Monday, 11 August 2008

Chess Playing Cliche

Are we all looking east to what's happening in Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia? Good, because the next Russian probe might well be against the independent Baltic States of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia all of which have large numbers of Russian passport holders as a result of Soviet occupation from 1940 until the fall of the USSR. Estonia suffered a Russian cyberattack last year. And then there are the plans for the US to base its missile defence screen in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia doesn't want it as it has always feared "encirclement".
What do these possibilities have in common? Well, one cliche about Russians is that they enjoy chess and one tactic in chess is to distract your opponent's attention away from your real target by creating a dummy attack. And as people believe most easily what they wish to believe, the apparent plan to threaten energy supplies is credible. Now, the Russian strategy in Georgia may not be a dummy or it will continue to be unopposed and successful: in either case the Russians have won. So what will the Russians do in Georgia? Will they take advantage of their military momentum and "protect" the oil pipeline running through Georgia? Or will withdrawal from Georgia be offered as a bargaining token for America cancelling its missile defence plans, much the same as missiles were withdrawn from Turkey by the US to help solve the 1963 Cuban Missiles Crisis?
I'm not arguing that the situation in the Caucasus is anywhere near as dangerous as 1963 because the world and politico-military strategy is very different to then. What I am arguing is that all politicians and military people pause, stand up,walk around the room, look out of the window and have a cup of tea before sitting down again to play the next move.
It is an awful lot easier to start a war than stop it. One should never believe those naive game theory "experts" who counsel that a measured escalation of responses is possible.

3 comments:

William Gruff said...

There will be no war. Modern history was 'not my period', as historians say, but my limited understanding of modern history leads me to believe that the 'major players' in this local drama are well aware of the hands they hold, and when to play and when not.

Wolfie said...

I don’t see this escalating, its got a more eastern back-drop and the US is running short of unpleasant puppet despots now.

TBRRob said...

Interesting thoughts.