09 August 2008
Cossacks join the South Ossetia fighting
Irregular forces are moving into South Ossetia to assist in the fight against the Georgian attacks against the territory. The most prominent to a westerner's eye will be the Cossacks, with men from at least one Cossack host already in the territory. Meanwhile in North Ossetia, at least two busloads of volunteers left the capital, Vladikavkaz, to join the fighting yesterday. Given that Abkhazia has also promised volunteers for the S. Ossetia fighting, the number of irregular militiamen can only be expected to grow over the weekend.
What this means of course is that even if Russia did decide to end the conflict tomorrow she may not be able to do that. We are talking here about traditionally officered Cossack hosts, North Ossetian and Abkhazian militias, plus whatever other odds and sods decide to go and kill a few Georgians in the name of Holy Mother Russia. Turning those forces loose is one thing, but reigning them in when they haven't finished enjoying themselves is quite another.
It is quite possible of course that Russia hasn't even considered bringing those fighters to heel. Western response to the conflict has been muted, probably because the Americans need Russia to help influence North Korea, and the Germans get most of their natural gas courtesy of Moscow. Tweaking the bear's tail over Kosovo was one thing, but going to the brink because Georgia, one of America's shiny new puppet states, suddenly decided to cut its strings is quite another. As this BBC report makes clear, the USA may not even supply the transport aircraft that are needed to bring home the Georgian contingent from Iraq.
As things stand, this conflict may be over sooner rather than later. However, the only thing that is ever certain about any armed conflict is that nothing is certain once the armies close. The irregulars are an example of what could turn out to be a messy and long drawn out conflict, even after the regular armies have finished damaging everything around them.