Russia Drives Itself into a Trap
Ground Reporter Vazha Siradze is a journalist located in Georgia.
The consequences of the confict in Georgia will have two aspects. First, they are deeply rooted in the past. Second, they are directed to the future. Explaining it figuratively: between the lines of operation orders given by Russian military commanders and the Russian Foreign Ministry’s press releases, one can read the words “Kosovo” and “Great Russia.”
Wasn’t it known that the precedent of Kosovo was directly projected on South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and more than 150 other frozen conflicts? Russia was strongly against recognizing Kosovo’s independence. Manifestations of separatism may spread like wildfire across the globe. So the first factor was Russia’s decision to punish the West for recognizing Kosovo’s independence.
The second factor is “Great Russia.” The External Policy Concept of the Russian Federation (published under Medvedev’s presidency) states that “the influence of the West on global processes decreases” and that Russia’s potential increases. This is true. The Russian leaders must have reckoned that the time has come to regain the status of a superpower that would influence all global processes and all important regions, starting from the neighboring countries. The Baltic countries are an exception – they caught the last train to NATO and the EU.
And yet, could Russia have acted otherwise? Could it have won tactically by strengthening its positions in the Caucasus and not lost strategically by marring its image and undermining international trust? It could have, but failed.
If Russia, in response to Saakashvili’s forcible action, had brought troops into South Ossetia to back up the peacekeepers there and then coerced him to cease fire but had not gone beyond the boundaries of South Ossetia, the assessment of its actions would have been different. And even though it would have been an encroachment on Georgia’s sovereignty, the world would have taken it calmly and Saakashvili would have faced the music. But Russia didn’t stop.
Russian troops acted very competently in professional terms: they struck at the second echelon – communications, logistics, infrastructure, etc. – to disable Georgian strikes. But apart from military logic there are norms of international law. There is a sovereign state and civilian facilities strikes are inadmissible in any war. That’s where Russia overstepped the line, along with its further actions of aggression and disproportional use of force.
Russia drove itself into a trap. With every strike and every destroyed house that millions of families all over the world saw on TV, its authority shrank. It seems that only Fidel Castro said a few words in support of Russia. Even Belarus expressed tight-lipped concern. The world shuddered at remembering the USSR in 1956, 1968, and 1979…
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