U.S. lights the match in the Caucasus

By now, you’ve probably smelled a rat in the conflict over South Ossetia, and considering how slow Machetera’s translation factory is these days (August is just so very hot) you’ve probably already figured out what’s really going on. Nevertheless, Machetera always appreciates undiluted facts accompanied by good visuals, and this article from Luigino Bracci Roa, makes everything perfectly clear.

Kosovo Yes, Ossetia No: Understanding What’s Happening in Georgia

Luigino Bracci Roa – YVKE Mundial

Translation: Machetera

The Georgian President decided to resolve the problems existing since 1989 with the separatist province of Ossetia, in the most radical way: launching a surprise invasion, supported by the United States and taking advantage of the fact that the planet was distracted by the Olympic Games. Ossetia’s secession would need to be done away with before December, in order for Georgia to join NATO. 99% of the inhabitants of South Ossetia wish to join with North Ossetia, under the Russian Federation. But the world does not support them, although it did support Kosovo’s secession.

A heated conflict broke out last Friday in the Georgian region called Ossetia, when the Georgian army tried to take a city by surprise, in order to put an end to a movement that since the 1990’s had been trying to reunite this region into a single country forming part of the Russian Federation.

This brought on a strong response from Russia, which entered the territory. “The Kremlin sent tanks and planes to the separatist capital, Tskhinval, in order to thwart its capture by Georgian troops which, yesterday at noon, were on the verge of controlling the city after a massive assault, in which, according to various sources, there were numerous civilian casualties,” said Spain’s El País.

To better understand the conflict, one must understand exactly what’s going in Georgia right now. We should also explain Ossetia and its aspirations. And finally, we should understand the similarities and differences between Ossetia and Kosovo, and why.

Georgia, Supported by the United States, Wants to Join NATO

Behind the scenes, what’s happening is a fierce geopolitical conflict where Georgia, a country strongly supported by the United States (where with North American support, a “Rose Revolution” took place in 2003 which toppled the then president, Eduard Shevardnadze) faces a region, South Ossetia, which wishes to join with North Ossetia, the republic which forms part of the Russian Federation.

According to the analyst Peter Lavelle, Georgia has also made an extraordinary effort to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), the western military bloc originally created to defend against the USSR, since its entry would allow its president Mikhail Saakashvili, to fulfill his promised Membership Action Program, necessary for bloc entry. He wanted to do it before December, the date of NATO’s next meeting.

However, Georgia cannot belong to NATO, because in order to be a member of this organization, member states must not have unresolved territorial problems. Georgia has a problem with Ossetia and the region of Abkhazia, which also proclaimed itself a republic.

Present NATO membership. Source: Wikipedia

Saakashvili has to resolve his problems with Ossetia in order to join NATO. Despite promising a unilateral truce on August 6th, on August 8th, Saakashvili broke his promise. “The reason is obvious: the whole world is watching the Summer Olympics in Beijing,” explained Lavelle, who added that the United States gave its tacit support to Saakashvili’s “senseless aggression.” “NATO would probably have done the same, although with the usual moral cover of calling for respect for human rights.”

And so it happened. President Bush, who was visiting Beijing, issued a short notice on Saturday, asking for an “immediate” end to combat in South Ossetia. “We have asked for the Russian bombardment to end and return to the situation of August 6th,” he said. “Georgia is a sovereign country and its territorial integrity must be respected,” he added. He said that he would work with his “European allies” to “launch an international mediation to resume dialogue.” “Russia must support these efforts to re-establish peace as soon as possible.”

Lavelle added that the western countries, and Ukraine have supplied Georgia with a strong arsenal of heavy weaponry, and that U.S. military officers had practiced “wargames” and have trained Georgia’s new forces, through military exercises.

South Ossetia Wishes to Unite with North Ossetia and Form Part of Russia

The Ossetians consider themselves an ethnic group apart from the Russians and the Georgians. They have their own language, customs and culture. At present, Ossetia is divided in two: a good part of its territory, North Ossetia, forms part of the Russian Federation, but another part, South Ossetia, belongs to Georgia.

Once the process the Soviet Union’s dissolution began in 1989, South Ossetia declared itself united with North Ossetia, a decision that the Georgian Parliament declared unconstitutional, and the international community refused to accept. This was the cause of a civil war, which led to some 100,000 Ossetians leaving for the Russian part of the country. Georgia has received the support of the United States in the conflict, while South Ossetia received that of Russia.

On January 19, 1992, the majority of South Ossetia’s inhabitants voted in favor of being annexed by Russia. A new referendum held 14 years later, on November 12, 2006, with 91% participation, resulted in a 99% vote for independence from Georgia and union with North Ossetia and Russia. This referendum was not recognized by Georgia or the international community.

Hostilities ceased following the signing of an accord between Russia and Georgia, through which, after July 14, 1992, a tripartite peacekeeping force was deployed, with Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian troops.

Oil, Always Oil

One cannot fail to notice that Georgia is a country of vital importance from a geopolitical point of view, since thousands of barrels of oil and gas are extracted daily from the Caspian Sean and need to be transported to the Black Sea in order to be brought to the Mediterranean and the rest of the world.

The following map shows the oil pipelines in green.

The United States only controls the pipelines that pass through Georgia, but the rest go through Russia. If South Ossetia joins with Russia, these Georgian pipelines will no longer be controlled by the United States.

Wire service photo of the pipelines being constructed between Dzuarikau and Tskhinval, on the border between South Ossetia and Russia. This photo was taken in the village of Kvaisa in June, 2008.

Georgia’s Aggression

Once this is understood, we can go back to what happened last Friday and Saturday in Ossetia.

Simultaneously with the start of the Olympics in Beijing, the Georgian army tried to take the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali, by surprise, in order to put an end to the movement that was trying to re-unite this region into one country that would form part of the Russian Federation.

According to the Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoiti, 1,400 civilians may have died in the Georgian offensive against strategic points in Ossetia. According to the Russian ambassador in Tbilisi, Viaceslav Kovalenko, “at least 2,000” civilians were victims of the Georgian attacks against the capital of the separatist South Ossetian republic.

Destroyed Georgian tanks, shown on local television

Georgian warplanes have attacked positions in the province of South Ossetia, hours after opening fire with tanks. Various Georgian Su-25 planes took part in the attack on the capital of the separatist region, Tskhinvali. The Press Information Committee for the secessionist government confirmed that the attacks had caused at least fifteen deaths.

Russia Responds

This brought a strong response from Russia, which entered the territory. “The Kremlin sent tanks and planes to the separatist capital, Tskhinvali, in order to avoid its capture by Georgian troops, which by noon yesterday, were on the verge of controlling the city following a massive assault in which, according to various sources, numerous civilians were killed,” said Spain’s El País.

In response, Georgia’s president, Mikhail Saakashvili, accused Russia of invading Georgian territory and declared a general mobilization of the army which would entail an additional 100,000 men joining the armed forces. “Russia has entered into a war with us on our own territory,” warned the Georgian leader. An additional contingent of 2,000 Georgian soldiers deployed in Iraq will be added to these troops.

The reinforcements entered Tskhinvali shortly after Russia’s president, Dmitri Medvédev, declared that the security of its compatriots would be defended, and accused Georgia of violating international law in launching its aggression against South Ossetia, which has existed as an independent state without international recognition for 16 years.

Russia does not intend to fail. Its president, Dimitri Medvedev, has spoken by telephone with his U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush, and indicated firsthand that the only way out of the present crisis is the withdrawal of Tbilisi’s troops.

On Saturday, the city of Gori was bombed, in Georgian territory outside Ossetia. The bombs fell in civilian areas, leaving dozens dead. International agencies accused Russia of responsibility for the bombing.

Georgia, which declared war in the first place, now insists on a ceasefire to prevent an alleged “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated by Russia in its territory. Moscow’s representatives defend the legality of their intervention to protect its citizens in the region.

Abkhazia Fights Back and Takes Over Areas Occupied by Georgia

When these events took place, troops from the Republic of Abkhazia, which also declared its independence in 1992 but without being recognized by Georgia or the international community, decided to seize the opportunity and launched an offensive to retake the gorge of Kodori, that Georgia took in 2006, in violation of the demilitarization accords governing the surrounding areas, reached in 1995.

Kosovo Yes, Ossetia No

Despite the international community’s extraordinarily rapid acceptance of Kosovo’s independence and the dismemberment of the former Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia (supported by the United States and NATO), this has not been the case with South Ossetia, a territory that in any case did not wish to be independent but rather, to unite with North Ossetia, which is a republic which forms part of the Russian Federation. The reason possibly has to do with the support the United States gives Georgia, and the geostrategic importance of the territory, crossed by oil pipelines that carry oil and gas from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.

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