SOUTH OSSETIA: SKIRMISHES OR WAR IN KAVKAS?
"The fight for the future is worth fighting. If we stand together, there is no force that can defeat Georgia, defeat freedom, defeat a nation striving for freedom -- no matter how many planes, tanks and missiles they use against us". Mikhail Saakasvhili, 7 August, in www.eurasianet.org. "
We have Russian tanks moving in. We have continuous Russian bombardment since yesterday....specifically targeting the civilian population....Russia is fighting a war against us in our own territory". Mikhail Saakasvhili, 8 August, in www.ft.com.
"Mighty Russia, population 150m, and tiny Georgia, population 4.6m, its former colony and now fiercely independent neighbour, are in terrible danger of blundering into a bloody and pointless conflict in the Caucasus. It would sorely damage relations between Moscow, the European Union and the US. It could also destabilise the rest of the Caucasus region. Washington and Brussels can urge restraint, but the only country that can stop the nonsense is Russia itself....
Mr Saakashvili does not want to take on Moscow. But Mr Putin (and Dmitry Medvedev, his anointed successor) seem to want to prove two things: that Georgia is far too unstable to join Nato, and that they alone can determine the future of the former Soviet space. They are right that neither the US alone, nor the Nato allies, would dream of intervening in a military confrontation. But Georgia is only unstable because of Russian policies. Encouraging secessionists sends a terrible signal to others inside Russia, especially in the rebellious north Caucasus. Moscow’s policy may be macho, but in the long run it will be utterly self-defeating"."
"Russia is asking for trouble in Georgia", Editorial in the Financial Times, www.ft.com
It is obvious. At least to me. That the line taken by the editors of the Financial Times, and, others of such ilk in the American and West European press, reflects not the reality of what has recently occurred in South Ossetia, but, merely an idee fixe. A pre-facto state of mind, about "who is to blame" (my apologies to Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen). However once one gets away from the mindset that everything that emanates from Moskva is by definition bad, and, everything that comes from Tbilisi is good, then one can begin to formulate what has actually occurred. Or at the very least attempt to do so. An exercise that I will attempt to do now. First, it is readily apparent that the authorities in Tbilisi have been for quite awhile preparing for some type of military 'quick strike', for purposes of a faite accompli, in which much if not all of the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali would be overrun and, then annexed to Georgia proper. Without its capital city, Saakashvili no doubt hoped that the South Ossetian regime would collapse. With Russian forces being too slow and too timid to do much more than react when the battle was over.
According to Reuters, Georgian forces appear to have been unable to have entirely secured the South Ossetian capital. Notwithstanding artillery barrages which have killed several hundred civilians in the capital (figures go as high as 1,400). According to Reuters' correspondent based in Gori, in Georgia proper, Georgian troops were seen retreating back to Tbilisi (see: www.reuters.com). The key variable being the quick intervention of Russian forces into the conflict. And, while the Russian army is not the force by a long shot that the Kraznii Army, it does not appear to be in doubt, that if Moskva wishes to retake all of South Ossetia, and, indeed to make a push into Georgia proper there is nothing that can stop it. However that will require Putin and Medvedev make a proper decision to do so. And, due again to the debased nature of Russian forces, it is not entirely clear that either man would wish to put to a test the current state of those forces. Let us be clear: if it came to a crunch Russia would emerge victorious. However that victory would take time and money and would cost Russia much in the way of prestige and international goodwill. I am not gainsaying that as the nearest Great Power, Russia has a 'right' to intervene in this rather chimerical and (to my mind) meaningless conflict. A conflict of the Borgesian 'two bald men fighting over a comb' variety. It is just that Moskva would to well to consider its options and how much it wishes to spend on retaining its South Ossetian foothold, before it takes the final plunge. Nothing would be worse for Russian prestige than being saddled in a stalemate with Tbilisi. For Tbilisi, nothing would be better. At the very least it would have the sympathy of much of the Western World, and, it may have strengthened its hopes of being admitted to NATO in December of this year. That if nothing else would make the conflict a worthwhile endeavor for Saakashvili. Who truth be told, while I do not like the man in the least: the worst sort of hotheaded, small nation nationalist, one has to admire the skill in which he timed these recent events. However, as of this writing, it appears that his gamble has not quite paid off. The real losers of any conflict being of course, the poor people of South Ossetia and Georgia. A meaningless conflict which has no real meaning or purpose for anyone other than the clique in Tbilisi. The very last thing that is needed at this point, is Western or American intervention to assist Georgia in this conflict. Let Saakasvhili fight his own battles. This is one that he most definitely did in fact start.