Alex Massie

Trouble in the Caucasus, Day 2

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Edward Lucas concludes his op-ed in The Times on the Ossetian dilemma with this:

The fighting should be a deafening wake-up call to the West. Our fatal mistake was made at the Nato summit in Bucharest in April, when Georgia's attempt to get a clear path to membership of the alliance was rebuffed. Mr Saakashvili warned us then that Russia would take advantage of any display of Western weakness or indecision. And it has.

Indeed, as I suggested yesterday, Russia has taken advantage of "western weakness" by responding to a Georgian offensive. Given that Saakashvili has been bold enough to send his troops into South Ossetia even though his determination to join NATO was thwarted last year, one can only assume that he would have been even bolder had his country joined the alliance. And if a Georgia vs Russia conflict is dangerous now, it scarcely bears thinking how much worse it might be if Georgia were a NATO member.

Russia may have provoked this crisis, and one may be properly critical of, indeed deplore, many aspects of recent Russian policy in the Caucasus or the Ukraine, but the immediate responsibility for this crisis must be borne by Tbilisi. That Georgia  - despite recent crackdowns on the opposition - remains a more free country than Russia (according to Freedom House) doesn't require us to immediately endorse their view of the situation.

Meanwhile, Iain Dale cheerfully admits that he'd "never heard" of South Ossetia and then leaps in to suggest "something must be done" to back the Georgians and thwart Moscow. Seriously. I'm far from a Caucasus expert, but it's not obvious that there's one party wearing White Hats and another sporting Black Caps to help us determine who are the "good" guys and who're the "bad" ones.

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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