Friday, August 8, 2008

Russia Invades Georgia

This is a dangerous situation. CNN is reporting that Russia, which has never given up its imperealist designs on the old Soviet states, has now invaded Geogia.

This from CNN:

Russian and Georgian troops fought Friday over the disputed Caucasus region of South Ossetia as world powers implored the two nations to end the violence.

News reports documented fierce clashes between Georgian and Russian forces -- engagements that caused deaths, property damage, and population displacement in South Ossetia, a pro-Russian autonomous region of Georgia.

Much of the fighting was in and around the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, where black smoke from fire wafts overhead, Interfax news agency reported.

One U.S. State Department official involved in the diplomacy called the conflict a "very dangerous situation" and said diplomatic moves are afoot around the globe to stop the flare-up.

Georgia -- located on the Black Sea coast between Russia and Turkey --appealed for diplomatic intervention, but stressed it was not asking for military assistance.

Georgia's president said: "All day today, they've been bombing Georgia from numerous warplanes and specifically targeting (the) civilian population, and we have scores of wounded and dead among (the) civilian population all around the country," President Mikhail Saakashvili told CNN in an exclusive interview.

"This is the worst nightmare one can encounter," he said.

. . . About 150 Russian armored vehicles have entered South Ossetia, Saakashvili said, and Georgian forces had shot down two Russian aircraft.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, quoted by the Russian news agency Interfax, said Russians had died because of Georgia military operations in South Ossetia.

Russia "will not allow the deaths of our compatriots to go unpunished" and "those guilty will receive due punishment," he said. "My duty as Russian president is to safeguard the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they are. This is what is behind the logic of the steps we are undertaking now."

South Ossetia, with a population of about 70,000 people, declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, but it was not internationally recognized. Many ethnic Ossetians feel close to Russia and have Russian passports and use its currency.

Russia's Defense Ministry said it sent "reinforcements" to South Ossetia to help the Russian peacekeepers already stationed there.

Interfax news agency quoted the Georgian Foreign Ministry as saying strikes by Russian aircraft killed and wounded personnel at a Georgian airbase, and that Russian planes have been bombing Georgian territory throughout the day. Georgian officials also report four Russian aircraft shot down.

. . . Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his counterparts in the United States and Germany and the European Union's foreign policy chief that Georgia was the aggressor and should immediately withdraw its troops from South Ossetia.

. . . By early evening Friday, Georgian Cabinet minister said the country's forces have taken control of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, Interfax reported.

The Novosti news agency, citing the South Ossetian government, said Georgian tanks and infantry attacked Tskhinvali and "a large part of the city has been destroyed. Over 15 civilians have been killed, several buildings are on fire in the city center, and the local parliament building has burned down."

. . . Violence has been mounting in the region in recent days, with sporadic clashes between Georgian forces and South Ossetian separatists.

Georgian troops launched new attacks in South Ossetia late Thursday after a top government official said a unilateral cease-fire offer was met with separatist artillery fire.

Alexander Lomaia, the secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, said Georgian troops responded proportionately to separatist mortar and artillery attacks on two villages -- attacks he said followed the cease-fire and call for negotiations by Saakashvili.

Russia said a Georgian attack on a military barracks left a number of Russian peacekeepers dead.

Russian peacekeepers are in South Ossetia under a 1992 agreement by Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian authorities to maintain what has been a fragile peace. The mixed peacekeeping force also includes Georgian and South Ossetian troops.

Saakashvili said the Russian invasion of South Ossetia was pre-planned.

"These troops that are in Georgia now -- they didn't come unexpectedly," the president told CNN. "They had been amassing at the border for the last few months. They claimed they were staging exercises there and as soon as a suitable pretext was found, they moved in."

Read the entire article. And there is this assessment from Chris Borgen at Opinio Juris:

The separatist conflicts in the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have often been termed “frozen conflicts,” along with other long-standing separatist crises in Moldova and Azerbaijan (and some would add Kosovo). There are many reasons why these conflict have been seemingly intractable. Factors ranging from Russian assistance to the separatists (especially in the Georgian and Moldovan cases), a sense of ethnic difference (justified or not), historical grievances, and factions that seek to derail negotiated solutions are problems in all of these conflicts.

Georgia , however has been in the unenviable position of having two distinct separatist regions: one in Abkhazia and the other in South Ossetia. Russia has taken an increasingly interventionist stance on the situation in Georgia, especially since Kosovo’s declaration of independence. I have heard many experts express concern that, of the frozen conflicts, one (or both) of the Georgian conflicts were at greatest risk of becoming real wars. In part, this is because Russia is most easily able to exert direct influence as both regions border Russia and Russia can easily roll in the tanks, as it has done today.

This crisis points out an interesting divergeance between how Russia talks about international law and how the EU and US do, as I’ve written about here. In short, when it comes to the frozen conflicts the EU and the U.S. focus on the international norms concerning sovereignty, territorial integrity, and that self-determination does not lead to a right of secession. Russia, however, tends to focus on norms concerning minority rights and the ability of states to defend the interests of “co-nationals.” Seemingly in an attempt to fortify the “co-nationals” argument, Russia has been recently providing passports to just about anyone in Abkhazia or South Ossetia who asked for one. Russia then argues that these people–who had until then lived their lives in Georgia–are best understood as Russian citizens. This “passportization” policy has been widely criticized. This argument based on minority rights and the protection of co-nationals seems to be at the heart of Russia’s explanations of its invasion of Georgia. . . .

Read the entire post. Russia is playing a dangerous game. It appears that they are using their support of Iran as an ace in the hole to tie down the U.S. and, after NATO refused Georgia's entry over the Bush's dissent, are now seeking to make their play to reestablish a bit of their empire.


Anonymous said...

South Ossetia situation was planned and implemented by USA, it is loud and clear. Georgia started this act to involve Russian troops in this conflict right at the time of Olympic games, this is clearly act of rot provocation and attempt of USA to make Russia look like aggressor in Chinese eyes. Don't trust USA, dont' trust Georgia. Russian troops are there to stop kills of Russian citizens - there are 90% of russian citizens in South Ossetia. So is Russia aggressor? NO NO NO, Russia wants to stop bloodshed and keep peace.

Alex said...

Anybody thinking of the shot heard around the world. I hope the US puts its military where its mouth is and puts a couple aircraft carriers into the black sea. Europes hands are probably tied because if Russia controls most of their oil supply.
To anonymous Russia is the aggressor. It is sending troops into Ossetia which is internationally recognized as a part of Georgia.

Joanne said...

Let's face it, if Russia stayed out of Georgia's business, there would be no war at all. Was Georgia just blatantly killing Russians in Georgia before Russia moved in? I somehow doubt this. Why didn't the Russians in Georgia just move to Russia? Was anyone stopping them from doing so - it seems they all had been given Russian passports, so why didn't they leave? You don't take a part of a country with you when you decide to belong to another country.

It is all about the oil pipeline running through Georgia to Turkey - the Russians were just looking for any reason to take control of Georgia. When Putin wants something, he takes it....nothing is going to stand in his way.

Joanne said...

Very interesting -

Why Russia is invading Georgia

Make sure you check out Blackfive's post too.

Lisa said...

This crisis points out an interesting divergeance between how Russia talks about international law and how the EU and US do, as I’ve written about here. In short, when it comes to the frozen conflicts the EU and the U.S. focus on the international norms concerning sovereignty, territorial integrity, and that self-determination does not lead to a right of secession.