Thousands of words have been written about the conflict in South Ossetia in the last few days and the answer tends to depend on whose side you’re on – do you reckon Vladimir Putin is an evil land-grabbing neo-tsar, or do you think Mikheil Saakashvili is an unpredictable and unreliable leader who made a dangerous gamble to reclaim South Ossetia?

If you’re anti-Russia Edwards Lucas in The Times gives nuance to your case, if you’re a Saakashvili-sceptic then Thomas de Waal in The Guardian explains further.

So what can anyone do about this? Anyone who doesn’t want war – bloggers like me, commentators, foreign ministers everywhere, Nicolas Sarkozy, the EU, the OSCE – throws up their hands and says ‘STOP FIGHTING!’ but then… Then what? What can anyone actually do? No-one has the remotest intention of sending any troops to Georgia to back Saakashvili, no-one (least of all Germany) wants to utter a word of criticism against Russia, and plenty of people are ambivalent about the region as a whole.

You end up getting a whole lot of comment about right and wrong, the values of the respective leaders, good and evil. But all of this is just a messy shade of grey, a conflict that will be played out in front of the eyes of the world with no-one ready to act – because no-one seems to know what to do.


  1. Central Scrutiniser

    I am glad I got this wrong. Well done Sarko!

  2. Re: 2017

    Ah, understood.

  3. Cabalamat: Russia’s lease of the Ukrainian naval installation is due to expire in 2017. Obviously, if Ukraine wants NATO membership and accession into Europe, Russia will have to leave Crimea.

    Alex: Same old anti-Western, anti-American, anti-European claptrap…

  4. Central Scrutiniser

    War in Europe. Again!

    Another exodus of poor European civilians on tractors.

    Just like the Balkans.

    I suppose we have to wait for the Americans to come and sort it out, as usual.

  5. valentine akishkin: There would be no objections to the Ukraine integrating into the EU, but exclusive of any military liabilities that could be interpreted by Russia as subverting its safety. Otherwise, the EU would be digging a hole beneath its own feet and get involved in problems that, until yet, are hidden from view, but remain unsolved and are bound to immerge after 2017.

    Why? What will happen in 2017?

  6. valentine akishkin

    I dare to make the following proposals and predictions:

    Russia will eventually liberate South Ossetia of any signs of Georgian troops. The massacre that has happened during the reign of all Georgian presidents in revolting territories bears witness to the fact that Georgia is not capable of offering any form of mutual existence within any Georgian jurisdiction. Georgia’s insistent and endless attempts to render a pliable status by militant means have achieved a reverse result. The heavy casualties that have occurred and will still occur on either side will hinder any form of coexistence for many generations to come. Russia will have no other choice, but to recognize the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent sovereign states following the precedent of Kosovo. To which, it is well know, Russia was formally strongly opposed.
    The status of these territories can not remain endlessly undetermined leaving room for speculations or territorial claims, disputes, fierce clashes and unrest in the region leaving the citizens of these territories hostages to an unpredictable future.
    Russia bore itself unquestionably and solely responsible for all the debts of the former Soviet Union, which it has paid in full, relieving all other former member countries plausibly agreeable. Other liabilities either moral, jurisdictional or of any other origin interrelated to the disintegration of the Soviet Union have never been denied by Russia. This being a recognized and unquestionable fact, there is little reason why Russia, being the sole heritor to the arduous consequences stemming out of the disintegration should not have a decisive say in resolving disputes that occurred due to the catastrophic annihilation of formerly integrated republics. In other words Russia should have a decisive say in sorting out this conflict, once a number of countries, now independent, can do nothing other than blame Russia for whatever happened in the former Soviet Union and hold it accountable. If Russia makes this choice there is nothing that people like Saakashvili can do other than wipe their nose and weep.
    I should assume that by providing the status of and independent countries, the agreement should foresee that neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia have the right to formally integrate into Russia. The agreement should also foresee that sides could return to the question of integration into Georgia in 99 years time, when the wounds are healed and other people, hopefully more forbearing, become leaders of these warring territories.
    Russia has no interest in integrating South Ossetia into Russia as combined with North Ossetia (Russian territory), future events might cause these combined territories – South Ossetia and North Ossetia, for some as yet unforeseeable reason, to seek independence from Russia.
    Not the slightest breathe should be mentioned of any integration of Georgia into NATO, this must be set as an axiom for the whole period of those 99 years and be an inherent part of the agreement. This is apparent today in view of Georgia’s irresistible itching to settle the matter by fighting.
    Georgian settlements on the territory of South Ossetia will have to be dealt with extreme care. These questions should better be negotiated with the people involved.
    Russia would have to reconsider its policy towards passports issued to residents of South Ossetia or Abkhazia and make adequate limitations to receiving Russian citizenship in the future. The implication that South Ossetia be granted independence would render its passports liable for use outside the country.

    Foreseeing the same cataclysms for the Ukraine; any talk of the Ukraine in NATO would seriously undermine it territorial integrity and abrogate the treaty concluded between Russia and the Ukraine with unpredictable consequences. There would be no objections to the Ukraine integrating into the EU, but exclusive of any military liabilities that could be interpreted by Russia as subverting its safety. Otherwise, the EU would be digging a hole beneath its own feet and get involved in problems that, until yet, are hidden from view, but remain unsolved and are bound to immerge after 2017.

  7. Saakashvili is a criminal beyond belief. His forces staged a full-fledged genocide of South Ossetian people. They were killing women and children by running them over with their tanks! A number of women were killed by holding their heads and shooting at their necks before the head separeted. Thess saddists also killed a number of journalists covering the situation. They didn’t stage warfare (warfare has rules) – they staged atrocities and ethnic clensing. Only cowards can do this, they are not men. I am not sure if targeting civilians was part of US-based training of Georgian forces just a few weeks ago but all the evidence suggests that US has intimate interests in destabilizing situation around the strong countries of the world that were its historical opponents. This way all the world’s resources can be appropriated or shipped in the “right” direction. US also wishes to engulf post-Soviet Republics into NATO. That way it could have its forces surrounding Russia. The building of anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe is not against Iran as they claim – it’s clearly against Russia. Even after all the evidence of ethnic clensing is clearly presented to the US, they still call it Russian “occupation”. They think people are stupid and can be easily brain-washed. In fact the news is twisted every possible way to conseal the attrocities. For example, they mention “the number of people killed” but not even once have they mentioned that the Georgians killed 2000 people. Every psychological trick is used to give a twisted view of reality. In my 10 years in North America I have yet to read one positive piece of news about Russia!

    For the US, Georgia is a bit similar to Iraq when it comes to its search for oil supplies. The only difference it is also trying to be its “friend” so that NATO forces can be placed there at the Russian border. It is trying to kill these two birds with one rock, which comes at Russia’s expense.

    Also, make no mistake about Saakashvili. He is friends with Borish Berezovsky who once needless to say, illegally, controlled 10% of Russians money in early 90’s (Read Paul Khlebnikov’s book “The Godfather of Kremlin”; it’s no surprize the authour is no longer with us). Berezovsky is also interested in destabilizing Russia as it convicted to life in prison their for his criminal activities. In fact he himself stated that, one cannot get that rich in Russia without having to commit something illegal. Some of the personal financial transactions involved in Berezovsky’s and Saakashvili’s business endeavors were done with Chechen separatists. So both of them have places to hide where nobody in this world would dare to find them. Berezovsky has proved to be a powerful mastermind when it comes to impacting countries’ leaders and gaining control in difficult situations. He might have a small hand to play in this situation considering how close the two are.

    It should come as no surprize that the situation in South Ossetia was so much needed by parties external to Russia. Russia was left with no option but to protect its sitizens.

  8. Yes, but Georgia is a much lighter shade of grey than Russia.

  9. Oh, okay. Sorry, I should have realised!

    Nevertheless, we have a special duty to show our German friends why they/their government have taken a very bad path. I think the time has now come when we can say to Berlin that, if they value their alliance with us more than their bizarre infatuation with Moscow, they must take heed of our views. If Paris is starting to come round to the East European/British/American argument, it must also be possible to make Germany see sense as well…

  10. James – should have made it clear. This blog entry is not about what I want, it’s what I think will happen.

    If the EU is to break it’s reliance on Russia then it needs alternatives to Russian gas. It has some – LNG for example – but more investments in renewables, fast, are required to help break the dominance further. That isn’t going to happen, Germany won’t do anything, and no-one is going to force Germany’s hand. It’s depressing but I see no alternative.

  11. Hmm…hate to agree with you, but I think you’re right. Objections and protestations abound, but there is little chance for a concrete follow-up. I will say though that while talking/commenting about the conflict may be ultimately insignificant on the death toll, it is part of the information warfare.

  12. Come on, Jon! Anyone with any sense knows what we should do. If we want European influence to vibrate through the European Neighbourhood, that means pushing Russia out. It also means rejecting the policy of neo-Ostpolitik adopted by the Germans, which won’t work now just as it didn’t work during the Cold War. And it means understanding that Russia and the European Union now have different agendas, predicated on different interests and values. To some of us, this has been becoming increasingly clear over the past few years.

    The Presidents of the Baltic States and Poland put this all aptly in their statement on the Russian invasion of Georgia yesterday.

    So nobody wants war, but we certainly need a far more aggressive stance from Europeans towards Russia. The ‘frozen conflicts’ in Transnistria certainly need further attention—including the sending of European Union forces—to prevent the Russians doing something similar there. Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova also need to be integrated as quickly as possible into NATO and the EU. In the meantime a security guarantee needs to be granted to all of them.

    The reason for this is that without a harder approach towards Russia, the very cohesion and existence of the European Union is a stake. If Poland and the Baltic States, particularly, see their West European partners throwing their hands up in fright at the Russian brabarism, why should they think we will come to their aid if Russian power is swung in their direction?!

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