Belgravia Dispatch‘s Gregory Djerejian publishes one of my favorite blogs. He wrestles issues down to their core and exposes the idiocy and nakedness of the foreign policy arena’s blunderers. Today he writes about the Georgia-Russia conflict and comes out largely where I do.
A few quick points, in no particular order. First, let us disabuse ourselves from the notion that Mr. Saakashvili is some glorious democrat (the election he barely won in January included irregularities, and there continues to be endemic corruption in Tblisi).
Second, let us recall that many south Ossetians and Abkhazians are not particularly keen to live under Tbilisi’s yoke, indeed some prefer Russian influence to predominate there for the time being.
Third, if there is any truth to Russian allegations that there are some 1,500 fatalities in the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali–and they were caused by a major initial over-reach by the Georgian military (we will need to wait for more details to emerge)–expect many more brutish bombardments like the Russians apparently have conducted in the Georgian town of Gori, alas.
Fourth, some context: ever since the overly hasty recognition of Kosovo went live, Putin has been very keen to intimate what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, having personally threatened Saakashvili that Russia would formally recognize as independent states Ossetia and Abkhazia. Unfair and inconvenient, at least to Georgian ‘sovereignists’ (or, to others, irrendentists)? Yes, to a fashion, as the perils of too breezy analogizing among these different situations is quite clear. Still, the Kosovo precedent was going to be used to Putin’s purposes, of course, humiliating as the events in Pristina were to Moscow, and with the barely concealed breezy cheerleading from Brussels and DC adding insult to injury.
Tomorrow, Nixon Center president and US-Russia policy expert Dimitri Simes is going to send some comments over on the crisis for readers of The Washington Note.
In addition, while I can’t yet quote from it, my colleague Anatol Lieven has a very useful background brief, “The South Ossete Conflict,” that will appear in Monday’s Times of London.