I've been meaning to write about this for a few days now, ever since I got into a disagreement with a cousin about Russian/American politics. Although the South Ossetia conflict is old news at this point, having been overshadowed from the beginning by the Olympics, Bigfoot, and John Edward's infidelity, and only getting more coverage than the latest news of how Bush and his peeps forged intelligence that justified the attack on Iraq (more on that later), I think it is important to properly digest the situation. Not that all of the information is clear, available, or correct for that matter. We may not know for a while still what exactly happened and why, since this is just another conniving power play on the parts of the Bush and Putin administrations.
First, a little history. When Georgia asked to become part of the USSR (mainly to get protection from Turkey), Ossetia, among others, was one of the little mountainous countries that got engulfed as well. And when Georgia broke away from Russia in 1991, Ossetia was divided in two. North Ossetia stuck with Russia. South Ossetia was given to Georgia. Displeased as they were, South Ossetians kept starting rebellions and passing legislations declaring its sovereignty, which were not accepted by anyone. A ceasefire was put into effect in 1992 but South Ossetia was still Georgian. Then there was another crack down on S. Ossetia in 2004, followed once again by a ceasefire, though not a very effective one. Russia in the meantime was stirring trouble of its own in the region, aiding the Ossetians and giving Russian citizenship to anyone who wanted it. And in Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili came to power after a brief "Rose Revolution", aided in all probability by the Americans. He certainly remains a US "puppet" and is at this point highly unpopular among his electorate.
Starting on August 2nd, 2008 the fire on South Ossetia from the Georgian side seemed to intensify (allegedly in response to S. Ossetia's provocation). Some began to flee into North Ossetia and Saakashvili announced that a ceasefire will begin. Instead, in the night of August 7th, Georgia began shelling the city of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), with some 2000 people "reported" dead. I say "reported" because independent human right groups say the casualties were far lower, as few as 44 dead the first night. Certainly there were no attempts to decrease civilian casualties. Human Rights Watch reports evidence of firing directly into basements, which is where civilians were hiding, and the weapons used were "inherently indiscriminate". So Russia responds by bombing the hell out of Georgia. They retook Tskhinvali, started a second front in Abkhazia (disputed fact), a small region in a very similar boat as South Ossetia, and carried out multiple strikes on military installations in Georgia. Russian troops seemed to at least partially occupy the Georgian cities of Gori and Poti. They also carried out a very successful cyber attack, shutting down news and government websites, putting pictures of dictators on the national bank website, etc. They even attacked the president's site, which was hosted by that time in Georgia - Atlanta, GA, that is. So Georgia basically got their ass handed to them by the Russians. No surprise there.
Some ceasefires have now been signed, many in the international community, the US among them, saying that Russia's response was disproportionate. So hopefully now we can have some sort of diplomacy. But the question is, why the heck did this happen??? On the eve of the Olympics, the little Georgia decides to taunt it's much mightier neighbor and get away with it? My cousin suggested, and I am not sure that he is entirely incorrect, that Saakashvili's desire to get into NATO was behind this attack. How he figured that forcefully subduing South Ossetia would endear him to NATO I do not know. It is, however, likely that he expected his ally, the US, to back him up. Whether he was promised help, if he was egged on into this conflict by Bush and co. or if he was just deluding himself, I do not know. Certainly he had reasons to believe that the US will help him out. We have been supplying him with weapons, money and military training. And it's not a secret that tensions between Russia and the US are far from over. As for Russia's response, could this have been a preview, a kind of message to the US, about what would happen if they attack Iran? After all Russia has long maintained that it will not ignore military actions there. And finally, to add conspiracy to the story, Russia happened to bomb the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, 30% of which is owned by British Petroleum, which interestingly enough is one of the main competitors of Russian oil supply to Europe. I wonder how many wars would never have begun if we had finally learned to stop using oil. Would anyone then even care about the Middle East?
So my conclusion at the moment, is that the US was being passive aggressive, Saakashvili was an idiot, and Russia called the bluff. In the meantime it's the people of South Ossetia, and to some extent Georgia, that are paying the price.
PS: Did anyone catch the fact that John McCain's foreign policy adviser is a former lobbiest for Georgia AND a member of the Project for the New American Century, the group that infamously thought that an attack like 9/11 would be great for the future of neo-cons.