Russia's encouragement to separatists

War-torn Chechnya
War-torn Chechnya

Russia's recognition of the separatist regions within Georgia is unsurprisingly giving hope to separatist factions within its own borders. If a politically naive person like me could easily foresee that this would happen, there's no way the politicians in Russia wouldn't have realized what would happen. Are they just planning to oppress any attempts at separation in a far more brutal manner than Georgia tried with South Ossetia?

For that matter, given the way Russia has been trying to annex South Ossetia from Georgia, will the Ossetians have the same problem with Russia as they currently have with Georgia? I have the feeling that they're gaining independence from one master just to lose it soon after to a far more oppressive and authoritarian master. The Russian government hasn't completely lost its senses, though, since it rebuffed South Ossetia's declaration that it would be joining Russia. They still have the presence of mind to keep up the thinly veiled appearance that they don't have imperial ambitions.

And Russia won't have to worry about something like China giving out Chinese passports to people in Tatarstan and have the region break away with support from China. At least the Chinese government is smart enough to realize how much credibility it would give to its own separatist factions.

US condemns Russia

Vice President Dick Cheney went all the way to Georgia to support the country and condemn Russia for violating its borders. Amazingly enough, I actually agree with him. Russia might have been justified in counter-attacking Georgian forces in the beginning, but they have reacted far more aggressively than what would be expected for peacekeepers. In fact, their giving away Russian passports to South Ossetians long before the conflict and the way they invaded the region with overwhelming force makes it pretty clear that they're not trying to support a people's autonomy; they want to take Georgia's territory for their own.

It's just too bad that America's preemptive invasion of Iraq based on false premises undercuts any condemnation of Russia the US government makes. Even when the Bush administration is doing something right, they had already sabotaged their own good doings long ago.

Better public relations for Georgia

The good news about the conflict between Russia and Georgia is that it seems to have subsided, although Russia is still dragging its feet. It's a relief to know that fears of a third world war were overblown, not that many people besides myself worried about it.

One outcome of the conflict is that Georgia ended up looking much better than Russia in the foreign media. Despite Georgia having attacked the separatist region of South Ossetia, Russia didn't help its image by raining down as much or even more destruction on the region and invading non-separatist regions of Georgia.

Their image also isn't at all helped by the fact that they're trying to prevent Georgia from doing what they already did with Chechnya, and the fact that they used unsubstantiated and apparently false claims of genocide as an excuse even as South Ossetians loot other Georgians. And they're doing a rather miserable job of making themselves not look like a nation with imperial ambitions, with the way they gave out Russian passports to South Ossetians and then claiming that they're invading to protect their citizens.

While there have been faults on both sides, although it may be unclear which side is "more" wrong, Russia clearly needs a better handle on diplomacy and foreign public relations.

Russia and Georgia almost at war

Russian and Georgian military forces have engaged in full-blown battle in South Ossetia, a separatist region that is still technically part of Georgia. With more than a thousand people dead and multiple aircraft shot down under two days of combat, this has the potential to erupt into a full-scale war between Georgia and Russia. I do hope that Georgia hadn't managed to secretly stash away a few nuclear weapons which could be used to start a nuclear war. (I doubt they managed to hold on to any, but it's not impossible.)

The death and destruction from two days of combat is bad enough, but I hope hostilities cease real soon before things become even worse. While I knew about the existence of separatist elements in Georgia and the friction it caused with Russia, I didn't even know the name of South Ossetia before this: it would be ignominious if World War III erupted from an unexpected corner of the world. Given the interests in the region by Russia, Europe, and the United States, it's not inconceivable, and the precedent of World War I erupting from the assassination of an obscure political figure isn't particularly reassuring.