- The night of August 7, Georgian forces launched an attack
on Tskhinvali, which Tbilisi cynically described as an effort to restore
the constitutional order. Just hours earlier, Saakashvili declared a ceasefire
in the conflict zone, but the move was only a propaganda maneuver
disguising the plan for a large-scale offensive. The timing is carefully
chosen - the attention worldwide is focused on the opening of the Olympic
Games, Russian Prime MinisterV. Putin is in Beijing, and Russian President
D. Medvedev is on a short vacation.
- Georgian forces are acting with extreme ferocity. A total
devastation of the Tskhinvali downtown which came under Grad missile, artillery,
mortar, and machinegun fire has been reported. Dozens of blasts shatter
the city every minute. Tens of armored vehicles and thousands of soldiers
moved into the conflict zone. Russian Peacekeeping Force Deputy Commander
V. Ivanov said that the positions of the peacekeepers were not directly
targeted or hit and that they continue to watch the situation in the region.
However, the Ossetian side and Russian journalists say that the peacekeepers'
headquarters came under fire.
- The offensive has already left tens if not hundreds of
people dead. Nevertheless, it appears that the activity of the peacekeepers
remains limited to monitoring the situation. Their inaction helps the aggressor
- the Georgian side states that the Russian peacekeepers are not intervening
in the conflict. The army of South Ossetia returned fire, but it has no
potential comparable to that of the Georgian forces. Several Ossetian villages
have already been seized and there is a possibility that the Zar highway
linking the Republic to Russia will be blocked.
- The statement made by Mathew Bryza in connection with
the events is remarkably cynical - cunningly siding with Georgia and interpreting
Moscow's position in the manner of a downright hooligan, he blamed the
escalation on South Ossetia. Earlier C. Rice said in Tbilisi that the US
was entirely on Georgia's side in the conflict, thus leaving no doubts
concerning the US position. US State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos
says the US demands that Moscow exert pressure on the leadership
of South Ossetia in order to achieve a ceasefire in the conflict zone.
At the same time, the Georgian side is no more than advised to exercise
- It is symbolic that Tbilisi launched the aggression
on the anniversary of the fall of the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
Its demise became a prologue to the next phase of the Balkan war -
to the war in Kosovo, the NATO strikes on Serbia, and the humiliation and
partition of the country. It has been said many times that the West is
reusing the Balkan scenario in the Caucasus, and that this time Russia
is planned to play the role of Serbia. Belgrade politicians who said
13 years ago that selling their countrymen in Croatia and Bosnia would
preclude the Western aggression now pretend they were unaware that Serbia's
turn would come after the Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.
- Is Moscow capable to learn at least anything from the
recent past? In 1995, the UN &laqno;peacekeepers» opened the way
for the Croatian army which was killing Serbs, and these days we see Russian
and Ossetian peacekeepers helplessly watch the Georgian artillery hammer
residential quarters in Tskhinvali. In the Caucasus, the consequences
of such helplessness are going to be catastrophic - there will be no respect
for the weak country unable to normalize the situation at its border and
to protect its citizens.
- The situation can spin out of control and evolve to the
conditions under which the federal authorities will be unable to control
not only the activities of informal leaders and the mobs of their followers,
but even those of the heads of the Republics of the North
Caucasus who - in case the escalation continues - will start acting
independently and attempt to somehow establish control over the process. North
Ossetian President Taymuraz Mamsurovalready said that hundreds of volunteers
are on their way to South Ossetia. He said: &laqno;We cannot stop them».
People from other Republics of the North Caucus and from Abkhazia are
ready to do the same. As of 4 a.m. August 8, the border guards in
North Ossetia did not report Russian forces crossing the border.
- The Georgian aggression deals a heavy blow to Russia's
positions in the North Caucasus. In case it is &laqno;backed» by
several terrorist acts (the blast at a beach in Sochi was a wakeup call),
more than just the 2014 Olympiad will be at stake. The entire system of
administration in Russia can be rendered shaky by several precisely targeted
strikes, the result being a direct threat to the existence of the Russian
- Sadly, the warnings about the long-term negative consequences
of the passivity of the Russian diplomacy in dealing with the issue of
the unrecognized Republics have had no effect despite being reiterated
for years. The obvious truth that the Georgian authority so heavily armed
by the West is not going to play games and some day will go all the way
to the end was simply ignored. As in 1992 and 1993, it is Russia who will
have to address the resulting problems, the difference being that today's
Georgian army is something much more serious than the gangs led by Kitovani
- So far Moscow has reacted to Georgia's aggressive intentions
solely by uncertain calls for peace and invitations to sign an agreement
not to use force, thus practically making the job easier for Tbilisi. Hopes
that &laqno;things will somehow settle down» and that Moscow's non-recognition
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will delay Georgia's NATO integration - which
was a decided matter - have not materialized. Tbilisi openly ridiculed
such expectations and remained fully aware of its tasks and of the support
of its allies. Unfortunately, Russia did not provide equally decisive support
to its friends in the Caucasus.
- At the moment, only urgent measures can remedy the situation.
Russia should immediately break diplomatic relations with Georgia, and,
in case the aggression continues, deliver airstrikes on the Georgian forces
in South Osssetia (including the Liakhv corridor which is Georgia's main
strategic recourse in the de-facto Republic).
- Only a prompt and resolute response can arrest the aggression
and also prevent similar developments in Abkhazia, which would destabilize
the Caucasus irreversibly. Statements like &laqno;we will not just stand
by» and &laqno;we have an adequate response» are no longer
enough. As the informational aspect of the resolute response, Russia should
state that it opens an anti-terrorist operation aimed at countering the
act of state terrorism and at protecting the lives of civilians.
- Following the return to the status quo - this time ensured
by force - Russia should immediately form a defense alliance with
South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the Russian parliament should establish
the status of the two Republics as associated subjects within the Russian
- © Copyright Andrei Areshev, Strategic Culture Foundation,