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Georgia and the War Against ISIS

Anna Nemtsova follows up [1] on an earlier report [2] about a Georgian offer to host a training facility for members of the Syrian opposition as part of the war against ISIS. As soon as the proposal was reported, Georgian officials were quick to disavow it for obvious reasons:

By helping out American forces in the war against both ISIS and Assad, former deputy defense minister Nodar Kharshiladze told The Daily Beast on Thursday, Georgia “automatically becomes a target for Islamist organizations” and raises the dangerous ire of the pro-Assad Kremlin.

When I first read about this proposal, I couldn’t see what Georgia could hope to gain from it. As I said [3] at the time, it seemed like a lose-lose proposition. Georgia takes an unnecessary risk by aligning itself openly with anti-regime forces in a civil war that has nothing to do with Georgian security, thus exposing itself to possible reprisals from jihadists and interference from Russia, and it stands to receive nothing in return. Georgia has already contributed disproportionately to U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the vain hope of currying favor with Washington, but this was never going to produce the results that the Georgian government wanted. It makes no sense for Georgia to repeat that mistake by joining in the latest U.S. war effort when this will just make the country more of a target.

Western governments have consistently misled Georgia to expect that their real contributions and sacrifices in Iraq and Afghanistan would help to advance its aspirations to join NATO, and that has encouraged the Georgian government to make commitments that make no sense for their country. Georgia keeps being led on with the false promise that someday these contributions will be rewarded with meaningful commitments from the U.S. and NATO, but that isn’t going to happen. It is long past time that Western governments started telling Georgia the truth that no matter how much it contributes to these war efforts it is not going to acquire the support that it seeks.

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6 Comments To "Georgia and the War Against ISIS"

#1 Comment By Samn! On September 29, 2014 @ 8:08 am

With the number of Georgian Chechens such as Abu Omar al-Shishani who have joined different Syrian rebel groups, there’s a lot Georgia needs to be doing against ISIS within its own borders. Not to mention some serious questions about the Georgian government’s previous quiet support of Syrian rebel groups through releasing Islamist prisoners and sending them out of the country.

#2 Comment By Andrew On September 29, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

When I first read about this proposal, I couldn’t see what Georgia could hope to gain from it

Dare I say, that despite some significant exceptions, Russophobia runs rampant among Georgians, and especially amongst those who would like to position themselves as “educated” urban liberals. This is bottom line, always was. It was quite common thing in Tbilisi to ask someone in the department store or even street vendor something in Russian and receive no answer, or being demonstratively ignored. In this case, for many (not all, of course) Georgians it is only natural to do any number of irrational things as long as they disassociate, even in a small way, Georgia from Russia and associates themselves, even if in the symbolic way only, with US-Euro tandem. People forget, it seems, that poser and coward Saakashvili loved to record his TV statements and addresses against the background of European Union flags. In many respects these attitudes are reminiscent of those of many Ukrainians in Kiev and around. In simple words it is this: we are real Europeans, you (Russians) are, basically, untermensch. Pure and simple.

#3 Comment By philadelphialawyer On September 29, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

Georgia contributed fewer than three thousand troops to the Iraqi occupation at any one time, and they stood in country for no more than five years. And, for most of that time, the troop level was far lower. Five Georgian troops were casualties, only three in battle. Which, to me, suggests that they were hardly manning the ground where any significant fighting occurred.

In Afghanistan, the Georgians were there longer, were stationed in a rebellious area and did suffer more casualties. Still, there were never more than about 1500 troops in country at any one time.

In other words, while I totally agree that Georgia would be better off not getting involved in the Syrian mess (who would?), and that, if the Georgians keep joining in these misguided US projects with the idea that we are going to “pay them back” by fighting Russia for them, they are sadly mistaken, I think it also worth mentioning that, as with the Poles and other East European countries, the “contribution” of the Georgians was no great shakes. Sure, looked at per capita and so on, it might appear to be significant, but occupations are not won on the basis of the per capital “contributions” of the would be occupiers. In Iraq, the contribution was not only pretty much meaningless, as a matter of absolute size (the only size measurement that matters), but in terms of time and deployment as well. In Afghanistan, there was a deployment to a meaningful area, and a somewhat lengthy time element, but the overall size of the deployment was even punier than in Iraq.

The point being, no matter how you look at it, we don’t actually “owe” these countries all that much for their “contributions.” The contributions were either nominal or nearly so, and were more in the nature of diplomatic fig leafs (and being toadies or would be toadies of the US, not very good even in that role) than anything else.

#4 Comment By tbraton On September 29, 2014 @ 6:26 pm

“The contributions were either nominal or nearly so, and were more in the nature of diplomatic fig leafs (and being toadies or would be toadies of the US, not very good even in that role) than anything else.”
Philadelphia, we are seeing the exact same thing with our Arab “allies” who are participating in the aerial attacks against Iraq and Syria.

#5 Comment By philadelphialawyer On September 29, 2014 @ 7:42 pm

tbration:

I agree that the situations have similarities, in that the Gulf States, Jordan, and the KSA are already more or less toadies of the USA and Israel. And that they are on board more for diplomatic than for military reasons.

But I think there is a difference in that those Arab regimes actually have their own reasons to fear and hate and oppose ISIS, whereas the Georgians, the Balts, the Poles, etc, had no stake whatsoever (other than in sucking up to the USA) in the outcome of the Iraqi and Afghani occupations.

#6 Comment By Rossbach On September 30, 2014 @ 11:12 am

“Georgia takes an unnecessary risk by aligning itself openly with anti-regime forces in a civil war that has nothing to do with Georgian security, thus exposing itself to possible reprisals from jihadists…and it receives nothing in return.”

Substitute “America” and “American” for “Georgia” and “Georgian” in the above passage and you have a fairly succinct statement of the US position in Syria.

US policy in the Middle East is every bit as useless as the “experts” who have crafted it.