Why Georgia Matters

First, let me just say people need to more closely monitor what Tom Clancy has to say because he called this conflict in Georgia a long time ago in the fantastic video game Ghost Recon.  Don’t worry.  America wins in the end.  He also wrote a novel about terrorists flying a jumbo jet into the capital building during the state of the union way before 9/11.  The man is really on top of things.

Of course, the US media performed admirably in telling the story of Georgia.  Here is the narrative I heard:  The Russians attacked Georgian cities and infrastructure, killing thousands of civilians in response to Georgian attacks in South Ossetia against Pro-Russian paramilitary units.  The Russian response was overwhelmingly harsh and John McCain swiftly and decisively called on the Russians to withdraw immediately or face the full might of American force.

Of course, this sounds normal to those of us in America because, at the end of the day, there is no such thing as history and everything in the world revolves around how US presidential candidates respond to events.

First, a little context.  Georgia has a significant oil pipeline that transports the black gold from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea oil fields to Turkey and the Mediterranean (and thus the western world) while bypassing Russia (yay!) and Armenia who is officially at war with Azerbaijan.That’s one reason people care about Georgia, but there is another reason this story is interesting and that brings us to the Republic of Kosovo’s recent independence from Serbia.

The global community has not come to an agreement about separatist movements.  When does a domestic separatist movement, many of which use terrorism as a weapon, become legitimate?  When can that territory declare itself free from their current home-nation and create their own.  The US and the West said ‘we decide’ this month when they recognized the Republic of Kosovo after it officially broke away from Serbia.

This separatist issue doesn’t really effect Americans, unless Hawaii decides to bounce, but other major world powers like Russia and China, as well as Pakistan, India, Spain, Israel and many more all have territories that would like to start their own countries.  Despite international guidelines that vaguely outline when a territory can secede, in reality its American and NATO that decides who can legitimately secede and who can’t.  See the Kosovo example.

The Russians, who strongly supported the Serbian effort to keep Kosovo officially within Serbia have a bunch of small territories that want to secede, notably the Chechens.  So when America and the West declared they call the shots over Kosovo, the Russian were infuriated.  That type of precendent could stoke the fire of many seperatist movements the world over, especially in Chechnya.

What makes the Georgian story so interesting is the Russians basically did the same thing the US did in Kosovo.  They support the separation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia.  These territories would then become satellite states of Russia or be annexed and join the Russian Federation.  The thing is, it sounds like most people living in these areas want to leave Georgia and join Russia.  (I’d love to see a reliable poll.)  Should we let them self-determine?

4 thoughts on “Why Georgia Matters”

  1. PS.
    This is The Economist’s final thought on the whole situation:

    “In principle, sub-national states should sometimes be able to secede, but South Ossetia and Abkhazia clearly do not qualify. Neither enclave has properly consulted its people, including huge numbers of Georgian refugees. Nor has there been a long, hard effort to find a negotiated settlement. Mr Saakashvili should stop promising to regain control of the enclaves, and the West should insist on the case for international peacekeepers. But Russia’s aggression in Georgia must not be rewarded by conceding the enclaves’ independence. That really could set a dangerous precedent, in Ukraine, Moldova and—not least—inside Russia itself.”

    From: http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12009678

  2. You are right that one of the reasons this is such a delicate situation is because of the example it sets for separatist movements around the world.

    However, there are a number of differences between this situation and that in Kosovo.

    Slobodan Milosovich was a brutal dictator. He massacred anyone who was different from him or opposed his rule. Some would call his actions across the former Yugoslavia a genocide. NATO, not Bill Clinton and not Vladamir Putin, decided that was worth ending the Milosovich regime.

    Now it is still a bit unclear whether or not Georgia has oppressed the two breakaway regions. Learning more about this would allow us to much greater understand why this war broke out.

    You are right that the media has portrayed Georgia in a light that is probably too positive. There have been many reports that the Georgians invaded or instigated. The media has failed to tell the true story.

    I was fortunate enough to meet and speak to the Georgian Ambassador to the US three days after war broke out. I asked him to explain the Russian relationship with the breakaway regions and he told me that the Russian Army has manipulated and bribed them to disobey and revolt against Georgia.

    Clearly you need to recognize the source, but this just goes to show just how complicated the situation is.

    The bottom line is, nothing Georgia did warranted the Russian response, taking tanks well into Georgia near the capital city and creating refugees out of innocent women and children.

    While the oil issue is important, our relationship with Georgia is about a bit more than that. Georgia, like its neighbors Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic, have proven that ex-communist countries can succeed as capitalist democracies. They share common bloodlines and political cultures with us (a great teacher once told me that Georgians are “the real Caucasians”) Georgia and Ukraine still have a bit of work to go before they can be NATO members, but they have done a fantastic job in turning themselves around since the fall of the Soviet Union. It is these allies that will be key to our survival in the New World Order, and its about a bit more than democracy.

    I do not want to debate you the merit of John McCain’s responses, but will conclude by saying that in this New World Order, where Russia is once again unafraid to invade one of our great allies, it is important that our politicians understand the magnitude of these situations. We have seen Russian (or Soviet) aggression before and since you emphasize the importance of acknowledging history, our politicians need to know to avoid another Cold War we need to remember that history tends to repeat itself…unless we do something about it and prohibit these games of brinksmanship.

  3. You sounds like a man with an opinion on the situation so I have a few questions for you:

    What is this New World Order exactly?

    How do ‘these allies’ ensure ‘our survival’ in this New World Order?

    What do you propose we do to punish Russia?

    If you have any articles that informed your opinion, please put up the links. Thanks.

  4. First off, the situation in Georgia was initated by Georgia but instigated much more by Russia. Russia started providing the residents of South Ossetia with Russian passports and feeding the people. Essentially winning the hearts and minds with money and oppurtunity.
    Second, if you are looking for a good analogy in American history, you should look back to early American history under the Jackson administration. South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union in reaction to increasing tariffs on their slave run cotton/rice industries. Andrew Jackson, the bulldog that he was, and in what some consider the greatest speech of his administration, denied South Carolina’s right to secede, and kept the union together for another 30 years.

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