Aug 10, 2008
Whatever the sovereign and ethnic claims and counter-claims, Russia's weekend invasion of the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia is a tragedy. It is also ironic that the conflict coincides with the Olympics, where US President George W. Bush and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin enjoyed the opening spectacle.
More than 2000 people might already be dead, and there are fears of all-out war between Russia and Georgia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declared a "state of war" after Moscow bombarded from the air and sent in tanks and troops.
Tolstoy wrote about ethnic conflicts two centuries ago at the eastern edge of the Russian empire. The present fighting has been brewing since the early 1990s. Georgia is a pro-Western democracy, but many of those who live in separatist South Ossetia carry Russian passports. Russia claims that Georgia has sought to pacify them. Russian diplomacy is opaque and unpredictable, and it is difficult to predict what will happen next.
A joint European-US delegation is hoping to broker a ceasefire. The United Nations has failed to agree on an immediate ceasefire, hobbled by Moscow's objections. Indeed, the conflict could be a litmus test for the UN -- especially its protocols. It was tardy in the Balkans and must improve its performance this time. It would be a significant success if it got the sides to a conference table as soon as possible.
Georgians ask: why won’t America and Nato help? The United States public response.
(credit: Herald Sun/Reuters)