Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Cold War reheated as U.S. and Russia duke it out over Georgia

August 11, 2008

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

The temperature at the United Nations Security Council hasn’t been this high in years — and it’s not because the U.N. management raised the thermostat slightly to cut electricity costs. It’s due to the heated exchange of insults and accusations between Russia and the United States, which has reached a fever pitch reminiscent of the Cold War years.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad accused Russia on Sunday of using the Georgian incursion into Georgia’s breakaway enclave of South Ossetia as an excuse for a massive military assault against its tiny pro-Western neighbor whose ultimate goal is “regime change” in Tbilisi. He also assailed Moscow for waging a “campaign of terror” against the civilian population of Georgia, a former Soviet republic.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin shot back that regime change is an “American invention” and suggested it was hypocritical of Washington to talk about attacks on civilians in light of what it has done in Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia. Churkin said Russia is only trying to defend its peacekeepers and protect civilians from Georgian “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” in South Ossetia, a small pro-Moscow province that threw off Tbilisi’s rule in the 1990s and has been managed by Russian troops since.

There’s a subtext to this dispute and it isn’t just the U.S. and European support for the declaration of independence of Kosovo, a former breakaway region of Serbia that seceded in February. Serbia and its ally Russia were both enraged by what they saw as an unjustified tearing away of a large chunk of Serbian territory in violation of international law. (Of course, the Georgian separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia — another Georgian breakaway region — took notice.)

Tensions between Russia and the United States have been simmering for a while.

When the United States announced it was planning to build a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic several years ago, then President Vladimir Putin was outraged. He dismissed U.S. statements that the shield was to guard against Iran, not Russia. In February 2007 at a security conference in Munich, Germany, Putin accused the United States of trying to create a “unipolar” world with Washington as its “one single master”. He made clear that Russia would not stand idly by while Washington tried to subjugate the planet. U.S. officials were taken aback at the force of Putin’s speech, which some said sounded like a declaration of a new Cold War.

Russia, richer than ever thanks to its massive oil and gas revenues, has made no attempt to hide its irritation at Washington’s staunch support for Georgia’s NATO aspirations. It views the expansion of NATO towards its borders as an encroachment on its sphere of influence.

Is it possible that when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili decided to go into South Ossetia and try to put it back under Tbilisi’s control, he gave Russian leaders a golden opportunity to severely punish Georgia’s pro-Western leadership and show the world that Russia is no longer the weak, economically devastated nation it was in the 1990s?

Perhaps the message is — Russia is back, it’s powerful and it won’t tolerate anyone messing around in its backyard.

Or is there another message here?

Comments

Quite the heated torrent here. Congratulations for reading this far.

If it isn’t obvious to you by now, let me suggest that probably 2/3 of the postings here are either direct propaganda or people just repeating the propaganda they’ve heard. Anybody can post *anything* here, with absolutely no accountability. So why do we even bother to read it? Why am I even bothering to contribute? I think it is to restore my belief that there are still a few of us out here who can think.

All of the reputable reports are completely understandable as the kinds of things one might expect given both sides’ positions in this conflict, even with openly announced intentions. The deaths of civilians should not come as a surprise. The appearance of civilian lives being intentionally targeted is not necessarily a reflection of true intent. Russia’s attacks, at least on military targets, throughout Georgia are simply militarily prudent, given the conflict. Georgia’s initiation of hostilities against the Russians “peacekeepers” already on Georgian land were also completely understandable given the political developments of late. It is all quite understandable, given each side’s reasoned position. How to say whether one side is more right than the other in their disagreement is beyond me, and probably any of us.

The rest of the allegations here, about genocide and atrocities and so forth, these are completely and totally unsubstantiated. That doesn’t mean that they are all untrue. But even when a report is factual, it does not mean it reflects the complete truth about the situation. Even the reports of the snipers intentionally killing civilians could be factual, but there are so many possible explanations behind it that we still know nothing. These could be Russian special agents performing these atrocities as a part of a campaign to smear Georgians, consolidating any Ossetians that were otherwise undecided in their loyalties. These could be renegade racists from Georgia acting without any official sanction or support. These could be military snipers from Georgia who are acting against orders. Or the civilians could be engaging in efforts directly supporting the “invaders”. Similarly, you should be able to reflect that we really do not know the truth about *any* of these unsubstantiated reports.

Very little truth is available to us at this point.

Unfortunately, it is well known that some racial hatred exists in the hearts of men, and that genocidal intentions sometimes come to light in otherwise well-meant endeavors. Georgians have always said that “Russia wants Georgia — without the Georgians.” But does that really explain the Russians’ reported bombing of civilian targets throughout Georgia? Probably not. But once open hostilities begin, the worst and ugliest parts of the hearts of men find opportunity for expression. And that goes for all men. No matter how just the cause (and especially when unjust), war will inevitably bring out evil actions from all sides.

Apparently that goes for bloggers as well.

Posted by onlooker | Report as abusive
 

It’s hard to find who’s right and who’s wrong under those circumstances.
But I think that Georgia is far more aggressive than it should. If Russia was as aggressive, it would destroy the majority of the armed forced of Georgia and change its regime, in about 2 weeks of full-scale war, in a US-style manner. Russia can certainly do that, but it didn’t.
Consequently, I think that Russia’s answer to Georgian surprise attack was legitimate – and expected.
I also think that Georgia will cause more instability in the future in the Caucasus region.

Posted by Theo | Report as abusive
 

Both parties are to blame in this unfortunate mess. What you have here are two stubborn governments, who’s heads are too thick to consider a better way to resolve the issue. Georgia threw the first punch when it bombed the capitol city in South Ossetia. Russia blitzed it’s way carelessly through the region, and hit targets outside of the “flashpoint”.

Neither are innocent of fault and both have escalated the conflict.

That is simply all that needs to be said. There are far too many comments that are immature and bias towards one party. Most of the commentators have no idea what they are talking about, and they truly have no interest in global issues. To them the this conflict is just entertainment.

Posted by Will | Report as abusive
 

WHAT IMPRESSES ME, IS THAT SO MUCH SHOULD BE MADE OF RUSSIAN ACTIONS, WITH THE YANKEE DOODLE DEVILS SURROUNDING THEM (AND EVERYTHING IN THE MIDDLE EAST AS WELL).
BARELY A WORD IS UTTERED REGARDING THE US AND ISRAELI BOMBERS FROM HELL, SLICING PEOPLE IN SHREDS WITH CLUSTER BOMBS AND THE LIKE….WITH US TAX DOLLARS OF THE COMMON FOLK (WHO CAN’T VOTE THESE HEINOUS CRIMES DOWN). THEIR “DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED” ROTTEN LEADERS CAN CLAIM A MANDATE. THESE “LEADERS” ARE CHOSEN FOR AMERICANS BY THEIR JEWISH MEDIA….AND THEN WE CAN VOTE FOR OUR CHOICE OF “THEIR CHOICE”.
THIS ROTTEN BUNCH THEN INVADES THE WORLD “AT WILL”.
THE WORLD DESPERATELY NEEDS RUSSIA TODAY….AND PUTIN LOOKS LIKE A STRONG LEADER TO EVERYONE (WHO IS UN-BIASED).
THE AMERICAN MEDIA, BRITISH AND FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTERS (BOTH JEWISH) AND BUSH’S PUPPET-MASTERS CONTROL THE PROPAGANDA MILL….TO KEEP THE LITTLE GUYS CONFUSED.

AMERICA NEEDS RON PAUL….NOW.

Posted by ART DEKKO | Report as abusive
 

I have to agree with the last 2 statements … both parties are at fault. Its just a shame innocent lives are lost. But that happens in every conflict its sad when people cant sit down and just work out things instead have to resort to violence. Shame on both presidents of both countries … they both should resign and the new leaders sit down and talk about how to fix the situations leading to this current conflict so it doesnt happen again.

Posted by Shaun | Report as abusive
 

Bring back the draft. Now . We didnt like the russians in our back yard either. show of strenth is now called for.not weakness. lets stand together.

Posted by s mueller | Report as abusive
 

W.H Lindeman – do you really believe that only other countries media is controlled and censored by the government or the political process???
We do not hear half of what is really going on in the world!

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive
 

Hi friends,
Pls wake up. Its clear that Georgia started the war.Us didnt brighten the red light or showed a greed light.When US cant even think russian missiles in Cuba or 1000 miles near to its border, why they want to provoke a potential power by installing so called missile shields in ex soviet states and tell its against Iran. So have they decided to go war with Iran, Iran has elected government and their citizens only worry is US. How they can think abt invading a soverign country like Iraq,Iran? This is what we call imperialism. Early Russia was there to counter balance. Infact we dont like any superpowers in world, but histroy has shown that its needed to avoid small wars with minor countries and for world order. It also required 2nd superpower or block to balance the power. Lets admit that both US & Russia has done everything putting their countries interest as first. Both are having similar nature. But now US has grown too much that even Europe is afraid to raise its voice against it. Early France had an independent opinion like Russia, china & India. Now it seems new president of france is also bouught like Tonny blair and new pm of UK. UK should added as next state of US since UK has lost its influence and its identity.
ONE THING IS CLEAR FOR ANY LIBERAL THINKERS, US AGGRESSIONS AND IMPERIALIMS SHOULD BE CHECKED AND STOPPED. History has shown that imperialist countries will be eventually replaced by another one, can be europe or some other blocks. So may be we wont be able to see that change,but surely america can expect their fall within next 50 – 100 years at this pace. after all its a net borrower, somebody has to finance for americans to eat and shit. Long live so called representives of peace and democracy.

Posted by vijay | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •