The Bear Strikes Again

In December 1991, Americans watched how their greatest enemy, the USSR, was falling apart. They thought that the Cold War was gone for good, but as we have seen in the last month, they were wrong. In August you saw terrifying images of Russian tanks moving into the neighboring country of Georgia (also called Gruzia in ex-Soviet space). Most of you have created an impression about this conflict by watching CNN or other US media, but I will try to explain this conflict to you from the point of view of a person who lives in the ex-Soviet and encounters the same problems in this country. I was born in Moldova, an ex-Soviet country which has the same separatist problem as Georgia. The separatist region of Transnitria in Moldova is the equivalent of South Ossetia and Abhazia. All of these self proclaimed “republics” are strongly backed by Russia. The conflicts first erupted in the early 90’s after the break of the Soviet Union, but the cause of these conflicts must be traced back in history. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Russia annexed the two countries of Moldova and Georgia, and began a massive Russification. As a result, many regions of Georgia and Moldova became populated with Russians, or “Russified” peoples. In this way, Transnitria, Abhazia and South Ossetia appeared. The situation is a little different in Ossetia, which is populated by Ossetins, an Iranic ethnic group, though they all speak Russian and most of them have Russian citizenship. The independence of this region is only an intermediary step that will be followed by the immediate unification of South Ossetia with Russia. In this way, a part of an independent country, in our case Georgia, is annexed to another. It is necessary to say that in problems of territorial integrity, Russians have double standards. It is enough to remember when, in 1996, Russians’ motorized division stormed Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic, a country that wanted to become independent of Russia. So when the Russians recognized the independence of South Ossetia, they suddenly forgot that only eight years prior they had refused the same right of independence to the Chechens. Even if Russia has the main responsibility for the territorial conflicts in ex-Soviet space, the proper military action on August 8 was initiated by the Georgian side, which attempted to regain control over the rogue regions. The next day the Russian army entered South Ossetia and counteracted Georgian forces. This was a direct imposition of Russia in the internal affairs of Georgia, which violates national sovereignty. You may think that Georgians acted wrongly when they tried to bring back Ossetia by force. Many of you say that they should have tried diplomacy or had peace talks first. Well, they tried, and they have been doing this for the last 20 years, but it hasn’t moved an inch. The problem is that the separatists don’t want to be a part of Georgia, and if they would, then it would be just on paper — the true executive power in the region still being in the hands of separatist leaders. So Georgia had only two options: to let the separatist regions of Ossetia and Abhazia go free and start this way of dismantling of the country, or to try and bring them back by force. It is hard to judge Georgians actions because bloodshed is not the best solution, but if we look back at American history, the Americans did the same during the Civil War when southern states broke from the Union. So sometimes we have to make complicated decisions in order to create a stable future for the generations which are to come. Andrei Macovei is a post graduate from Chisinau, Moldova.