Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A bad peace

Despite scattered reports of ongoing Russian operations in Georgia, a ceasefire agreement has been agreed to by both parties in the conflict. Russian troops remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and in control of several key highways in Georgia proper.

Even if the ceasefire holds, it remains to be seen what the end result of this conflict will be. If Russian forces continue to occupy the two breakaway regions, in violation of international law, and succeed in forcing the removal of the democratically elected Saakashvili, the repercussions will be grave, not only for Georgia, but for the entire world. This cannot be allowed to stand. This behavior by a despotic Putin-led Russia cannot be validated.

If Russia is allowed to dominate Georgia in this fashion, what is to stop them from doing the same in other former SSRs? Surely there are "Russian citizens" in those countries to protect, separatist movements to foment, and pretexts for war to manufacture. Why stop at Georgia? After all, neighboring Azerbaijan has vast oil and natural gas reserves, and a Russian minority of 141,000.

It may yet become clear that Georgia's hands are far from clean in this conflict. Russian claims of massive civilian casualties in South Ossetia are likely gross exaggerations, but they may contain a kernel of truth. The Georgian assault on Tskhinvali may have been indiscriminate, and that is something they will have to answer for. But that does not excuse Russia's actions this week, nor their ongoing actions over the years in destabilizing Georgia.

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