Friday, 8 August 2008
If war is breaking out in Georgia, the link to Kosovo is clear
The breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia has become a crucible for dispute between the Russian and Georgian governments. The region has retained de facto independence from Georgia since the early 90s. Following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and its acceptance by NATO, Russia has strengthened ties with South Ossetia and its status is underpinned by the presence of Russian ‘peacekeepers’.
It would appear today that the situation has escalated and war between Georgia and Russia is close. According to some reports it is already underway. Georgia has launched a full scale assault on the republic in an attempt to wrest control back from the separatists. 15 civilians and 3 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in these actions. In response it appears that Russian warplanes have struck targets in Georgia.
Although Georgia has de jure claims to sovereignty over South Ossetia, to launch such an attack in the present climate was an act of extreme foolhardiness. After all the majority of South Ossetians reject Georgia’s sovereignty, a high percentage hold Russian passports and the cultural ties between Russian North Ossetia and the south are particularly strong. It was always unlikely that Russia would not take action in the circumstances which pertain.
Georgia’s sovereignty has been illegally curtailed, but justly Russia and South Ossetia can point to similar circumstances in Kosovo. There is a direct correlation between western countries recognising the Albanian ethnic republic in Serbia and the violence which is breaking out in South Ossetia today. Georgia accuses Russia of propping up the separatist republic. It considers that Russian troops' presence in South Ossetia constitutes an occupying army on its territory. The NATO presence in Kosovo was openly acknowledged, but Serbs viewed it in a similar fashion.
The situation in Georgia is a graphic representation of competing nationalisms in action. Georgia claimed its right to self-determination from the USSR. The Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia wished to retain links to Russia and certainly did not want to be part of Georgia. Accordingly they exercised their right to self-determination (as they perceived it). And so it goes on. If a war really is breaking out in Georgia it is a direct result of the current trend to disregard sovereign nation states and indulge those who would dismember them.