of President Bush's 'Georgian Protege'
"In deciding to 'liberate'
South Ossetia, or as he called it yesterday morning, 'restoring the
constitutional order,' Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has committed an
enormous error. … Sooner rather than later, Saakashvili, a politician on whom
the West and Poland have staked their hopes, will pay for yesterday’s
In deciding to
"liberate" South Ossetia, or as he called it yesterday morning,
"restoring the constitutional order," Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili has committed an enormous error.
Like Slobodan Milosevic years
ago, he doesn't understand that his country has a choice of either conducting a
velvet divorce from the rebel provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia or facing
chaos and dissolution of the country as a result of bloody conflicts. It's been
clear since the beginning of the 90s: residents of the two provinces,
skillfully abetted by Moscow, are determined not to live under Tbilisi
Perhaps the Georgian
president had craftily bargained that on Friday, the day that the Olympic Games
began - the Russians would remain neutral. If so, he was being naive, since
Moscow would never let such an opportunity pass it by.
Russia has long openly supported renegade Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s
rebellion against Georgia, and long ago granted citizenship to the vast
majority of inhabitants in these self-proclaimed republics. Now that it has
sent its tanks, helicopters and jets into South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali,
it can honestly argue that the weapons are there to protect its own citizens.
Sooner rather than later,
Saakashvili, a politician on whom the West and Poland have staked their hopes,
will pay for yesterday’s mistake.
For now, however, the most
important question is how to put an end to the conflict. Politicians, including
Polish leaders, should strongly insist on an unconditional ceasefire by
appealing to Bush and Putin, who luckily are both in Beijing. Putin must
immediately withdraw his troops and cool the war fever of his friends in South
Ossetia, while Bush must contain his protégée Saakashvili.
RUSSIA NEWS REPORT; PUTIN CALLS
And then what? The conflict
in Ossetia is not a local brawl in some obscure corner of Europe. It's an explosion
of one of several time-delayed mines that remain since the collapse of the
Soviet Union. There are quite a few places like South Ossetia, where most
residents oppose their new governments: Georgian Abkhazia, self-proclaimed
Transnistria, the potentially explosive Crimea and the always-restless Russian
Politicians in both Moscow and the West like tinkering with these
mines, using them against one another, and over recent years have done little
to disarm them. The drama, which began yesterday in the Caucasus, shows how
dangerous these games are - and that the time has come to stop them.
For the last decade and a
half while war raged in the Balkans, Russia invariably supported Serbia in its
fight to maintain Greater Yugoslavia, defending the principle of state
supremacy over the will of national minorities. Meanwhile, the West defended
the rights of minorities to self-determination, both in the Balkans and when
criticizing Moscow for crushing the Chechen uprising.
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
When the achievement of
Kosovo independence put an end to the Balkan conflict, Moscow and the West
changed roles. Now it's Russia which advocates the right to self-determination
for the Georgian minorities. "We are the guarantor of the interests of the
peoples of the Caucasus," President Medvedev said yesterday. Just like
NATO did recently when its defended Kosovar Albanians against Serbia, Moscow
has interfered militarily against Georgia in defense of the Ossetians.
Meanwhile the West - like Russia did when it backed Serbia just a few years ago
- now defends Georgia's right to maintain its territorial integrity.
injured Georgian woman in the town of Gori cries for help.
Russian warplane dropped a bomb on an apartment block in
Georgian town and killed at least five people, Aug. 9.
This morally dubious game
being played on both sides could inflame additional conflicts and end badly:
For Russia - in the Caucasus; for the West - it may destabilize Ukraine, where
Crimea [where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is located] is as hostile to their
country’s government as the South Ossettians are to theirs. In Crimea [Ukraine]
as in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russians are in the majority. Kiev is aware
of this, which is why yesterday it was the first capital to appeal to both
sides for an immediate ceasefire.
Georgian man next to the corpse of a relative, in Gori, Aug. 9.
If the clash in Ossetia can
be stopped quickly, Russia and the West will have to decide on the next difficult
step: an unpleasant conversation about what rules should be applied when
resolving similar conflicts. But is such a conversation, after the experience
in the Balkans, still possible?
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