08 August 2008
South Ossetia Conflict
Whilst most people in Britain were watching the Peking Olympics opening ceremony, Russia and George seem to have slipped into war, thanks to a bit of Georgian stupidity in starting the thing.
The ostensible reason is South Ossetia, which has been governed by Georgia since that country broke away from the dying USSR. During 1991-92 the South Ossetians fought a war of independence against Georgia, on the quite reasonable principle that if the USSR was going to break apart into ethnic polities, they didn't want to be governed by the Georgians. The Georgians were never able to crush the Ossetians, and their call for independence was ratified by a referendum held in the province in 2006.
Matters could have been left to fester for decades had it not been for the United States' desire to encircle Russia with client states that have all been signed up to NATO. In April of this year it was decided that Georgia would be allowed to join NATO and things have been spiralling downhill ever since.
The Georgians then decided, obviously with a wink from the USA, to use the cover of the Olympics to crush South Ossetia. However they had reckoned without the Russians who have now sent their army steaming in to throw them out.
At the time of writing volunteers from North Ossetia, which is a part of the Russian Federation, seem to be clamouring to enlist in locally recruited militias that will go off and help their brethren in the south. Abkhazia, which is another breakaway Georgian province, is also reported to be sending troops to help South Ossetia. The Russian army is now deep inside the province and the best guess is that they will announce its annexation to Russia before long.
This is the problem that you have when you break up multi-ethnic states such as Austria-Hungary or the USSR. Everybody wants their nice, ethnically pure state, and then they find that their new states have minorities that also want to take advantage of the new dispensation.
However, that is not to say that war has to break out. The South Ossetians were reasonably content with their unrecognised independence which allowed them to use the Russian rouble as their currency and prevented the Georgians from interfering in local matters. The problem here is that the USA decided to upset the apple cart by offering NATO membership to Georgia. The Georgians then decided to settle matters in South Ossetia, and the Russians are helping their brothers to resist.
Keeping the fucking Americans out of everyone else's hair has become the major issue of the moment.