Monday, August 11, 2008

Another perspective on the Russia-Georgia conflict

I've spent the last week on the coast of Maine taking a much needed break from my computer. Even though I tried to avoid the news and my email the entire time, I wasn't completely successful. The few times I managed to catch the news I was struck by the extent to whicGeorgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was spending his time speaking to western media, particularly CNN. While I am the first to admit I am fairly ignorant of politics in this region, Saakashvili's use of time speaking to CNN struck me as particularly strange, leading me to believe that what I was catching in the news was certainly not the entire story. Erik posted some links below in his own entry on this conflict, but I just wanted to point out a couple other posts over at Da Russophile that give some historical background to the conflict as well as more pro-Russian slant to the conflict rather than the heavily pro-Georgian view that is currently dominant in the media. This post points out the strategic significance of Russia's military response to Georgian aggression in South Ossetia as a sign to the rest of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia of Russia's military strength and its struggle to regain its status as a major world power since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Da Russophile also has some interesting historical background to the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia here, pointing out the ethnic cleansing of South Ossetians inspired by Georgian nationalism. 

Whatever the outcome of this conflict, what seems pretty clear is that Saakashvili made a gross political miscalculation. I'm not sure why I'm surprised, but it still amazes me that leaders can make such idiotic decisions. 

Update: When I was writing this post I was hoping there was something insightful available over at Sean's Russia Blog. Now there is. The last sentence sums up pretty well what this war is about: "This war is about Georgia’s self-determination; a self-determination which apparently is rooted in denying the Ossetians theirs."