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Aug 8th 2008

A war between Russia and Georgia appears to be under way 

GEORGIAN soldiers, tanks and fighter-planes struck Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway (Russian-backed) region of South Ossetia, on Friday August 8th. Parts of the city were reported to be burning as Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, declared that his forces had "freed" much of the area from separatist control.

The immediate cause of the fighting is unclear as claim and counterclaim abound. But what is clear is that a conflict which has been simmering for years, has at last erupted. What happens next will depend almost entirely on Russia's response: 150 Russian tanks were reported to be entering South Ossetia on Friday. Georgia's government says that Russian planes have dropped bombs outside of South Ossetia including on the edge of Tblisi, the Georgian capital. Alexander Lomaia, the secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, told The Economist on Friday that "this is an open military aggression and we are now at the state of undeclared war with Russia. What else could you call it?". He also said that Georgia had announced a ceasefire in South Ossetia from 3pm on Friday.


Mr Putin may also want to deal with Georgia in good time before Russia hosts 2014 winter Olympic games in Sochi, a Black-sea resort town only few miles from the Abkhaz border. A military conflict in Georgia will also derail for a long time Georgia's aspiration to join NATO---something that Russian finds deeply unpalatable.

Russia's broader aim may be to try to roll back the advance of pro-Western forces in its "near abroad" by highlighting the West's inability to help Georgia. The hotting up of Georgia's conflicts coincided with Kosovo's declaration of independence, recognised by much of the West, and American pressure for the expansion of NATO to Georgia and Ukraine. That move has been stymied, mainly by Germany; Georgia was promised eventual NATO membership but no firm plan. Though Georgia has become a vital corridor for oil and gas exports to Europe, this has not brought the support that its leaders had expected. A lame-duck American administration has been able to do little, though Georgians hope a presidential-election victory by John McCain, an ardent supporter, may change their fortunes. The country's strong-willed and idiosyncratic president, Mr Saakashvili, is not seen by all European leaders as quite the paragon of legality, freedom and reform that he claims to be. Georgia's image was severely dented in November last year by a crackdown against the opposition.


  1. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    People attend a protest in front of the Georgian embassy in Moscow August 10, 2008. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner flew to Tbilisi on Sunday on an EU mission to mediate ..


    Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russia intends to take over his country to secure energy supply routes from central Asia.

    Georgia told Russia on Sunday it had ceased fire in South Ossetia and called for immediate negotiations on a full ceasefire agreement and "termination of hostilities". Georgia pulled troops from Tskhinvali, capital of South Ossetia, early on Sunday after three days of heavy fighting with Russian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

  2. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    Further Analysis from NYTIMES Cry

    Taunting the Bear

    Published: August 9, 2008
    The hostilities between Russia and Georgia that erupted on Friday over the breakaway province of South Ossetia look, in retrospect, almost absurdly over-determined. For years, the Russians have claimed that Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili, has been preparing to retake the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and have warned that they would use force to block such a bid. Mr. Saakashvili, for his part, describes today's Russia as a belligerent power ruthlessly pressing at its borders, implacably hostile to democratic neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine. He has thrown in his lot with the West, and has campaigned ardently for membership inNATO. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia's former president and current prime minister, has said Russia could never accept a NATO presence in the Caucasus.

  3. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    IEA warns Georgia conflict threatens energy supplies
    By Agence France Presse (AFP)

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    PARIS: The conflict in Georgia threatens a strategic global energy hub, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Tuesday - hours before British giant BP closed two more oil and gas pipelines blaming the smoldering conflict. "Recent escalation in military engagement between Russia and Georgia poses a threat to certain key oil and gas pipelines which transit Georgia," the IEA said.

    The IEA had given its assessment hours before Georgia claimed Russia had attacked the region's main Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.

    Although the agency said that events in Georgia had not affected the price of oil, it stressed the significance of the region to energy supplies.

  4. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    BP Shuts Down Georgian Pipeline

    Associated Press
    Word Count: 381 | Companies Featured in This Article: BP
    LONDON -- BP PLC said it shut down an oil pipeline that runs through Georgia on Tuesday as a precautionary measure, but added that it is unaware of any Russian bombings on pipelines in the region.

    BP said the 90,000-barrel-a-day pipeline to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast from Baku in Azerbaijan will remain closed indefinitely.

    Another pipeline operated by the London-based oil company in the former Soviet Republic, the larger Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, is already out of service.

  5. Alex Fischer AUTHOR

    Crisis Mapping the Conflict in Georgia

    An initial crisis map of the escalating violence between Georgia and Russia has been createdfor Google Earth. While dynamic maps add more value than static maps, we need a more interactive interface that permits for crowdsourcing crisis information in quasi-real time with fully geo-referenced information.