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The Caucasian chalk circle2008-12-04 10:10
Leonid Zhukhovitsky is a famous Russian writer and publicist. His works have been translated into 40 languages around the world. Today he shared his views on the situation in the South Caucasus with ‘GeorgiaTimes' readers.
Not much time has passed since August - yet if the Caucasian war has not been forgotten as such, it has certainly been consigned to the back burner. It is as if the zone of recent fighting has been outlined in chalk - as if to warn people to enter with caution. Occasionally politicians half-heartedly scold Georgia for its aggression or reproach Russia for its excessive reaction. It's just as in the old joke: whether he stole the fur coat, or it was stolen off him - either way, it's an unseemly incident. Essentially, the international political elite has seen through this localized Caucasian cataclysm with unusual coolness: really, the Western powers couldn't give a damn about Georgia, South Ossetia just doesn't exist for them, the path of the planned oil
pipeline hasn't been cut anywhere - so is there any need to fuss about trivial matters?
I, however, think that the events that occurred on the southern portion of the Caucasus deserve some serious analysis. Any conflict in which great powers are involved in one way or another is a grenade that is capable of exploding a larger powder keg under different circumstances. Remember what trivialities gave rise to what is now called international terrorism! Thank goodness that the five-day war did not dislodge the fragile supports holding up the rickety edifice of international order. But it could have. Unfortunately, it could have.
I am not one of the enraptured supporters of our current regime, I see a multitude of mistakes in its actions and consider it my duty as a writer to speak openly about them. But what can one reproach the recently elected Russian president for in relation to the events in the Caucasus?
Did he choose the wrong course of action? But it is only possible to talk about a mistaken choice when there is something to choose from. And did Dmitry Medvedev have even the slightest possible choice?
Georgian tanks were flattening Tskhinvali, the city had been destroyed, people were dying or fleeing to the north. What should have done? Ask that the Security Council be convened? One of the Western countries would certainly have used its veto right. What else - wait for the General Assembly to be convened? But with modern-day weaponry it would only have needed three days to reduce the whole of South Ossetia to rubble. How many people would have died - five, seven, fifteen thousand? After all, eight in ten inhabitants of the republic have Russian passports. Who needs a government which is incapable of defending its own citizens? Medvedev had no option - he sent troops across the mountain range simply because he did not have any opportunity to act otherwise.
It is said that Russia's reaction was disproportional, that it would have been sufficient to force Saakashvili's soldiers back beyond South Ossetia. Why did they need to take Gori and bring their army into Poti? But an army that has not withdrawn far can regroup, reinforcements would have come from Gori, all sorts of well-wishers would have brought new weapons to Poti by sea, and the localized conflict would have developed into a prolonged war with regular firing and periodic diversions. "Forcing them into peace" - this is not particularly elegant wording, but it quite accurately reflects the essence of the situation: it was necessary to take away the red-faced Georgian leader's inclination for war at least until the end of his presidency. Many Western politicians have berated Medvedev for his brutal response to this aggression - but has anybody suggested a more sensible course of action?