Sunday, August 10, 2008

South Ossetia At Front Of New East-West Conflict?

Russian troops on the march to Tskhinvali on August 9
RFE/RL Georgian Service


"[Georgian President] Saakashvili has been trying to internationalize the conflicts in Georgia since he has come to office," says Sabine Freizer, the Europe program director for the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank. "It has been very much his strategy to make this an international conflict between the traditional West and Russia, speaking in language of the Cold War and saying that this is really the last frontier. He's been racking up those kind of expressions in the past few days, but this is really nothing new....

"I really think he [Saakashvili] has taken it a step too far because if we were really going to push back the Russians, you would need something like a military intervention and that is not going to happen," Freizer says...

"Russia's image is going to take a battering," Freizer says. "Russia has been trying increase its international legitimacy as a defender of international law, not only in the Caucasus, but also we've been seeing this in the Balkans as well with the positions Russia has been taking on Kosovo. It is going to be more difficult for them to stand in front of the Security Council as the big defender of international law while they're bombing civilian targets and Georgian cities."--RFE/RL (8-9-08)

Russian, Georgian Opinion-Makers Comment On South Ossetia Conflict

"Novaya gazeta" columnist and Ekho Moskvy host Yulia Latynina comments: "South Ossetia Crisis Could Be Russia's Chance To Defeat Siloviki"
English and Russian

Brian Whitmore of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (8-9-08) reports:

In an effort to prod the West to Tbilisi's side in its rapidly escalating armed conflict with Russia, [Georgia's] President Mikheil Saakashvili is invoking the ghosts of Cold War battles past -- Moscow's suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan in 1979.

The Georgian leader's strategy is clear. Tbilisi's small army is no match for the Russian military machine. Saakashvili's only chance of success in his bid to regain control of the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia, therefore, is to globalize the conflict and turn it into a central front of a new struggle between Moscow and the West.

"What Russia has been doing against Georgia for the last two days represents an open aggression, unprecedented in modern times," Saakashvili said in a televised address on August 8. "It is a direct challenge for the whole world. If Russia is not stopped today by the whole world, tomorrow Russian tanks might reach any European capital. I think everyone has understood this by now."

So far, the West has not taken the bait. The United States and the European Union are sending envoys to Georgia to try to broker a cease-fire and Western leaders have issued predictable statements calling on both sides to show restraint.

Most European leaders, wary of antagonizing Moscow, have strived to come across as more or less balanced in the conflict. And even Georgia's closest ally in the West, the United States, has thus far offered little more than rhetorical support.

Speaking in Beijing on August 9, U.S. President George Bush stepped up Washington's criticism of Moscow calling for a halt to the shelling of Georgian targets.

"Georgia is a sovereign nation and its territorial integrity must be respected," Bush said. "We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for an end to the Russian bombings and a return by the parties to the status quo of August 6." [Full text--see related articles]

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