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On the General Principles of the Russia-Georgia Issue


[I would redirect people towards this post (a more recent analysis) and this one (a roundup of the morning’s news and analysis]

We’re likely to here quite a lot from the right about Russian perfidy in the next couple of days, but the situation is, of course, a lot more complicated than all that. Both the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians would, apparently, rather not be part of Georgia. The Georgians are, I think, correct to suggest that this isn’t the full story; ethnic cleansing of Georgians has taken place in both locales, both are pretty much run by gangsters, and the Russians have been playing non-stop shenanigans. Principles also clash; countries shouldn’t be able to just set up private fiefdoms in neighboring countries, but people shouldn’t be forced to live in countries where they don’t want to live.

Both the Russian and Georgian cases are generally unsympathetic, but I guess that I’m mildly less sympathetic to the Georgians. Saakashvili didn’t need to start this; the situation was pretty much stable before, and in general things would be better for the people of South Ossetia (and Georgia) if bombs weren’t being dropped on them. Moreover, the Russians have a fair case, based on the Kosovo precedent, that the Georgians shouldn’t be allowed to unilaterally settle the disposition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And yes, I know that this produces as many questions as it answers; pro-Russian and pro-Georgian trolls should feel free to battle each other in the comment section.

…incidentally, CNN coverage is terrible; virtually no mention of the fact that the Georgians launched an offensive prior to the Russian attacks.

…Saakashvili is playing the “freedom” card pretty hard:

“This was a very blunt Russian aggression. … We are right now suffering because we want to be free and we want to be a multi-ethnic democracy,” Saakashvili said in the interview. “We are in this situation of self-defense against a big and mighty neighbor. We are a country of less than 5 million people and certainly our forces are not comparable,” the president said.

Saakashvili also said it was in the United States’ interest to help his country. “It’s not about Georgia anymore. It’s about America, its values,” he said. “We are a freedom-loving nation that is right now under attack.”

Sure. Nexon also points out that rhetoric has consequences.

…Russian tanks are firing on Georgian positions outside of Tskhinvali. Josh Keating points out that Georgia’s hopes of entering NATO are as dead as Caesar’s ghost; there is no will whatsoever in NATO to actually defend Georgia from Russian attack, and it ain’t just the Europeans.

… Nathan Hodge points out that it’s not just the rhetoric that might have inclined the Georgians to push harder; it’s also the training and weapons they’ve been receiving from the US.

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