NYtimes om Ossetia och Georgien

Artikeln nedan kan vara värd att läsa för den som vill veta mer än standard artiklar med Ryssland ’bashing’. Det verkar som Georgiska ledare har tagit en chansning och satsat på en invasion för att ta tillbaka sitt territorium.

Vad är skillnaden mot den serbiska invasionen av Kosovo när den var en utbrytarrepublik? Jo, förstås att serberna georgierna är allierade med NATO. Någon som kommer ihåg NATO’s massiv bombningar av Serbien? Carl Bildt protesterade inte då mot bombningar med argumentet att det var serbernas ansvar att ta hand om mänskliga rättigherna för kosov albanerna.

Global Politics Add Oxygen to a Smoldering Dispute – NYTimes.com

Global Politics Add Oxygen to a Smoldering Dispute

MOSCOW — For centuries, the status of South Ossetia has been a nagging irritant on Russia’s southern border — sometimes akin to a canker sore, and sometimes an ulcer.

The Ossetians, who number about 60,000, are part of the patchwork of ethnic groups that inhabit the mountains of the Caucasus. They have long yearned for separation from Georgia, appealing to Russia, their northern neighbor, for support.

Over the years, ethnic tension became a way of life in Tskhinvali, the provincial capital of South Ossetia, a city ringed by highlands where concrete street barriers were sometimes erected to keep the groups apart. During flare-ups, gangs of young men would ambush convoys on mountain roads.

But global politics have breathed new life into the conflict, making it a flash point for resurgent tensions between former cold war rivals. Russia, especially, sees a threat of creeping American influence as its former satellites seek to join NATO.

When Kosovo won Western backing for its bid for independence from Russia’s historical ally Serbia, the Kremlin answered by vowing to win similar status for South Ossetia and for the Black Sea enclave of Abkhazia, which fall inside Georgia’s borders. Georgian leaders, meanwhile, hoped to quiet the conflict once and for all before applying for NATO membership.

Although Abkhazia has far more strategic importance to both sides, the city of Tskhinvali is in a valley ringed by Georgian-held villages, on terrain easily navigable by tanks.

Mountains seal off the region to the north, toward Russia, so separatists rely on a single key route — the Roki Tunnel, which cuts deep through the mountains — for commerce, military aid and evacuation to the north.

Georgian leaders have long felt they could take the enclave swiftly, pushing north in one or two days to the Russian border.

“Without heavy reinforcement from Russia, the general sense is that Tskhinvali is not defensible,” said Svante E. Cornell, research director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

Ossetians have long held themselves apart from ethnic Georgians, who make up more than 80 percent of Georgia’s people; the Ossetian language has Persian rather than Caucasian roots, as Georgian does.

In the early days of the Soviet Union, many Ossetians supported the Bolsheviks in suppressing a period of Georgian independence, giving rise to furious and lasting grudges. Ossetians can still reel off the names of villages that were burned by Georgian neighbors in the 1920s, and Georgians like to deride Ossetia as a den of smugglers.

Like Abkhazia, South Ossetia declared self-rule after a war in the early 1990s, but its status was never settled. Under a 1992 cease-fire agreement, it was managed by the Joint Control Commission, a body made of Georgian, Russian, North and South Ossetian representatives, with involvement from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Many ethnic Georgians fled, and with Russian and Georgian peacekeeping teams patrolling the region, 12 years followed with no military confrontation.

In 2004, the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, began a push to retake South Ossetia, including an antismuggling campaign aimed at shutting down a vast market that fueled much of the local economy. Tensions nearly led to full-scale war.

Hostilities routinely flare in the region late in the summer, when scarce water supplies pit neighbors against one another, said Sabine Freizer, the director of International Crisis Group’s Europe program. Though women and children have evacuated Tskhinvali in recent days, many of those who remained were probably prepared to wage urban warfare when the Georgians arrived.

“Basically, they just had to march in,” she said. “But I don’t know what’s going to happen afterwards. Ossetians are all armed, and they’re going to fight back.”

Om Claes

A blogger and general internet nerd from Sweden. I write about politics, internet, technology, the world around me and whatever else interest me. I write mostly in swedish but some english.
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