Alex Massie

Trouble in the Caucasus

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Far from Beijing, Russia and Georgia kick-off in South Ossetia. I suspect that this is going to prompt people to raise the whole "should Georgia join NATO" thing all over again. Now, perhaps putting Georgia on the road to NATO membership might have cooled tensions in the region. But the opposite seems more likely given Russia's likely reaction to what it would see as a provocation. And, frankly, it's a great relief that Germany, among others, stopped the move to make Georgia a member of the alliance,  given the potential for trouble if Russia and a member of the alliance start fighting one another. It's hard to argue that South Ossetia is worth the life of a single Coldstream Guardsman.

Strangely, given their enthusiasm for Kosovan independence, both Presidential candidates and the White House are demanding that Georgia's "territorial integrity" must be "respected". McCain, of course, blames Russia, but then again, as a friend reminds me, McCain's foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann was a registered lobbyist for the Georgian government from 2003 until earlier this year.

But it's not immediately obvious why the South Ossetians must be forced to live in a state they don't feel part of while the Kosovans* had to be liberated from the intolerable burden of Serb rule. Sauce for the Kosovan goose is sauce for the Russian gander. In other words, South Ossetia may be the price of Kosovo. Only this time, of course, the west is supporting the other side... Which is especially strange since it seems as though it's Georgia that has been the initial aggressor this week (though, natch, the details of what exactly is going on remain murky).

End result: some people' self-determination is better than other peoples' ain't it?

UPDATE: James Joyner has a good collection of links.

*I should pehraps say that I dont have particularly strong feelings about Kosovo, either way. Mind you, absent the war and the ethnic cleansing, the Serb claim to Kosovo seems, on the face of it, rather stronger than Georgia's to South Ossetia. Of course, the Ossetians' problem is that there are only 70,000 of them. If they were more numerous they might be treated more sympathetically. Their other problem, of course, is that they want to be Russian and this runs against the historical grain. But that's their business, not ours.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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