Archive for the ‘NATO’ Category

On August 7th 2008 war broke out in Georgia, a small country on the Black Sea next to Russia. It is the first time since the end of the cold war that Russia has sent its military into an independent country.

Russia destroyed the Georgian army, sank some of its ships and blocked its port. On August 13th, after American protests, it began to pull back its army. But Russia remains in control of two parts of Georgia: Abkhazia in the north-west and South Ossetia not far north of the capital.

Georgia is small. It has about as much land and people as the American state of South Carolina. The country is democratic – power changed hands peacefully in 2003 in the Rose Revolution. Most are Christian and have been since the 300s. Their language is not related to Russian, Persian, Turkish or any other big language.

They were ruled by Russia through most of the 1800s and 1900s. Before that they were ruled by the Turks and the Persians.

To the west is the Black Sea, to the north the Caucasus mountains and over those mountains, Russia and Chechnya, where Russia has been fighting for years. To the south is Turkey and Armenia.

The Abkhaz and the Ossetians are not Georgians. Even before the war their parts of the country were largely independent, with the support of Russia. Russia gave them passports, which gives the Russian military a right to protect them.

The fighting broke out in South Ossetia when Ossetians began killing Georgians there. Both Georgia and Russia sent in their soldiers and war broke out. It is clear that Russia has been waiting for this moment for quite a while. It took the opportunity to spread the war to Abkhazia.

Many in Russia dream of the lost glory of its old empire. They think that if they bring the empire back the good old days will return too. The war does not bring back that empire, but it does help to cow Georgia and the other little countries like it that Russia once ruled.

Some Russians fear the West and how countries in eastern Europe have been joining NATO. Georgia wants to join too. NATO has promised it can, someday, but this war puts off that someday.

One thing the war has made clear to Georgia and the other small countries near Russia is that the West can do little to protect them.

America’s actions over the past ten years have not helped. Just as America protected Kosovo from the Serbians, so Russia was protecting the South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the Georgians. And just as America took over Iraq because it did not like what was going on there, so Russia sent its military into Georgia. If America can have its empire, then why not Russia too?

This war shows that maybe Russia is serious about gaining back its empire. If the West is so weak or tied up elsewhere, who is to stop it?

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Turkey (1923- ) is what remains of the Ottoman Empire, which once ruled the Middle East. It lies in Anatolia, the land between the Black and Mediterranean seas.

It is not the only country with Turks. To the east there are others: Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. But Turkey is by far the largest and richest of these.

Turkey stands between two worlds: Muslim and Western.

It is a Muslim country yet its people wear Western clothes, write with Roman letters and take part in parliamentary elections. Religion is kept out of government and even the women are not allowed to cover their heads in public like they do in other Muslim countries.

Turkey belongs to NATO, the Western military alliance. This means the second largest army in NATO is Muslim.

But Turkey is not part of the European Union (EU). It is not for want of trying. For years it was kept out because it had a bad record on human rights and its army had too much power in government.

Now that Turkey is changing its ways, the EU has begun talks for it to join, maybe in 2013. But the talks are going badly and Sarkozy, the president of France, is finding excuses to slow them down.

Even though Europe is no longer strongly Christian, many seem to be against Turkey joining the EU simply because it is Muslim. Turkey may seem Western on the outside but it is still Muslim on the inside.

Although Turkey has long been a friend of America, the two do not agree on Iraq: partly because Turkey is becoming more of a democracy and the people are against what America is doing in Iraq; but also because America turns a blind eye to Kurdish fighters crossing into Turkey from Iraq.

Turkey killed more than a half million Armenians in the early 1900s and later fought against Kurds in eastern Turkey. It was trying to make everyone in Turkey into Turks.

Anatolia was once a Christian land full of Greek towns and farms. It was the heart of the Byzantine empire. Between 1000 and 1500 the Turks uprooted and destroyed all of that. They marched on Constantinople and overthrew it, giving it a new name, Istanbul. The Ottoman Empire was born.

When the empire reached its height in the late 1600s it ruled the Arab world, Greece, Serbia, Hungary, Armenia and other nearby countries. Its armies got as far as the gates of Vienna. Two hundred years later the empire began to fall apart. In the early 1900s the First World War delivered the death blow.

After the war in the 1920s Ataturk made Turkey more Western.

Turkey stayed out of the Second World War. It still had one of the largest and best armies in the world, but it did not have the tanks and fighter planes it took to fight a war. But it did join America against Russia in the Cold War that followed.

– Abagond, 2007.

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