Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Georgian tragedy

As I was away while Georgia and Russia were having a "warlet" I've had a little time to think about the two sides and their various claims.

The first thought that struck me when I it all kicked off was to wonder what the Georgian president's motivation was. I don't know that much about the region or it's history, but I know that South Ossetia is a chunk of territory that projects into Georgia itself - but that alone doesn't automatically mean it is Georgian. The people of South Ossetia seem determined not to be part of Georgia. They appear to enjoy a degree of autonomy at the moment although they are clearly under the umbrella of Russia which seems to have been doing all it can - prior to this war - to promote themselves as protectors to the South Ossetians.

Since the war began the media coverage seems to have focused on how horrible Russia has punished poor little Georgia "disproportionately". Considering the lengths the media go to to appear "balanced" in their reporting of our armed forces actions in Iraq and Afghanistan they have presented a peculiarly one sided view of this dispute - but the fact is that Georgia started it by launching an all out assault on South Ossetia. Just because they got their sorry arses severely kicked by an obviously superior Russian army isn't reason to side with Georgia - Georgia were the aggressors.

Yes, Russian jets and tanks have killed civilians, but there is no suggestion that they deliberately set out to do so and Georgia were equally guilty of indiscriminately lobbing artillery shells into civilian areas.

The way I see it, South Ossetia is a little like Northern Ireland. A chunk of territory that should - if geography was the only measure - be part of Ireland (to argue that this is sufficient is like saying that Scotland or Wales should be part of England). The ROI sees NI as its own, but the people of NI prefer to remain British. Like South Ossetia they enjoy a degree of autonomy and the protection of a powerful military. Like South Ossetia, NI has "peacekeepers" from that powerful benefactor based on its territory.

To me, the Russo-Georgian war is a little like Ireland launching an assault on Belfast - artillery barrages, tank assaults and motorized infantry - which kill British subjects and British soldiers. If that were to happen, what would be the British response? Should we just allow it to happen or should we defend ourselves and our citizens? Although I doubt the capability of our armed forces to respond and succeed to the degree Russia has against Georgia, I would expect - should they actually win - to see those forces advance into Ireland to establish a buffer zone clear of Irish forces to ensure that they can not launch a counter offensive. That makes perfect military sense.

The South Ossetians don't want to be Georgian. I don't care what the UN or international law says about the borders, if those people prefer to be Russian rather than Georgian then that is their decision. If the UN declared that NI should be part of Ireland I would hope we would have the self-respect to tell them where to go.

Russia is not a nice neighbour to have, but I can't blame them for doing what they did. I still wonder what the Georgian motivation was - they must have known they'd be crushed in any military encounter so why did they do it? I can't help feeling that this was a deliberate ploy by the Georgian president (who I find incredibly sinister) to provoke anti-Russian feeling in the west and start a new Cold War and I can't help thinking he has succeeded.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great comment! About time someone recognized Georgia's hands are dirty in this.

Stalin gave Ossetia to the Georgians, so now NATO debates how to best enforce Stalin's order. That's backwards. Give the Ossetians their freedom from Stalin's order just like Stalin's other victims got.

Georgia started this war in a sneak attack timed to the start of the Olympics. Curse them for that. This ugly war happened because the West ignored the prior war in which many thousands died, that ended in 1992 with Georgia agreeing not to take South Ossetia by force and Russia guaranteeing that if they did they would intervene militarily. It was both stupid and evil for Saakashvilli to break those 1992 accords that kept peace in the region and launch hot war again. It was doubly stupid for him to think that Russia, already itching for an excuse to slap Georgia, would not leap at the convenience of them being *required* to act militarily under the 1992 agreement guaranteeing South Ossetian self-rule.

The way forward from here does not start by pretending that prior peace agreements meant nothing and that Georgia's commitment not to use force on South Ossetia didn't matter. Shame on you Condi for whitewashing a sneak attack. Since when did enforcing Stalin's decisions and praising sneak attacks become US / NATO policy? Yeah, the Russians should back out of Georgia proper but any deal that does not guarantee the freedom Ossetians won in a bitter war isn't worth the propaganda paper it's written on.

Stalin giving Ossetia to the Georgians, praised by the West and the media: