The Guardian 3 September, 2008

Georgia: End of a one polar world

On August 25, 2008 the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation voted unanimously to urge President Medvedev to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. The following day Medvedev agreed and signed a decree in which Russia officially recognised the two entities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry was instructed to open talks with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on establishing diplomatic relations with Russia.

President Medvedev issued a statement saying: "This was not an easy choice to make, but it is the sole chance of saving people’s lives and calling on other countries to follow suit."

The recognition of the two entities followed a cowardly military attack against Russian peacekeepers and the civilian population in South Ossetia by Georgian military forces.

At the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union the referendum in these two regions, envisaged by the USSR Constitution (which was still in effect at that time) was not held. At that time, on May 29, 1992, the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of South Ossetia proclaimed independence "taking into consideration the will of the people expressed during the referendum held on January 19, 1992".

On June 24, 1992 in Sochi, the then Russian President Yeltsin and the then Georgian President Shevardnadze signed an agreement on the principles of the settlement of the Georgian-Ossetinian conflict, under which a peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia began on July 14, 1992.

Joint peacekeeping forces, including Russian, Georgian and Ossetian military units, were stationed in the conflict zone. The Sochi Agreement also envisaged the creation of a Joint Control Commission on the settlement of the conflict.

During the next years the peacekeepers successfully fulfilled their role of keeping peace.

From March this year Georgia started to concentrate its military units, including heavy military equipment prohibited by the Sochi Agreement, along the division line between the main territory of Georgia and South Ossetia.

This culminated in the Georgian military attack on the night of August 7-8, against villages in South Ossetia. The capital of South Ossetia — Tskinvali — was completely destroyed, and the headquarters of the joint peacekeeping forces in Tskhinvali was also attacked. It is estimated that about 2,000 civilians were killed; 18 Russian peacekeepers were killed and more than 100 were wounded.

Georgia counted on a quick and victorious little war — it never envisaged the swift response that followed from the Russian side. Instead of appealing to international organisations for help, Russian troops moved into Georgia and captured military equipment and supplies provided mainly by the USA.

The media hysteria that followed was mainly to hide the unpalatable facts, such as the clandestine involvement of foreign forces in the military action against South Ossetia. The Georgian army had been re-equipped and re-armed by the USA and NATO. Some other countries were involved as well. The USA established a spy centre in Gori — all the equipment and vehicles were captured by the Russian military. While media "outrage" continues, Russia’s move was supported by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, with China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan issuing a joint statement vouching support for Russia’s "active role" in resolving the conflict.

It is worth noting the British Guardian’s comment to the effect that Georgia was the graveyard for a one-polar world.

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