While the world’s watching the Olympics…
[quote=“Independent”][b]Georgia launched a major military offensive today to retake the breakaway province of South Ossetia, prompting Moscow to send tanks into the region in a furious response that threatens to engulf Georgia, a staunch US ally, and Russia in all-out war.
Hundreds were reported dead in the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won de-facto independence in a war against Georgia that ended in 1992. Witnesses said the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali was devastated.[/b]
“I saw bodies lying on the streets, around ruined buildings, in cars,” said Lyudmila Ostayeva, 50, who had fled with her family to Dzhava, a village near the border with Russia. “It’s impossible to count them now. There is hardly a single building left undamaged.”
The fighting broke out as much of the world’s attention was focused on the start of the Olympic Games and many leaders, including Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and US President George Bush, were on their way to Beijing.
[b]The timing suggests Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili may have been counting on surprise to fulfill his longtime pledge to wrest back control of South Ossetia — a key to his hold on power.
Saakashvili agreed the timing was not coincidental, but accused Russia of being the aggressor. “Most decision makers have gone for the holidays,” he said in an interview with CNN. “Brilliant moment to attack a small country.”[/b]
South Ossetian separatist leader Eduard Kokoity claimed hundreds of civilians had been killed.
Ten Russian peacekeepers were killed and 30 wounded when their barracks were hit in Georgian shelling, said Russian Ground Forces spokesman Col. Igor Konashenkov. [/quote]
Georgia’s internally divided over its future orientation: towards Moscow or the West; and the Russians extended citizenship to the South Ossetia region a few years ago, provided maybe 60% of gov’t revenues, and unilaterally sent in “peacekeepers”.
Methinks Saakashvili’s overplayed his hand and Georgia’s about to have it’s ass kicked. I doubt Russian security forces will bother poisoning him this time. Europe’s going to make noise and do nothing. And Bush???
[quote=“Der Spiegel”]It’s a standoff with little hope for an easy solution. And it is one that, in the past, has repeatedly shone the spotlight on differences between Russia and the US. Russia does not want to lose its influence on the former Soviet Republic of Georgia wheras Washington – which sees the country as a vital regional bridgehead and as an important transit country for gas and oil – would like to see the country join NATO and has provided political and economic support.
There is little hope for support from Europe. Faced with isolation, both Abkhazia and South Ossetia see no alternative but to turn to Russia as the only reliable partner available.
Indeed, the two regions’ so far unsuccessful efforts to wring diplomatic recognition from the international community plays into Moscow’s hands. As long as Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain isolated, Russia can keep on strengthening its influence in the area. And if Georgia proves unable to re-establish territorial integrity, it won’t be invited to join NATO any time soon – also a development that would be to Moscow’s liking.
[…]If the situation deteriorates further, Georgia will soon face a war on two fronts. Abkhazia has signed a solidarity pact with South Ossetia. According to Sergey Shamba, troops from Abkhazia started moving toward the Georgian border on Friday morning. Help for both provinces is on the way from volunteers streaming into the region from the northern Caucasus.[/quote]