Posts tagged ‘south ossetia’

19 December 2008

Caucasus Analytical Digest

The first issue of the Caucasus Analytical Digest is now available: “Perspectives on the Georgian-Russian war” (download pdf here).

The Caucasus Analytical Digest (CAD) analyzes the political, economic, and social situation in the Southern Caucasus within the context of international and security dimensions. Subscription is for free.

CAD is a monthly internet publication jointly produced by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Tbilisi (, the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen (, the Jefferson Institute in Washington, DC ( and the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich with support from the German Association for East European Studies (DGO).

Although written in a different style to the RFE/RL Caucasus Report (where RFE/RL is primarily a news service, CAD offers more analytical, although also fairly short, articles), it promises to offer more balanced and reflective accounts of events in the region than those available at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

28 November 2008

Georgia Update

The story continues on Reuters.

Ex-envoy: Georgia thought US backed Ossetia assault
By Matt Robinson

TBILISI, Nov 26 (Reuters) – A former Georgian ambassador said on Wednesday that Georgia had wrongly convinced itself it had U.S. blessing for an assault on breakaway South Ossetia.

Erosi Kitsmarishvili, former envoy to Russia, told a parliamentary commission on Tuesday that Georgia had been the aggressor and triggered a war with Russia in August that proved to be disastrous for Georgia.

President Mikheil Saakashvili dismissed the comments as “simply untrue”.

Since his testimony, Kitsmarishvili has been vilified by senior Georgian officials, underscoring the difficulty of expressing dissent in the ex-Soviet republic since the war.

24 November 2008

War of Images

The Caucasus conflict was a central topic at the “European Television Dialogue” on 20 November, in particular the way the media reported it. Quote of the day today comes from Deutschlandfunk’s reporting of the discussion. Talking about the different ways of dealing with information and foreign correspondents, Stephan Stuchlik, correspondent for the main German television station ARD, said:

On the second day I tried to get into Tskhinvali. I waited for seven and a half hours at the border, and I only managed to get into South Ossetia with extremely Russian methods. Whereas the Georgian side immediately understood: aha, we need to offer journalists a service. There were little buses going from Tbilisi, driving people there and saying: Something really awful has happened here; here are the relatives, feel free to ask them. (my translation; full text here).

Deutschlandfunk’s report continues by telling listeners how Stuchlik tried to get his editors to cover the victims and eyewitnesses who spoke of Georgian atrocities. His reports met with disbelief:

You could see that the three days of anti-Russian reporting had left its mark. Not only on the public, but also on my bosses and the news editors.

And once again, we see the dispositif at work: Journalists are based in Tbilisi, are bussed into the region by their Georgian hosts. It fits a certain expectation that the Russian army will have been involved with atrocities. The Georgian leadership activates welcoming information managment techniques; local news and bloggers are onside. At the same time, the Russian side fends off the western journalists (annoying them in the process by making their work more difficult) rather than welcoming them into their information zone. Thus is hegemony is fed.

I still think one of the most interesting things about the conflict, however, is that – contrary to Stuchlik’s comment – the first three days of reporting did not leave its mark on very large swathes of the public. Why, in this one incident, did so many people not believe the reporting? They usually have a good deal of faith in western reporting when it comes to Russia, but not this time. Answers on a postcard to…

15 October 2008

The Hague on Russia-Georgia

DeutschlandRadio’s hourly news bulletin this evening presents the “surprising” final ruling made by the International Criminal Court on the case brought by Georgia alleging Russian human rights abuses in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Judges called on both Russia and Georgia to halt human rights violations in the region. (Background text and photos).

The level of surprise will depend, perhaps, on which media the listener has been observing.

Update: 00:18. Watching BBC World news, and wondering if I misheard the German radio. Nothing on the BBC about the story. But, yes, according to a Reuters story posted on Wed 15 Oct 2008 at 2:37 EDT, a provisional court ruling was indeed made:

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The UN’s highest court ordered Russia and Georgia on Wednesday to ensure the security of all ethnic groups in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and adjacent areas of Georgia.

In a provisional ruling on a lawsuit filed by Georgia that alleged human rights violations by Russia in the region, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) said Georgia and Russia must refrain from sponsoring any act of racial discrimination.

It also ordered both parties to do all in their power to ensure the security of persons, freedom of movement and the protection of refugees’ property.

The court ruled it had jurisdiction to order the provisional measures and ordered both parties to inform it of their compliance.

Court rulings, including provisional orders, are binding but the court has no police force to enforce its decisions. A judgment on the merits of the case proper could take at least another year.

2 October 2008

McCain and Obama on Russia

US observers react to comments made by McCain and Obama on Georgia during the presidential debate.

For Edward Goldberg in the Washington Times, the drastic over-simplification of the conflict in South Ossetia is irresponsible:

McCain’s ‘sloganeering’ on Georgia irresponsible

U.S. citizens basically have only two choices in elections – simplicity rules. But the issues facing America are nuanced and complicated. And nowhere is this more true than in foreign policy.

The situation in Georgia and the Caucasus is a prime example. How easy it was for Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, to reduce a complex problem to simple sloganeering when he stated, “We are all Georgians.” The immediate implication was that Georgia is the current equivalent of Cold War Berlin.

But this is not only a misreading of history and a misunderstanding of where Russia is today in its historic cultural conflict between westernization and despotism. It is also an example of irresponsible sloganeering from someone who wants to lead the United States.

Patrick Shirak on not only described the two candidates’ presentation of the conflict to the US voting public as ‘over-simplified’ but also as ‘dead wrong’:

McCain & Obama Are Both Wrong on Georgia

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

After watching the first presidential debate between Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama, one of the only lasting thoughts on my mind was how over-simplified they present the ongoing conflicts in Georgia to the American public, and how dead wrong they both are in seeking to address them. […]

The conflict that erupted in South Ossetia in August, very well could have started in Abkhazia earlier in the year.  These regions have been involved in two very unique secession struggles with the central government in Tbilisi since the collapse of the Soviet Union.  The fact that these regions continue to provide sparks of violence in the volatile Caucasus is testament to the failure of international and Georgian policies towards them.

The attempts to reunite Georgia according to its Soviet borders have over the last fifteen years have focused on 1) isolating South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the outside world, 2) refusing to recognize the legitimate concerns of the local populations, 3) incorrectly addressing the conflict as solely and primarily between Russia and Georgia, and by 4) stubbornly following dogmatic policies long after they have already shown themselves to be failures.

The next American president, together with the efforts from European allies, must address these failed strategies of the past in order to prevent the West (and Georgia for that matter) from stumbling into an expanded war in the Caucasus.

With thanks to Johnson’s Russia List for the texts.

1 October 2008

Georgia and South Ossetia

According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, a leading European Commission official has said that Georgia unleashed the conflict in South Ossetia. As of yet, a search of the news database LexisNexis and leading news sites suggests that no western news media are reporting this yet. (Update 3 Oct: still no reports.) Kommersant:

Head of the European Commission Directorate General for External Relations Eneko Landaburu has agreed that Georgia unleashed the conflict in South Ossetia, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the EU Nikolay Kobrinets told RIA Novosti Tuesday.

According to Russia’s official, Mr Landaburu acknowledged that Georgia unleashed the conflict in South Ossetia during the discussion dedicated to relations of Russia and the EU held at Belgium’s representation office at the EU, Brussels, October 1, 2008.

5 September 2008

Russia and Georgia_Jon Stewart

Once again, I’m reassured that the best tv news is Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. posted two clips in mid-August that are still eminently watchable (thanks to Roman for the link).

Background: Now it’s all calmed down, there seem to be four different sets of remarks which circulated about the war in the Caucasus.

  1. Strong line in Washington: Russia invaded. Georgia walked into Russian trap. Georgia is a small democratic country that needs our support (moral and military). For some reason, most western media and politicians seem to be following this line.
  2. Strong line in Moscow: Georgia attacked first, bombing Tskhinvali with heavy artillery on the night of 7-8 August. Since the vast majority of South Ossetians hold Russian Federation passports, Russia had to defend its citizens.
  3. Strong line in (western) blogs and ‘on the street’ in Berlin, Edinburgh, London: How on earth can the West be following the Washington line, and assuming that comments by Saakashvili are reliable and credible, when all the independent evidence shows that Georgia made the first serious sustained attack on South Ossetia, and that Saakashvili has exaggerated the threat from Russia and played down his own troop movements on every occasion possible? (Yes, they say, we know there were provocations from both sides – no war ever has one sole responsible party. Gordon Hahn has offered a sophisticated analysis along these lines).
  4. The Daily Show, and other commentators in the USA: Even if (1) were true, US politicians have no moral ground whatsoever to chastise Russia. Think Iraq. (Of course, Jon Stewart does it much more amusingly than me – watch the clips).