Thursday, August 07, 2008

Well, That Didn't Last Long--Fighting Resumes in the Caucasus

When I had penned a short piece on the outbreak of fighting in the Caucasus for NI online at midday, a ceasefire seemed to be in place. It lasted for about four hours.

Renewed fighting in South Ossetia resumed as the Georgian government announced it was going to restore "constitutional order" in the separatist region, and Tskhinvali, the capital of the enclave, is now under siege.

Like clockwork, stage 2 in the escalation of the conflict, as predicted, is now underway. Reuters had this to say in the last hour: "In a sign of broadening conflict, hundreds of volunteers from Russia and Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia headed to South Ossetia to support the separatist forces. ... Interfax quoted Taimuraz Mamsurov, the head of Russia's province of North Ossetia bordering South Ossetia, as saying: 'Hundreds of volunteers from North Ossetia are on their way to South Ossetia. We cannot stop them or prevent them from going.' It also quoted Sergei Bagapsh, the head of Georgia's other breakaway province of Abkhazia, as saying: 'About 1,000 Abkhaz volunteers are leaving for South Ossetia.'"

What are the gameplans? Is Tbilisi thinking it can do what Russia has done in Chechnya--a military strike to crush the rebellion and then installation of an alternative Ossetian administration, in this case, the "Provisional Administration of South Ossetia" under the leadership of Dimitry Sanakoyev? Will Russia claim the right to intervene on the grounds that most South Ossetians hold Russian citizenship--the distinction being that while Russia recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia, it still must "look out" for its own? Also, given the hands-off nature of the Kremlin's approach in the Caucasus, what will local leaders do--take matters into their own hands?

I know that some here in the U.S. are hoping for a quick reintegration that will present Russia with a fait accompli, but if that doesn't happen, then what?

On a side note, what happens to a much more volatile situation in the Caucasus--I'm thinking here of Nagorno-Karabakh. Does the Georgian action increase the possibility that Azerbaijan may see the military option as preferable for "solving" Nagorno-Karabakh--something that could really destabilize the region and jeopardize vital energy transport links if it goes south? Already Fitch is talking about downgrading Georgia's credit rating as a result of the fighting.

We know what a long-term solution to this problem looks like: broad autonomy for the regions within Georgia with some role for Russia--what President Saakashvili seemed to endorse on Thursday. But the fighting makes getting from point A to point B that much more difficult.

President Saakashvili calling black colour white and vice versa.
he has no intention to solve conflict by talking. he was preparing for military action while talk about peace and now georgia begin a war.
Everything is proceeding along the expected scenario. Medvedev today talking about how Russia has to protect compatriots, Saakashvili saying Georgia is being attacked by Russia.
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