Are the Olympics a convenient smokescreen for the conflict in Georgia?

Georgian tank troopsWhen I first heard the news about Russia’s invasion of Georgia last Friday (not coincidentally via Twitter rather than the mainstream media), my immediate thought was “well, you timed that neatly, didn’t you?”

I then shrugged it off as paranoid cynicism on my part, but it appears I’m not alone in suspecting that Russia quite deliberately waited until the world was busy watching the Olympic Games before launching their strike on Georgia. [Via Sentient Developments]

And the more I think about it, the more likely it seems – after all, DDoS cyberwarfare is part of the military game-plan now, so why not use current events to enhance the fog of war a little bit?

Listening to this morning’s typically vapid radio news bulletins here in the UK (fifteen seconds on Georgia, two minutes on the Olympics, two minutes on soccer) it appears to be a pretty effective tactic, albeit one that exploits our natural tendency to ignore bad news unless we feel it affects us directly.

The only remotely pleasant side to this line of thought is the possibility that one day wars will be fought entirely through media channels, obviating the need for the death and displacement of thousands of innocent people. Yeah, so I’m a dreamer. Sue me. [image from Wikimedia Commons]

7 thoughts on “Are the Olympics a convenient smokescreen for the conflict in Georgia?”

  1. I think it’s more likely that *Georgia* thought that with Putin away, the Russians would be less likely to react if they tried to retake South Ossetia. But it turns out that the Russians were happy to react and then massively overreact.

  2. As Ben said, I think that Putin being at the Olympics is what prompted Georgia to move into their breakaway province.

    An understandable mistake to make though as the British news coverage of the war has been horrific. Georgia, started mining South Ossetia a while back (having promised to support the ban on anti-personnel landmines) provoking a steady rise in civilian casualties. They’ve also been on a reconquista kick, retaking the Pankisi gorge with US special forces training.

    Also, I’m not sure it is such a massive over-reaction. The Georgian army is supported by paramilitary militias and I suspect that this accounts for the “We’ve moved out!” “Oh no you haven’t!”.

    There’s ugly on both sides of this conflict but I think the Georgian president has a lot of blood on his hands.

  3. I doubt Georgia has had a chance to mine South Ossetia, given that they haven’t been able to set foot in it in this century due to the presence of Russian peacekeepers and Russian paramilitary separatist forces.

    Georgia’s fault was in trying to build a western-style democracy in the region Russia sees as it’s own. It’s no wonder that the only ex-USSR countries Russia considers friendly are autocratic hellholes ending in ‘stan (and ‘elarus).

  4. It is not a “Western Style Democracy” that the Georgians have been trying to build. If the Georgians had respected their autonomic regions there would not have been those “rebels” like Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Mikheil Saakashvili wanted to get rid of all the autonomy of the minorities. And before him Georgia denied the rights for the minorities, saying: “Georgia is only for the Georgians”: that is when the problem started around 1990.

  5. Saakashvili had been getting the ringing endorsement of Western hawks thanks to his willingness to pitch in in Iraq and Afghanistan and his protection of Western oil interests in the region, but the guy is no democrat, he’s not above having the shit beat out of his opponents in the street. And, as others have noted, the convenient timing coinciding with the Olympics was Georgia’s doing – though it appears the Russians knew what was coming. Not that any of that justifies the ferocity of Putin’s response or the cost in human life mind, just that this is one of those complicated ones where everyone involved is an utter bastard. If only life were more like fiction…

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