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Thread: Russian analysis: War of words replaces military action

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    Russian analysis: War of words replaces military action


    War of words replaces military action

    War of words replaces military action

    A five-day military conflict between Russia and Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia has ended in a tense ceasefire. Just as the world was casting its gaze to Beijing for the Olympic Games, Georgia launched a major offensive against the republic's capital, Tskhinvali.

    Russia said that twelve of its peacekeepers had been killed in the unexpected attack, while officials in the republic put the number of civilian deaths at 1,600. According to the United Nations, which quoted figures supplied by Russia and Georgia, some 35,000 refugees (roughly the entire population of Tskhinvali) from South Ossetia fled to the Russian mainland.

    According to Russian news agencies, the deputy chairman of South Ossetia's parliament, Tarzan Kokoity, was forced to flee Tskhinvali with his family and thousands of other refugees who reportedly walked through a large swath of forest to North Ossetia, a Russian republic bordering the separatist region.

    Almost immediately, the conflict spread to Georgia's other separatist hot spot, the autonomous Black Sea province of Abkhazia.

    "In the early hours of military operations in South Ossetia we decided to move Abkhazian troops to the Abkha*zian border with Georgia in order to draw Georgian forces away from South Ossetia," Abkhazia's Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told The Moscow News. "We also launched an operation to push Georgian forces out of Khodori Gorge."

    By Wednesday Shamba announced that Georgian troops had retreated from Kodori Gorge, after occupying it "illegally" since 2006.

    Russia, in turn, launched a counter-offensive on Friday, with tanks and troops first retaking Tskhinvali, then moving beyond the separaist region to Georgia, which drew condemnation from the West. The strategic Georgian town of Gori, where the attacks on South Ossetia first originated, was bombed by Russian forces, with initial reports putting the death toll at five.

    Russia may have been winning the battle on the ground, but it seemed to be losing ground in the media war: Western leaders almost unanimously condemned the massive retaliation.

    On Tuesday, French President Nico*las Sarkozy, the acting president of the European Union, flew to Moscow to broker peace. On the same day, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to the military operations after his meeting with Sarkozy.

    The two leaders hammered out a six-point plan that includes a total ceasefire, access to humanitarian workers, return of Georgian armed forces to their local placements, withdrawal of Russian troops to their lines as of August 6, and talks on the future status of the unrecognized republics.

    There were conflicting reports that the ceasefire was being violated by Russian troops. "Despite the fact that a ceasefire agreement has been made between the Russian President and Georgian President Mikhail Saaka*shvili, Russian armed forces unfortunately remain on Georgian territory," Yekaterina Zguladze, Georgia's Deputy Interior Minister was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying. She denied that a unit of Russian tanks was moving on Tbilisi after leaving Gori, amid conflicting reports of continued attacks in Gori and the rest of Georgia.

    Stressing that the situation was stable and under control, Zguladze said the unit "had turned from the Tbilisi direction. The residents of Tbilisi are not under any threat." Earlier, Saaka*shvili had told CNN that Russian forces were "encroaching upon the capital of Tbilisi."

    Moscow remained firm in its demands that Georgian forces quit the separaist region, but General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy head of the Russian General Staff, was quoted by CNN as saying that "no active withdrawal has yet been observed."

    Amid the ongoing war of words, a fundamental shift in relations had occurred. The United States pledged "unwavering support" for the Geor*gian government, while President George Bush said he was sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and then to Tbilisi.

    "No other problem in Russia's foreign policy is so crucial for its internal security as the Southern Caucasus region," Sergei Markedonov, a Cau*casus specialist and the Moscow-based Institute of Political and Military Analysis, told The Moscow News. "In the 1990s some 70,000 South Ossetian refugees poured into North Ossetia. That is roughly 16 percent of North Ossetia's population. These people, who were without work, played a role in the first conflict on Russian territory - between North Ossetia and Ingushetia." Beslan, where terrorists took over a school in September, 2004, leading to the deaths of over 300 children, is situated in North Ossetia.

    Markedonov believes that had Russia "showed weakness" it would have led to further instability in the North Caucasus region, which includes Chechnya and Dagestan. "This is the Caucasus. Strength is what matters here."

    Analysts point to Georgia's NATO aspirations as the chief catalyst of the ongoing conflict. There is also ongoing talk about the construction of a US-built anti-missile defense system in eastern Europe. Moscow is bitterly opposed to those plans, and say the ongoing expansion of NATO is surrounding the country. Many analysts see the latest events in Russia's backyard as a dangerous trend with unpredictable consequences.

    "Saakashvili is not a madman, and he had a reason to do what he did," Sergei Karaganov, who heads the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, told The Moscow News. According to him, Georgia's offensive was an attempt to "block Russia's foreign policy in regards to its response to NATO aspirations of Georgia and Urkaine."

    Other analysts say Saakashvili was counting on support from the United States. "Bush has certain obligations before the Georgian government," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, told The Moscow News. "His administration actively supported Saakashvili's rise to power. And Bush has obligations before Saakashvili, just as Russia has obligations before the South Ossetian government."

    According to Lukyanov, Saakashvili may have deliberately drawn Russia into an aggressive conflict to undermine its standing with the West. "In terms of the information war, Russia is in a very unfavorable position because it's impossible the change the inevitable view of it," he says. "Just look at a map. There is tiny Georgia, and here is Russia, and it appears obvious who the bad guy is."

    The implications will be far reaching, he says. "It puts an end to the post-Soviet region as we know it. A fundamentally new stage is beginning. A war between two countries so close culturally, historically, and humanly - it's a tragedy, no matter who is to blame."

    By Anna Arutunyan
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility

    Gottfried Leibniz

  2. #2
    Military Professional Ray's Avatar
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    Just like everyone else!

    All bluff and bluster!

    Georgia be damned!


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

    I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

    HAKUNA MATATA

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