Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
It’s true that Russia crushed Georgia’s army when it stepped in to help South Ossetian rebels but its forceful reaction to the Georgian attempt to retake rebel held areas scared its European partners and isolated the country. Only Nicaragua followed Moscow and recognised both South Ossetia and another breakaway region Abkhazia as independent states after the war.
And despite an overwhelming military victory, the war also showed up technological and organisational deficiencies in Russia’s army.
For Georgia, the unsuccessful war dented its reputation as a reliable and steady ally for the West in the notoriously unstable South Caucasus. It also slowed President Mikheil Saakashvili’s NATO ambitions and undermined his popularity at home.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is back. In a marathon Q&A session on Georgian television on Friday he said he himself was in great shape, but that the parliament speaker’s heart had recently stopped beating after suffering an allergic reaction to medication.
“As a result his heart stopped, he was in collapse,” Saakashvili said, tanned and relaxed. “But then they managed to save him.” He pulled his mobile phone from his pocket and read out text messages from his poorly colleague.
He was a suave central banker and she a “gas princess”, a young politician desperate to make her mark. In 1998 Yulia Tymoshenko, now Ukraine’s prime minister, said she knew her destiny lay with Viktor Yushchenko, who went on to become president.
“We understood that we are a team,” she said at that time.
It’s an assertion Yushchenko disputes — a clash of views that has defined this partnership since they overturned a Soviet-style leadership in the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and vowed a modern, Western future for Ukraine’s 47 million people.
Tension is mounting around the Black Sea following Russia’s recognition of two Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.
Russia said its navy was monitoring ”the build-up of NATO forces in the Black Sea area” as the U.S. Navy shipped humanitarian supplies to Georgia on Wednesday.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were celebrating on Tuesday after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree recognising the independence of the two regions.
Western leaders responded with harsh words. U.S. President George W. Bush said it increased world tensions and Britain called for “the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia,” where the two regions lie.
Western support for the opposition — open and behind the scenes – helped many people overcome fear of Soviet-style reprisals to stand for days outside Georgia’s parliament in 2003 or to pitch orange tents on Kiev’s main thoroughfare in late 2004, providing a lasting image of “people power” overthrowing a stale leadership.
Did Italy unwittingly trigger the crisis in South Ossetia and then play a central role in stopping it? It may not be the view in most of the world but you could come to that conclusion from reading some Italian papers.
First, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was quoted in a report by French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy on Wednesday, which was reproduced in full on the front page and pages 2 and 3 of Corriere della Sera, as saying that he was first alerted to the situation in South Ossetia by reports in the Italian press that he saw while on a dieting holiday in Italy.
A poster at the entrance to the World War One exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum depicts the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, minutes before they were shot dead as they toured the streets of Sarajevo in an open topped car. The two bullets triggered World War One. Alliances quickly came into play and an argument between Austria and Serbia drew in Russia, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain.
Europe was at war.
On August 8 this year Russia sent its forces into Georgia to repel Tbilisi’s attempt to wrest control of the pro-Russian, breakaway region South Ossetia. Georgia, like Ukraine, has been pressing to join NATO but has only been promised membership of the alliance at an unspecified future date. What would have happened if Georgia had already secured NATO membership, as it wished, at the alliance’s meeting in Bucharest back in April?
Ever since Russia launched a massive counter-offensive in response to Georgia’s attempt to retake the pro-Russian, breakaway region of South Ossetia, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has been omnipresent in Western media. He has appeared on CBS, CNN, BBC and pretty much every other English-language TV channel to accuse Russia of penetrating Georgia far beyond Ossetia, planning an assault on the capital and plotting his overthrow.
On Aug 11 he wrote an opinion column in the Wall Street Journal warning Georgia’s fall would mean the fall of the West.
The Caucasus tinderbox is alight again. How far will the flames spread this time and what can the outside world – the United States, the European Union, NATO – do to extinguish them?
The strategic significance of this mountainous region stretches back through history.