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Archive for the ‘South Ossetia’ 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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