Tuesday 12 August 2008

This morning I played chess with Death, said the knight....

I see that Russia has agreed to a ceasefire with Georgia. In a deal brokered by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy*, both sides have agreed to withdraw to the positions they held before fighting broke out last week. Russian troops will, however, remain in Abkhazia and South Ossetia to "uphold security" and today's deal apparently promises fuller discussion on the future of the two breakaway provinces. Russia would love to have them secede from Georgia entirely and become part of Russia, but although they welcomed today's news of a ceasefire, this is a course of action that seems unlikely to appeal to the USA.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice almost said as much today:

"I want to make very clear that the United States stands for the territorial integrity of Georgia, for the sovereignty of Georgia, that we support its democratically elected government and its people,"

As I was saying yesterday, although on the face of it that remark looks like a general statement against Russian aggression, actually it's a statement laden with wider warnings to Russia and the breakaway territories that the USA will not tolerate the breaking up of the Georgian state, whatever the people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia might actually want. Hell, who cares what they really think? They're just the victims here; victims of pipeline politics and Russian muscle-flexing against the West (as the Guardian puts it: "But with a surfeit of petro-dollars in the bank and its fingers on the energy valves that keep Europe warm, the Kremlin appears blithely contemptuous of any potential western retribution").

If you can tear yourself away from the blanket coverage of the Olympic Games, the start of the football season, concerns about the credit crunch and the falling value of your house, do spare a thought for the people of Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia: pawns in a game of political chess. 'Twas ever thus, but I'm not sure that thought provides any more than cold comfort for the people of Georgia tonight.


* an avid reader of this blog who was stung into action upon reading my insightful analysis of the crisis in the Caucasus.

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