Tuesday, October 20, 2009

STORY: Even positive gestures can cause trouble in Caucasus. By Scott Taylor (thechronicleherald.ca)

IT WAS LAST YEAR around this time that I made an extensive reporting trip to the volatile Caucasus region. This strategically vital territory between the Black and Caspian seas is a veritable hornet’s nest of mutually hostile former Soviet republics and breakaway ethnic enclaves. Although the distances are not vast, my travels were made extremely problematic due to the number of closed borders, frozen conflicts and not so frozen conflicts.

In August 2008, the world’s attention had been briefly diverted away from the Beijing Olympics to news reports of conflict in South Ossetia. Very few pundits really understood the underlying cause of the clash, namely that ethnic Georgian forces had attempted to forcibly reclaim the tiny, self-declared independent territory back into its own sovereign authority.

When Russian troops subsequently intervened on behalf of the South Ossetians, western military analysts reverted to their well-worn Cold War playbooks to denounce Russia’s "aggression." It mattered not that Georgian troops had initiated the attack, and had been guilty of widespread slaughter of civilians and ethnic cleansing prior to the Russian intervention. The sight of columns of T-72 Russian tanks rolling through the North Ossetian mountain pass caused U.S. Senator John McCain to make the bizarre declaration that "today we are all Georgians."

As events unfolded, World War Three did not erupt, Russia did not annex Georgia, as many had feared, and after France successfully negotiated a ceasefire, the Caucasus returned to the status of being a wobbly stack of short-fused powder kegs. With the crisis thus averted, the western media coverage quickly returned to the Olympic Games.

Never fully examined was the devastating domino effect that could have plunged the entire region into yet another round of vicious bloodletting. For centuries, there have been eruptions of violence between the three major Caucasus occupants — Georgians, Armenians and Azeris — as well as the smaller minorities such as the Abkhazians, Ossetians and Circassians

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contact: staylor@herald.ca

1 comment:

Gennady said...

I guess Mr. Taylor's "reporting trip" wasn't extensive enough for him to collect information not distributed by ITAR-TASS. "Ethnic cleansing" prior to the Russian invasion? Seriously? No one save the most pliant dupes even believed that at the time, much less a year on. If this was the only detail he got wrong, it would still be too much. Even limited-circulation op-eds can't rebroadcast widely-discredited propaganda (outside of Russia, I mean).

Maybe Mr. Taylor can indulge his apparent interest in the region by referencing real newspapers. Or EU reports. Or, indeed, books.

Helpful links!

NY Times

NY Times, again.

EU report - complete with debatable and non-debatable points.

"Engaging Eurasia's separatist states: unresolved conflicts and de facto states" - by Dov Lynch