well be able to conquer Georgia in those few days.

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Filed under ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, Georgia, ossettia, Politics

Ossettia Poll

Let’s hear from you.. what do you think?

Should the US have intervened militarily in the Russo-Georgian War?
Yes, damn the consequences, stand by your friends.
No, the georgians are on their own.
pollcode.com free polls

Poll isn’t working right, but you can click here or leave it in the comments.

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Russian Weapons (and Georgian)

For some of the folks who have been stopping by to see the news on the war in Georgia, I thought I might give a little background on the main weapons being used there.

Tanks: Both sides are using various versions of the T-72 series tanks. The T-72 is a 30 year old design that still has some life left in it. You will notice that it is much smaller than a US M-1 tank. The design philosophy behind this tank stressed small size to make hitting it less likely. It also has a three man crew, with a driver, gunner and a tank commander. US tanks have a fourth crewmember, a loader. In the T-72, there is a mechanical autoloader instead. I’ve been inside a T-72 and it is SMALL. I’m not that big a guy, but I couldn’t even get the hatch closed over my head. Once inside, most of the controls are actaully pretty similar to what American tankers are used to. I’m not a tanker and I could figure most of them out pretty quickly.

The T-72 has an impressive 125mm main gun that fires both HEAT and kinetic energy rounds. For more information on HEAT and KE rounds, go here.

The boxes you see mounted on the outside of these tanks are Explosive Reactive Armor or ERA. These boxes contain explosives that detonate outwards when the tank is struck by a HEAT round. The explosion deform the jet of hot gasses that the HEAT round forms and prevent it from penetrating the tanks main armor. We don’t use it much because the M-1 doesn’t need it. Bradley’s can be equipped with it. Strykers use “slat” armor instead. There’s a picture of a Stryker with slat armor at the link above.

In addition to the main gun, the T-72 has a coaxially mounted 7.62mm machine gun and is usually seen with a 12.7mm machine gun at the commanders position.

BMPs: Both sides are using the BMP-2. The original BMP debuted in 1967. After the US fielded the Bradley Fighting Vehicle in response, the Soviets updated the BMP with a 30mm autocannon designed to destroy Bradleys and provide suppressive fires against antitank missile teams and helicopters. It also carries a 7.62mm coaxially mounted machine gun and carries an AT-4 Spigot antitank missile on the roof.

As you can see in the youtube below, this is a fairly sprightly vehicle. Again, it is much more cramped than its US counterpart.

You’ll notice four heads sticking up from the vehicle. That’s the driver, gunner, BMP commander and the guy right behind the driver is the squad leader for the dismount soldiers in back. The second half of the video shows a proposed improvement to the BMP-2 that neither side appears to be using in this conflict.

BTRs: Under the Soviet organizational model, only about a third of infantry units are equipped with BMPs. The other 2/3 are equipped with BTRs, the most common being the BTR-80.

The BTR-80 is roughly analogous to the US M113 armored personnel carrier. It is simply a way of transporting a rifle squad to the battle with some armor protection. The small turret on the roof carries a 14.5mm machine gun that can be used to suppress infantry, antitank missile teams or provide limited antiaircraft fire. Again, they are incredibly cramped compared to US vehicles.

Most of these vehicles are simple and rugged. They do their job quite well and can be operated with minimal training. In the hands of a well trained force, they can be formidable opponents. Just because the US has made short work of enemies equipped with Soviet made equipment, don’t scoff at the quality  of their work. Remeber, these are the same folks who brought us the most popular rifle of all time: the AK-47.

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Russian-Georgian War Update

As of this morning, the Soviets Russians have announced a cease fire and claim they have halted attacks on Georgia. Georgia disputes this, claiming the Russians have continued air and artillery attacks on Georgian territory. The current lines are unclear. I have not been able to verify if Russian forces have withdrawn from undisputed Georgian territory, but it looks that way. Russia seems somewhat surprised by the ferocity of the Georgian defense. Rather than standing to fight on ground unfavorable to them, the Georgians have withdrawn to maintain their army intact (if quite bloodied) and to enable them to continue to resist. The Russians appear to have decided that they have secured about all the strategic gain they can at small cost and that further attacks would not be worthwhile.

Rather than be drawn into a protracted campaign in which the Georgians use guerrilla tactics, the Russians will likely consolidate their gains in the disputed territories, effectively absorbing them. They will likely also continue to press for the removal of pro-western President Saakashvili. The head of NATO, however expressed support for Georgia to continue on the path to membership.

Information Dissemination is also reporting that the Russians appear to be maintaining a de facto blockade of the port of Poti.

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