Statement on Georgia
A Publication of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy
11 August 2008
Russia’s Invasion of Georgia
“Russia lost the moral right for peacekeeping in Abkhazia and South Ossetia when, circumventing the leadership of sovereign Georgia, it became close friends with the de facto organs of power of these self-declared entities…Now, casting aside any decency, bringing landing units into Georgia, bombing territory that isn’t even part of the former South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast, Russia ... has become a party to an armed conflict.” (1)
What valiant Western voice issued this statement? Alas, none apparently. As so frequently in history, it was a pitifully small but morally gigantic group of Russians, human rights activists, led by Lev Ponomarev, Sergei Kovalyov, and Yelena Bonner (Sakharov’s widow). The group proceeded to call for Russia to be expelled from the Group of Eight and for the UN, the OSCE, and PACE to impose sanctions on Russia. (2)
The problem in the West is moral ambivalence, fed by a sudden twilight where facts are concerned. Thus, we see repeated references to South Ossetia as a “disputed area.” Well, even Vladimir Putin does not appear to harbor any doubts whose sovereign territory South Ossetia is, as underlined by his statement on August 9. “The actions of the Georgian powers in South Ossetia are, of course, a crime — first of all against their own people," Putin said. "The territorial integrity of Georgia has suffered a fatal blow." (3)
In that case, why exactly is Russia invading Georgia? Again, we can rely on Mr. Putin’s own statement citing “Georgia's aspiration to join NATO,” which may be the real reason, but does not appear to be a self-evident cause, for war in the Caucasus. And what makes him believe that he has a case for intervention? Well, in this instance, we have to rely on a statement by his puppet, Abkhazian “foreign minister” Sergei Shamba, who on August 8 referred to “the recognition of Kosovo” by the West as the precedent for tearing away South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia. (5) Of course, this does not constitute a reason for Russia’s actions, but it certainly provides an excuse.
Why is the invasion of Georgia a watershed? With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, most observers had hoped that there would be no recurrence of Russian violation of a sovereign neighbor, to mention only the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The “international community” that appears to be unwilling to respond to this affront to the very basis of a peaceful international order is the same group that was unmoved when Hitler dismembered Czechoslovakia in 1938-1939, and again when Brezhnev’s tanks rolled into Prague thirty years later.
(1) 10 Aug 08 via www.grani.ru , as cited in Jonas Bernstein, “Some analysts say Russia’s siloviki benefit from a war with Georgia,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 11 Aug 08, vol. 5, iss. 153.
(3) Sadulayev, Musa, “Georgia: In 'state of war' over South Ossetia,” Associated Press, 10 Aug 08 via http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hV2N6fVKS5slf10A13Dj_uIdaZ4QD92F59DG0 , emphasis added.
(4) “Putin says Georgia seeking ‘bloody adventures,’” Reuters, 9 Aug 08 via http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Georgia/idUSL938407720080809 .
(5) “Abkhazia threatens Georgia with second front,” Spiegel Online, 8 Aug 08 via http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,570829,00.html .