Who’s to blame for the Russian Georgian conflict?
Georgian troops launched an aerial bombardment and ground attack on its separatist province of South Ossetia on Thursday. South Ossetians want to join up with their ethnic brethren in North Ossetia, an autonomous republic within the Russian Federation. Seeing this as an act of aggression Russia launched bombing raids against Georgia, vowing to defend its citizens. More than half of South Ossetia’s citizens are said to have taken up Moscow’s offer of a Russian passport. Pepe Escobar believes that "the hypocrisy of the international community knows no bounds for if the West forced the issue of Kosovar independence then the independence of South Ossetia should also be on the cards."
PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: If you believe the very, very loud hordes of Russian-haters in the US—politicians, lobbyists, corporate media—we are back to the Cold War, and the Russian bear is behaving like the invasion of Hungary in ’56 and Czechoslovakia in ’68. Well, this is absolute rubbish. To understand the real story, let’s take a look at the map. Georgia is a strategic so-called democracy in the Caucasus since the 2003 US-engineered Rose Revolution. It wants to be part of NATO, it provides the US with 2,000 troops in Iraq, it wants to be part of US missile defense shield, and it hosts a stretch of the BTC pipeline, the Baku-to-Ceyhan pipeline in Turkey. Basically, it’s a US client state in the middle of the Caucasus. Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president, unpopular at home, implicated in monstrous corruption scandals, thought the Beijing Olympics gave him a fabulous opening to solve the problems Georgia has with separatist South Ossetia, since 1989, for that matter. So he staged a surprise invasion supported by the US. If we look at the map, we see that North Ossetia is in Russia and South Ossetia is in Georgia. Only 82,000 people. They don’t want independence; they want to unite with North Ossetia. The last referendum in the region was in November 2006. Ninety-one percent of attendance. Ninety-nine percent, they voted for union with North Ossetia and Russia. And the referendum was totally ignored by Georgia, the US, and in Europe. Once Saakashvili decided to attack South Ossetia last week, he was applying Pentagon tactics. US troops had just finished teaching Georgians how to ethnically cleanse an area. That was part of the so-called, I quote, "Georgian-US Immediate Response 2008 Military Exercises." This whole thing ended less than two weeks ago, on July 31. Saakashvili’s game was to smash South Ossetia. In fact, his troops killed more than 2,000 civilians, destroyed the capital, Tskhinvali, killed 10 Russian peacekeepers, at least, provoked an exodus of 35,000 people to North Ossetia. He wanted to profit from the spotlight being on the Olympics, of course, but he also had to solve two huge problems: NATO does not accept states involved in territorial disputes, and the Bush administration, key supporters of Georgia, is on the way out. The Russians saw this for what it was, a search-and-destroy mission, ethnic cleansing, and a huge provocation to boot. After all, Russian citizens were killed—99 percent of the population of South Ossetia is ethnically Russian. For the Russians, this is exactly what the West said was happening in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and they saw it, the Russians, as a test-run for the breakup of the Russian Caucasus. Does that all remind us of Kosovo? Yes, it does. But Ossetia is not Kosovo, as the Russians are the first to tell us. The hypocrisy of this so-called international community knows no bounds. If the US and Europe actually forced the independence of Kosovo, they should have to admit that the independence of South Ossetia and the other separatist Georgian province, Abkhazia, is also in the cards. And then there’s oil and pipelines. That’s where the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline fits in. The pipeline is just one factor in a much, much bigger picture. And that’s the attempt sponsored by the US, and joined by many other former Soviet satellites, to cripple all traces of Russian influence, economic, politic, diplomatic, military, not only in the Caucasus, but in Central Asia as well. To believe that Russia would accept any of this is to live in Fantasy Land like US corporate media, or Brzezinski, for that matter, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, an informal advisor to Barack Obama. The McCain campaign is infested with Rusophobia. McCain wants to expel Russia from the G8. But Brzezinski may be even more dangerous. This is the guy who gave the Soviets their Vietnam in Afghanistan, facilitating the rebirth of radical jihadist Islam. Brzezinski’s the godfather of al-Qaeda. Brzezinski now says that the Russian invasion of Georgia—and he forgets to say that it was Georgia that attacked South Ossetia first—is like Stalin’s attack on Finland. Well, we should not forget that Brzezinski himself negotiated the BTC pipeline in Baku in the mid-’90s. The Russians will not bomb his pipeline as it has been reported—not a single confirmation in the Russian press or international agencies. What the Russians want is to teach Saakashvili a lesson. In essence, George Bush, enjoying his swimming competitions in Beijing, is not in a position to say anything to Vladimir Putin. What Putin is more or less saying to the US and to Europe is that South Ossetia should do what the population of South Ossetia wants: independence from Georgia, a new referendum, union with North Ossetia, which is the ethnic twin of South Ossetia on the northern side of the Caucasus Mountains. Saakashvili, well, he can scream in English on CNN as much as he wants. He’s already being blamed by the Georgian opposition for his reckless adventure. He was also blamed because he ignored that US badly needs Russia to solve the Iranian nuclear dossier. And he’s being blamed because he ignored that Europe is in the middle of a very complex negotiation with Russia for access to Russian gas—Europe depends on Russian gas. As for Russian hawks with a Cold War mentality, and there are plenty, Dick Cheney said that Russia’s actions in Georgia, I quote, "must not go unanswered." Well, maybe he should take Putin for some quality quail hunting.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.