Independent – Georgia bows to might of Russia: Georgia’s appeal for a ceasefire seemed to have fallen on deaf ears last night as Russian jets expanded their bombardment, targeting the capital, Tbilisi, for the first time. As the world’s diplomats hurried to contain the violence and prevent the conflict engulfing the wider Caucasus region, Russia made clear it no longer considered Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili a partner, prompting accusations from his main ally, the United States, that Moscow was resisting peace and wanted regime change.
Reuters – Britons advised to leave Georgia immediately: “If you or your family have no urgent need to remain in Georgia you should leave as soon as possible. It is wise to do so while some air services are still available and the border remains open,” the Foreign Office said in a statement. It continued to advise against all travel to the separatist regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and also the upper Kodori Valley, also known as upper Abkhazia.
And, courtesy of David Orchard, a report from another (and nearby) part of the world that you’ve probably never heard of…
Your blog records Bush and Putin discussing Georgia in Beijing; one can probably guess who won the argument. (Whether Bush realised which Georgia he was talking about is a moot point. I’m sure Putin did.)
The situation in Georgia is terrible. But what is even worse is the prospect of similar conflicts arising in other troubled areas where the Russian bear has a sore paw. Such as TransNistria (or Trans-Dnistria, depending on whether you have a Romanian or Russian-language source) in Moldova.
Moldova is a peaceful non-aligned country, Europe’s poorest in terms of GDP, with an awkward and highly-armed Russian minority in a sliver of land / enclave (just like South Ossetia) between the river Dniester and the Ukraine, around the city of Tiraspol. There was heavy bloodshed there in 1991/92, but an uneasy calm has prevailed since. Until possibly now…the TransNistrian Russians are hawkish even by Moscow standards, and don’t need much of an excuse to cause trouble (even the Russians failed to persuade them to disarm in 2001). Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, is less than 100 km from Tiraspol.
My interest in all this is that I spent 90 days last year working in Chisinau on the “peace process” as an EU consultant, and hope to go back there in the autumn. It is a pleasant place filled with unwarlike people, although one has to be accustomed to a post-Soviet infrastructure on streets and pavements, and it definitely has Europe’s worst public lavatory (just by the President’s Palace!) Anyway, I made many friends there and the thought of Russian bombers demolishing their homes and killing the civilian population is more than abhorrent.
I heard personal – and vivid – testimony of a similar occurrence from a friend in Zagreb, when Serbian fighters strafed the housewives’ food market there in 1992, with heavy loss of civilian life. And to think all this is happening in yours and my lifetime…….
Ever get the feeling that we’ve just wasted five years… along with a shedload of credibility and military strength? In mean, can we really expect to get away with lecturing Russia over what one might (rather kindly) describe as ‘mission creep’?
UPDATE – Septicisle offers many links.
UPDATE – Meanwhile, George W. Bush is keeping an eye on things. Related article here.