SteadyBlogging on Twitter (SteadyTweets?)

Friday, August 29, 2008

A couple things to read about Georgia/Russia

On vacation for an extended holiday weekend (vs the extended staycation I've been on most of the summer :). One of the many things I'd planned to catch up on is the blog--I brought w/ me a pile of NYT pages with articles I'd saved to post.

Here are a few articles that appeared over the past couple weeks regarding the conflict in Georgia; or should we say, more precisely, the conflict in South Ossetia, since it's unclear which nation, Georgia or Russia, has sovereignty over that disputed region. After the events of the last couple weeks, probably the latter..

If you're only going to read one article, you could do worse than the following long but comprehensive account of the roots of the current conflict; well, comprehensive in the sense of recent history, going back to approx Jan 2004 with the rise of Saakashvili to the Georgian presidency:

WASHINGTON | August 18, 2008
U.S. Watched as a Squabble Turned Into a Showdown
The U.S. seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia's anger and the resolve of Georgia's leader to provoke the Russians.

If that's too many words, at least take a look at the following map of the region the NYT people put together:

Here is one more, that also ran on Aug 18:

INTERNATIONAL / EUROPE | August 18, 2008
News Analysis: Europe Wonders if It Can Square Its Need for Russia With a Distaste for Putin
Europe’s dilemma: How does it balance its ties to Russia with concerns over the country’s new aggressiveness.

Here are the concluding paragraphs, beginning with a key quote from Jacques Rupnik, "an Eastern Europe expert at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences-Po":

“Russia has never been a nation state, but always an empire, with Muskovy gradually expanding its borders since the 15th century,” Mr. Rupnik said. “Russia built a state as it built its empire; the two were inseparable.”

The Russian Federation was never a state in its current borders, and more than 25 million Russians live outside it, mostly in the former Soviet Union. “These new borders are new and somewhat artificial,” Mr. Rupnik said. “And we in the West never fully measured the effect of this loss of empire on the Russians, or how integral Ukraine is to the Russian sense of self.”

The Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which Russia failed to stop, “was the real wake-up call for Putin,” Mr. Rupnik said. “The Russian conclusion then, and it’s widely shared there, is that the limit has been reached — no more concessions, a push for rollback, and definitely no Georgia and no Ukraine in NATO.”

Ukraine has its own built-in ethnic Russian enclaves in the east and in Crimea — the home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and handed to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Ukrainian-born Soviet leader. Like Ossetia, split by Stalin so that North Ossetia is in Russia and South Ossetia is in Georgia, Crimea is a kind of poison pill to keep Ukraine in line, one supported by nearly total energy dependency on Russia.

That is why, for those like Mr. Asmus, NATO’s response to Russia’s actions in Georgia should involve Ukraine. But that is also why many Europeans do not want to commit to defending another Russian neighbor when they have neither the will nor the means to enforce that commitment.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, there have been numerous border changes in Europe — mostly recently in Kosovo, the example Mr. Putin uses to defend Russia’s move in Georgia. “We are still in the process of building and making states,” Mr. Rupnik said. “The map is not finished.”

No comments: