Friday, 15 August 2008

Georgia - Russia, A plague on both your houses

. An argument between bullies is never pleasant. This is how I view the recent dispute between Georgia and Russia. While there is no doubt that that Russia has shown it's usual sneering, crass and chauvinistic side in it's response there is also little doubt that the intervention of Georgia into South Osseita was heavy-handed and could have potentially resulted in allot of civilian deaths. No doubt it was designed to deter any willing South Osseitians from exercising their democratic right to determine their own future.

It may be speculated that the Georgian's, had they been allowed free rein in Tskhinvali would have collectively punished the citizenry for their impudence. Tskhinvali was shelled; this is not the hallmark of a surgical military operation aimed at militias, it is the hallmark of a military operation which at the very best can be said to be heedless of collateral damage. At worst it is the hallmark of a military operation that has as it's aim collective punishment. This is the primary reason Georgia cannot be supported in this conflict, it took a clear aggressive action that was willing to kill innocent civilians and may even had that as it's aim. Let's take an example, most would decry any claims by Hamas to be only targeting Israeli military precisely because it indiscriminately shells Israeli cities. Also, much has rightly been made of the timing; if Georgia has nothing to hide then why did this action start when it knew the world's eyes would be elsewhere; on the opening of the Olympic Games??

However, that is not to exonerate or even whitewash the Russian response. Vladmir Putin is a 'Great Russian' chauvinist following in a long established line which includes the Tsar's and such luminaries as Joseph Stalin, ironically a Georgian. His successor is no better and it is clear that Russia had as it's aim the bullying of Georgia into accepting a punitive peace. Self-determination for South Osseita is a convenient peg for Russia to hang it's expansionist ambitions on; the citizens of Grozny will attest to the unwillingness of Russia to let the nations of the Caucuses and Eastern Europe go their own way.

One other thing can be drawn from the conflict; the West is totally impotent. Much like Rome in her last days it no longer shapes the world it exists in militarily, economically or ideologically but is instead shaped by it; these are the last days of real Western power. Even the US is in the same situation; it threatened 'dire consequences' but realistically they amount to little more than stern words. Russia has showed that the balance of world power is shifting away from the West to, potentially, a new Chinese-Russian power bloc. Of course this will not make the world a safer place but instead a more fractured and unstable one.

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