Challenging the Mainstream Media on the Russia-Georgia War

The mainstream media (MSM) spin on the recent events in Georgia runs something like this. Georgia’s young leader Mikheil Saakashvili, the Columbia Law School graduate who came to power after the heroic “Rose Revolution” in 2003, is a great friend of America (providing the third largest detachment of “Coalition” troops to Iraq). His commitment to democracy and Georgian independence have annoyed Moscow, which still retains aspects of Soviet-era authoritarianism, still cherishes ambitions to dominate border states once part of the USSR, and is (for unexplained reasons) suspicious of U.S. hopes to integrate Georgia into NATO. It has taken advantage of separatist movements in Georgia to weaken the Tblisi government.

Saakashvili, in an effort to establish effective control over his whole country, sent troops into the breakaway region of South Ossetia August 7 (just before the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing). Russia used this as an excuse to flex its muscle, invading a country for the first time since the USSR invaded Afghanistan in December 1979. It not only drove Georgian troops from South Ossetia but along with allies in the separatist Abkhazia region attacked targets throughout Georgia. It’s a clear case of unwarranted aggression.

This narrative has been effectively challenged or at least contextualized in columns by Charles King in the Christian Science Monitor, Brendan O’Neill on Spiked, and Justin Raimondo on Antiwar.com, among others. Here I’d like to list some of their main points, along with some historical background:

1. Saakashvili, who owes his position to U.S. interference in Georgian politics, is no liberal democrat but an autocrat who jails political enemies and media critics and uses force to quash anti-government demonstrations. He accuses foes of coup plots which he equates with “aiding terrorism.”

2. Russia is alarmed at the unceasing expansion of NATO, an alliance formed to secure western Europe against a Soviet attack that never happened. Russian leaders expected NATO to dissolve along with the Warsaw Pact at the end of the Cold War. Instead it has expanded to include Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1997 and Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in 2004. Inclusion of the Baltic states brings NATO right up to the Russian border. Washington is pushing for the eventual inclusion of Ukraine (another country where Washington has been meddling politically) and Georgia in the alliance. Russia has repeatedly warned that it can not tolerate this.

3. The whole of Georgia was part of the Russian Empire from 1801, and was absorbed into the USSR in 1922. It became independent with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. During the Soviet period, South Ossetia and Abkhazia (as well as the Adjara region) had autonomous status within the Soviet Republic of Georgia. Use of the native languages was encouraged by the state and South Ossetians, Abkhazis, and Adjaris favored over Georgians or Russians for bureaucratic posts in their regions. In the last couple years of the USSR, new laws imposing the Georgian language nationwide and banning regional-based political parties caused South Ossetians to declare a Soviet Democratic Republic. In 1991 polls showed that they overwhelmingly favored the preservation of the Soviet Union and opposed integration into a new Georgian state. At the time Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia called South Ossetian separatists “direct agents of the Kremlin, its tools and terrorists.”

In 1992 the new regime of Eduard Shevardnadze in post-Soviet Georgia announced its intention to restore a 1921 constitution stripping these regions of autonomy. In response the South Ossetians conducted a referendum, voting overwhelmingly for independence. Violence in the region drew Russian concern and in June, after hundreds had died, Tblisi agreed to the creation of a tripartite peace-keeping force of Russians, Georgians and South Ossetians in the region. The following month Abkhazia proclaimed itself independent, and Tblisi sent 3000 troops into the poorly defended region and engaged in wanton destruction. The majority in both regions apparently want a divorce from Georgia and either independence or incorporation into the Russian Federation. In 2002 South Ossetia’s elected president, Eduard Kokoity, officially requested that Moscow recognize the Republic of South Ossetia and its absorption into the Russian Federation.

4. While Vladimir Putin was president, Russia conferred citizenship and passports on most South Ossetians and can thus argue that it has an obligation to defend them from aggression. Russia can also argue that it has an obligation to defend its peace-keeping troops from attack.

5. Saakashvili has cultivated an alliance with the U.S., even supplying the third largest detachment of troops (2000) to the “Coalition forces” in Iraq. (Georgia has only a population of 4.7 million people.) The Georgian Army has been trained by U.S. and Israeli forces. Saakashvili has sought membership in NATO, depicting Georgia as a European democracy confronted with a bullying undemocratic neighbor. Moscow finds Saakasvili’s rhetoric provocative.

6. While the MSM has depicted the Georgia crisis as the result of Russian aggression, the initial large-scale military action was a surprise aerial attack on the regional capital of Tskhinvali on August 7 followed up by a tank and mortar assault August 8. This produced a prompt Russian military response. However, it does not appear to have been planned well in advance. A senior U.S. official told the New York Times, “It doesn’t look like this was premeditated, with a massive staging of equipment. Until the night before the fighting, Russia seemed to be playing a constructive role [in maintaining peace between Tblisi and the Ossetians].”

7. Georgia plays an important role in the geopolitics of oil, since the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline completed 2005 passes through it, connecting the Caspian Sea oil fields to NATO member Turkey, bypassing Russia. Many Russian officials feel it an effort to diminish Russian influence in the Caucasus and justify the stationing of U.S. troops in the region. It may be that Saakashvili believed Georgia so valuable to the U.S. bloc, because of the pipeline, military cooperation and political allegiance, that he could assault South Ossetia counting on the U.S. to restrain any Russian response. But as the MSM reports, a U.S. military response is highly unlikely.

8. The Russians have justified their actions by making pointed references to U.S. actions in recent years. In February, when the U.S. recognized the Serbian breakaway province of Kosovo, split off from then-Yugoslavia by a NATO bombing campaign in 1999, the Russians denounced the move. They stated that the U.S.-led attack (the first war in Europe, including the first aerial attack on a national capital, since 1945) and the detachment of part of a sovereign state, ostensibly to protect an ethnic group, was a dangerous precedent. One can thus read the Russian actions of the last week as a tit-for-tat response to the arrogant use of American power in Russia’s immediate backyard.

I wrote after Kosovo’s U.S.-backed declaration of independence six months ago:

[The Russians’] opposition to Kosovo’s independence might be perceived as a slight irritation in Washington among those eager to establish a new client-state and drag it into NATO. But this move comes on the heels of U.S. meddling in Georgia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, the relentless eastward expansion of NATO, and moves to locate missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russian government is in effect saying: “Look, you intervene at will in Latin America, forming and toppling governments as you will, arguing it’s necessary for your ‘national security.’ We who have been invaded many times from the west have legitimate reasons to support our friends in the Balkans, including the Serbs whom you’ve maligned and mistreated disgracefully. Do you really think you can just wrench away a province from a Slavic country friendly to us, through brutal military force, and expect us to take it lying down?” I have the feeling that Washington blew it here–and that there will be some blowback.

Here’s indeed some blowback. The Georgian regime is humiliated, and Washington embarrassingly impotent to go to Saakashvili’s aid. Quite likely the young president’s constituents will turn on him, shocked by the utter folly of his provoking the Russian bear.

And the MSM take will be: Russia is flexing its muscles, secure in the knowledge that Europe needs its oil and natural gas and so the West cannot prevent its bullying antidemocratic actions. Some will call it a new Cold War. But don’t expect much genuine historical analysis.

*****

The parallel between Kosovo and South Ossetia is not of course exact. Kosovo plays a more important role in Serbian history than South Ossetia in Georgian history. It experienced a far more dramatic ethno-demographic change in the last century and a half than South Ossetia. (A 1871 report by an Austrian officer indicates that Kosovo was 64% Serb, 32% Albanian, whereas the Kosovars are now 92% of the total.) Serbs can protest that the mere reproduction rate of Albanians in Kosovo shouldn’t have entitled the Kosovars to seize the Serbian heartland with its churches, monasteries and battlefields rich in heroic historical memory. I don’t think Georgians can make a similar argument about South Ossetia; the Ossetians (who may be related to Iranians) seem to have predominated in the region since around the fourteenth century.

The premise for the U.S./NATO intervention in Kosovo in 1999 was that Kosovars were being persecuted by Serbian authorities. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen declared, “We’ve now seen about 100,000 military-aged men missing… They may have been murdered,” while a State Department spokesman warned, “There are indications genocide is unfolding in Kosovo.” (One thinks of the Russian accusation of “genocide” as it was reported 1500-2000 Ossetian civilians had been killed in the Georgian attack.) Actually it turns out only about 2000 civilians were killed in Kosovo between 1998 and 1999–around the number of South Ossetians killed by Georgians in just a few days. (To put this into perspective, there are about 100,000 South Ossetians in a region measuring 3,900 square kilometers and about two million inhabitants of Kosovo measuring 11,000 square kilometers.) A German court determined in March 1999 that, “Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo have neither been nor are now exposed to regional or countrywide group persecution in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” Does it not look as though the premise of persecution justifying outside intervention is much stronger in the South Ossetia case?

Before commencing the bombardment of Yugoslavia (again, the first such bombardment in Europe since World War II), the U.S. presented Belgrade with the “Rambouillet Accords” ultimatum: either allow NATO forces to operate at will and tax-free throughout the entire territory of Yugoslavia (once proudly non-aligned during the Cold War), while they secured Kosovo as Yugoslav federal troops withdrew–or be subject to attack. The U.S. made demands no sovereign state could accept. Russia in contrast has not demanded the right to move its troops at will throughout Georgia. It gave Tblisi no ultimatum before responding to what appears to have been a brutal sneak attack.

NATO bombed Belgrade for three months in 1999. The bombing of the Serb Radio and Television (RTS) headquarters in Belgrade on April 23 killed 16 RTS civilian technicians. Russia has reportedly attacked the Vaziani military airbase outside Tbilisi and military targets in the capital city to “punish” Georgia for the South Ossetia attack and, no doubt, its embrace of an unofficial military alliance threatening to Russia. Perhaps if the proposed cease-fire does not hold, Tblisi will encounter the same fate as Belgrade. But I think it more likely that the Georgian authorities will capitulate immediately to the invaders’ demands, which are more measured than the demands presented Milosevic.

Regardless of these differences between Kosovo and South Ossetia, Moscow seems to be saying: You cannot violate international law with your constant aggressions and provocations of Russia–a country seeking warm ties with the U.S. and Europe–without expecting us, at some point, to respond in kind. You cannot say it’s fine, as a “special exception” to violate the sovereignty of our traditional Serbian allies by delivering a state to the Kosovars while damning us for invading Georgia to defend the Ossetians. You have created this problem, and more to come.

Saakashvili explains Russia’s actions by saying, “They just don’t want freedom and that’s why they want to stamp on Georgia and destroy it.” The buffoon seems to echo Bush’s explanation for the 9-11 attacks: “They hate our freedoms.” Some see here the re-emergence of a Cold War, a pitting of democracy versus the specter of communist totalitarianism. Surely there are policy wonks nostalgic for the Cold War era and its simplicity. But it really has little to do with “freedom,” and we do not have here a clash of systems and ideologies. Russia is in its own way as capitalistic and imperialistic as the U.S. Rather, there’s a clash between those governing the U.S. and Russia, comparable to the inter-imperialist clashes and turf-battles of the past century and a half. Like those it has a lot to do with competition for the control of raw materials and markets. Within that big game, Russia suddenly seems much more competitive.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

14 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. jack said on August 19th, 2008 at 7:36am #

    it’s same old us imperialist propaganda machine that works hand in glove with the SOCALLED free press here. WHAT A JOKE.

  2. bozhidar balkas said on August 19th, 2008 at 9:11am #

    albanians outside albania have inhabited much of the balkans for at least 1,500 yrs before slav’ s arrival.
    they have inhabited much of croatia, serbia, montenegro, bosnia, and macedonia.
    croats were able to croatianize most of the native pop. croats did battle old roman pop (illyrians) in the costal towns but over two centuries or so, the townsfolk was also croatianized.
    i myself am descendant of slavs and illyrians. generally, slavs along the coast were blue-eyed with light hair/skin while natives tended to be much darker and with almost black eyes.
    kosovo may have been continually inhabited by albanians for 2,500 yrs.
    it was probably conquered by serbs in 8th century but serbs either did not want to or couldn’t serbianize them.
    the evil empires were never kind to albanians; so, kosovo was given to serbia. thank you.

  3. Michael Kenny said on August 19th, 2008 at 9:53am #

    Quite a good analysis. Just a few small points. I think that the ides of “Soviet-era authoritarianism” is a misunderstanding. European democracy has always been much more authoritarian than American democracy essentially because Europeans see the state as their protector whereas Americans see the state as a threat to their freedom which needs to be held at bay. After the overthrow of the dictatorship, Yeltsin turned Russia into a sort of clone of the US, which, of course, cut right across the assumptions of European culture. Putin realigned Russia on the existing European democracies and the US media smear that this was “rolling back democracy” seems to have more to do with his cracking down on the oligarchs (or perhaps, more accurately, of certain oligarchs with powerful international connections) than with any concern for Russian democracy.

    Saakashvili depicting Georgia as a European democracy confronted with a bullying undemocratic neighbour is all the more absurd as both Georgia and Russia are members of the Council of Europe, that is to say, parties to the European Convention of Human Rights and subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Only democracies can be members of the C. of E. Greece was suspended during the colonels dictatorship, for example, and Belarus is still waiting to be let in. Both individuals and states can bring cases before the Strasbourg court, so there is nothing to stop Saakashvili taking Russia to court for killing his country’s citizens and destroying their property. He’d probably win, but by going to court, he would admit that Russia was a democracy! The above applies also to Saakashvili’s questionable domestic conduct (Professor Leupp’s point 1) which will no doubt sooner or later end up in the Strasbourg court. Thus, whatever Georgia is, Russia, Britain, France, Poland, Ireland, Latvia, Ukraine and the rest of the C. of E.’s 43 member states are too. And vice versa!

    Point 6: the fly in the ointment of the argument that Russia planned the attack is, of course, that Georgia attacked, and it is hard to see how Russia could have “planned” to have somebody else attack it! Equally, of course, the fly in the ointment that the US planned the attack is that, if it had, it would hardly have left Saakashvili in the lurch as it did, thereby destroying US credibility worldwide.

    And, of course, as Professor Leupp points out, the cherry on the cake is that Saakashvili has torpedoed US policy in Kosovo!

  4. Editor said on August 19th, 2008 at 11:30am #

    While a rousing analysis, some of the better historical work on the conflict’s origins I have come across thus far, you still leave us hanging in the balance.

    Particularly, with reference to the following statement…

    “…In 2002 South Ossetia’s elected president, Eduard Kokoity, officially requested that Moscow recognize the Republic of South Ossetia and its absorption into the Russian Federation.”

    Certainly, provocative, but the fact remains that no major international body (to include the UN, EU, OSCE, CEU, NATO, etc) or no major individual power (to include Russia) has ever recognized South Ossetia’s call for (late-80′s, 1992, or 2006) independence. In fact, the referendums had no standing from Tbilisi, S. Ossetia’s central authority, and were thus discarded by all…including the Russian Federation.

    Throughout time immemorial, the land of S. Ossetia has been Georgian, and locally governed by Georgian’s and S. Ossetian’s even under many imperial masters. The regionss original name, Samachalbo, was named after the Georgian ruling dynasty of the region and allowed S. Ossetians to settle there after being driven out of their true homelands further North. Various states of autonomy resulted in the centuries that followed, but not even the Soviet Union recognized such a call for independence under its own political structure in the early 1990′s where it always remained part of the GSSR.

    Disturbingly, few ethnic Georgians living in the region have been awarded the right to vote during previous referendums/elections and often remain disenfranchised through both political machination and fear ( they are around 25% of the population, by the way). Even after the first war in the 1990′s, the cease fire established that Georgia would maintain large portions of S. Ossetia under its control where it has since established an alternative government.

    This is truly a convoluted situation where neither the US or Russian attempts to back key players are right in any sense. Each has motives, some outlined above, and rhetoric and action to leverage against each other. Only one thing is for certain, war is not the answer as each side has blood on its hands. The damage may be irreparable.

    Further points to ponder…………………………….

    Noticeably absent in your treatment was the Russian destruction of Chechnya on two occasions as it has sought increased autonomy. Kind of odd that they would support similar actions by S. Ossetian’s in Georgia for which they so ruthlessly meted out justice during two protracted wars, right? The same 9-11 rhetoric lambasted above was President Putin’s guiding doctrine to rid the region of terrorists as Russia-US relations reached an all time high in major media outlets. Furthermore, Russia’s inability to help Georgian forces establish a strong border in the Pankisi Gorge region, crucial in order to prevent the flow of Chechen fighters in and out of the conflict zone, required the US (enter increased US presence in region) to fill the void and create a fully operational Georgian border patrol, much to Moscow’s happiness (See news/handshakes/smiles all around by Russian and US leaders as border patrol ‘hailed a success’).

    Also, kind of odd for Russia to issue passports to S. Ossetians, many found unsigned…actually, its not to outlandish as it is quite similar to what Russia did in the 1960′s in China as it encroached on China’s Eastern border provoking military clashes with Chinese forces in a effort to seize more territory…a dispute that took almost 40 years to settle in 2005 when the border was formally established.

  5. Victor said on August 19th, 2008 at 11:30am #

    Great analysis, a glimpse of how free media should work.
    I would also add that during first conflict with Georgia in 1992 many Osetians were killed. Now in Georgia there are no opposition TV, not access to Russian speaking TV (even broadcasted from USA) and not access to any (news) Russian websites.
    Also, US commited about 2billion in aid to Georgian (mainly millitary) despite refusal of Mr. Saakashvili to pledge a peacefull solution to its separatist problems.
    Finnaly, reported by madia in US bombing by “Russians” of oil pipeline, the pipeline was trasnporting in part Russian oil, so why would they bomd their own ?
    Vic

  6. Peter said on August 19th, 2008 at 12:25pm #

    Prof Leupp,

    Thanks for this thoughtful analysis. What a relief to know that not everybody writing on the subject is a zombie.

    It would be interesting to know what you think the next constructive step is in developing relations with Russia.

    Thanks again

  7. cg said on August 20th, 2008 at 6:53pm #

    It’s impossible to develop honest relations with Russia when you have no honesty to offer.
    A relationship of the usual power versus power chess playing is the only option.
    Variations of the cold war(s).
    These West is occupied by demonic miscreants of every variety.
    Many of the East also.
    The truth sucks.

  8. bozhidar balkas said on August 21st, 2008 at 12:51pm #

    editor,
    i’m strongly for independence for tibet, chechnya, and kosovo.
    i wish you had supplied historical works that wld support your statement that s. ossetians have been driven from north into what was georgian territory.
    thank u

  9. Moderator - NewsGeorgia said on August 21st, 2008 at 3:10pm #

    Bozhidar,

    For good historical reads on this subject check out David Marshall Lang and his book “The Georgians,” Richard Rosen’s book “History of the Caucasus Nations,” and Sebastian Smith’s Book “Allahs Mountains,” – (you may have already read that as it is primarily about Chechnya).

    Not necessarily ‘scientific’…but here is a fairly good overview of early S. Ossetian history from globalsecurity.org. There is reference to a very old publication by Baron von Haxthausen (hard to find, by the way)…nonetheless, and also reference to parts of the more modern works listed above.

    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/south-ossetia-7.htm

    Have fun reading!
    Moderator, NewsGeorgia.net

  10. Jan Korenblek said on August 21st, 2008 at 3:46pm #

    Dear Bozhidar, I know I’m not the editor. But I couldn’t resist to give a small note here. I’m from the country of Holland which has quite alot of freedoms. But here my government also fails to see through the plans of the bush administration. We’re out there in the Afghanistan war, fighting the taliban.. And we are all fighting there for the wrong economical reasons.

    Kosovo is already independent, and I may hope both provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia will do the same as Kosovo did.

    And about your statement.. Ossetians being driven from north into what was Georgian territory? I’m not getting the picture, are you talking about the mass movement of a group of ppl.. Moving to find a new place to live, which became south ossetia?

    Or you might be refering to some of the ossetian extremists from north georgia, who wreaked havoc in different places of Georgia? Attacking the people?

    I’m not sure about it, but well I really want to say that in no any way Mr. Saakashvili had the right to murder those civilians at night.
    It must have been a great feeling for those troopers, to shoot people with tanks, while they are in their beds..

    And yes you must be right if you want to tell me that russian bombing also made civilian casualties.. I’m sure that happened too, but not on such a precise way as Georgia was doing to the Ossetians..
    Russia had a peace keeping force in south ossetia, lots of people had russian passports in that region. So the big red Russian bear will have some sticks to beat Mr. Saakashvili with..

    I wonder if you ever got to notice how every presidential candidate wants to keep the missile shield.. How they all have/had weapon industries lobbyists as advisors..

    I can not understand why, and feel ashamed for the fact that my country is allied with US and Nato. And that our guys need to die in some lonesome desert in Afghanistan.

    http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=klwWcp9eiPw

  11. Albanian said on August 21st, 2008 at 5:30pm #

    (A 1871 report by an Austrian officer indicates that Kosovo was 64% Serb, 32% Albanian, whereas the Kosovars are now 92% of the total.) Serbs can protest that the mere reproduction rate of Albanians in Kosovo shouldn’t have entitled the Kosovars to seize the Serbian heartland with its churches, monasteries and battlefields rich in heroic historical memory. I don’t think Georgians can make a similar argument about South Ossetia; the Ossetians (who may be related to Iranians) seem to have predominated in the region since around the fourteenth century.

    Ummm, not really. Kosovo’s population increased a bit after 1877-78 but that’s because Serbia throw out the Albanians from Nis (100% populated by Albanians that got it thanks to Russia) but in 1912, when Serbs, thanks to Russia got Kosovo Albanians made over 75%. As far as being their heartland: that is a Serbian lie; Serbs ruled it from 1180 till 1400 or so, Bulgars, the Byzantines and the Turks ruled it for much longer and there was no continuation of Serbia. For 400 years, Serbs were vassals and there was Serb rule anywhere, let alone Kosovo. Ask Serbs who did they threw out to the mountains when they seized Kosovo originally?
    You can read it all here, from Noel Malcolm: http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=4173

    Serbs will say anything about Albanians, Macedonians, MonteNegrins, Bosnians and Croats to get to keep the land. Kosovo became “their heartland” when they used the 1389 battle (half surrendered, half run away) to rally Serbian nationalism, that’s all.

  12. bozhidar balkas said on August 22nd, 2008 at 5:24am #

    jan korenblek,
    you may have mistaken somebody elses writing on s. ossetia and abkhazia with mine.
    i’m on basis what i know at this time at least for a most modern autonomies for abkhazia and s. ossetia.
    i recognize palestine, tibet, kosovo as free states. i do not recognize israel.
    recognition of israel ammounts to rewarding enormous war crimes.
    i evaluate as true that georgia had attacked s. ossetia. and probably in order to drive out pop or kill/maim as many as possible before russia cld retaliate. thanks for your comments

  13. Moderator - NewsGeorgia said on August 22nd, 2008 at 3:29pm #

    Jan,

    I posted to Bozhidar regarding the history of the Caucasus region. This is not contemporary, but more or less medieval history. Since you might not have access to some of the resources, the Ossetian’s were uprooted from their homeland by Mongolian forces, and found refuge in Georgia at the time. Here they were governed by Georgians, and in many cases adopted Christianity from the Georgians. You can take it from there with some of the contemporary stuff that is out there on the web.

    And the passports issue is raised yet again, which is of significant interest. It would be like the UK issuing passports to citizens of North Holland and using it as a justification for attack on all of the Netherlands. If the particular S. Ossetians with Russian passports are so keen on being Russian, perhaps they should leave.

    A quick scan of the various bodies of international law should make clear that 1. good neighborly relations requires that states refrain from granting en masse citizenship and passports on citizens of another country (prior to the outbreak of recent hostilities this was a primary Russian effort) and 2. citizens residing abroad are subject to the jurisdiction of the place of residence, not their country of passport issuance. Unfortunately, S. Ossetia’s territory is part of Georgia. As I said above, the Russians haven’t even recognized it as independent (much less the world) hence common usage of the term de facto in front of its name indicating the opposite of de jure, meaning ‘of the law’. Here the Russians can confer only limited jurisdiction on matters of consular affairs, for instance, and all other actions need to be approved by the host state.

    The Russian constitutional declaration that it can protect its citizens abroad through force is not covered under any form of international law, except those instances where ethnic cleansing and genocide are documented and undisputed evidence exists. So far, this is not the case in S. Ossetia.

    It will be interesting to see how the increased amount of passport issuance by the Russian government in the Ukraine is going in the Crimea area. Better yet, lets all just turn our backs for ten years, wake up, and hand the Crimea to Russia because it has citizens there. This is a severely flawed argument.

    Moderator, NewsGeorgia.net

  14. El Trocadero said on August 23rd, 2008 at 1:28pm #

    Dear Michael Kenny,

    Re. your Point 6 (“the fly in the ointment of the argument that Russia planned the attack is, of course, that Georgia attacked, and it is hard to see how Russia could have “planned” to have somebody else attack it!”) you will find a good list of very extreme Russian actions against Georgia (plus Georgians living in Russia) in the book “The New Cold War” by Edward Lucas. I recommend it highly and am in no way related to the author.
    Cheers,
    ET