“Regime change” may be an American term, as Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained to reporters, but it sounds like Russia is going to force their own version. “Sometimes there are cases,” Churkin explained, “when leaders become obstacles to a people’s way out of a situation. In those situations, some leaders make the brave decision in regards to their political future.” Cynical? Maybe. Opportunistic? Certainly. Don’t count on the Russians to pass up a good opportunity to get rid of their Georgian irritant. As Kommersant notes, “Moscow considers the removal of Saakashvili a matter of principle.”
The Russians are claiming that they want a cease fire with Georgia but there just isn’t anyone to talk to. After all, as Chunkin stressed, “What decent person will talk to him now?” Clearly not the decent Russians, who have essentially cut Georgia into two. Russian forces have taken Gori and other strategic towns and are said to be converging on Tbilisi, which Saakashvilli vows his troops will defend to the death. The real question is whether Saak will go down with his ship.
How quickly the South Ossetian War has become more about Russia and the United States, East and West, George Bush and Vladimir Putin, than about the poor South Ossetians caught in the middle. Today was just another example of the sheer cynical chest beating of it all. You had the American dyarchy standing up condemning Russia’s war machine. “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,” Bush said. Cheney declared that Russia’s actions “must not go unanswered.” Presidential Candidates McCain and Obama, always ready to look Presidential, also weighed in. McCain called for NATO intervention and reminded Russia that to be part of the civilized world means to respect its values. Obama condemned Russia’s military push saying that “There is no possible justification for these attacks.” I don’t know. When you think of it, Russia is kind of showing a bit of restraint, as horrific as that might sound. They could have easily turned Georgia into a parking lot.
The dyarchy in Russia was of course not without rebuttal. Putin lashed out at the US for its backing of Georgia and especially for airlifting some 2000 Georgian troops out of Iraq. “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing,” he said, “the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.” Dmitri Medvedev even has his own Hitler moment by comparing Western support of Georgia with appeasing Hitler in 1938. He then went on to accuse Georgia of trying to commit genocide in South Ossetia. “The form this aggression took is nothing less than genocide because Georgia committed heaviest crimes — civilians were torched, sawed to pieces and rolled over by tanks,” he said. You see, fascism really is the gift that keeps on giving.
And what about the people caught in the middle? South Ossetians are finally beginning to bury their dead. Hundreds of volunteers are flooding into the war zone from neighboring Chechnya, Dagestan, North Ossetia, and Kabardino-Balkaria. Murat Dryaev was one such volunteer. He met his demise before he was able to put his hand on a rifle. As Tom Parfitt writes in the Guardian:
Murat Dryaev, 29, a construction worker, left for the war on Thursday and was brought home in a coffin two days later. He lived with his parents at the end of a stony track in Novy Batakayur, a village 10 miles from the North Ossetian capital, Vladikavkaz. Yesterday his relatives sat in vigil around his open coffin, adorned with roses and his photograph.
“He went to defend his sister and her children who live in South Ossetia,” said his wife, Ira, weeping over her husband’s pallid face. “But he never reached the place where they hand out weapons.”
Dryaev and his group of volunteers were hit by Georgian artillery fire. It is not known how many others died.
“His three-year-old daughter still thinks he’s coming home,” said his sister, Larisa. The dead man’s mother, Teresa, sat at the head of the coffin. “She’s been speechless, like a living corpse,” said Larisa. “She begged him not to go but she couldn’t stop him.”
The volunteer factor, though currently small, will certainly be a nagging problem once the smoke clears.
I think its about time for Georgia and the world to face it. South Ossetia is now Russia’s and it was Saakashvilli that gave it to them.
Estimates of refuges from South Ossetia are about 30,000 many of which were taken into North Ossetia by Russian buses. Other Russian supplied aid–food, medicine, mobile hospitals, search teams, and water–is said to be pouring into South Ossetia.
As for the Georgians, the number of civilian casualties as a result of Russia’s armor assault and aerial bombing is unknown. Two days ago Georgia reported about 130 dead, 37 of which were civilians. Suffice to say that they most certainly are mounting. The UNHCR is beginning to send humanitarian relief to Georgia where an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced. About 56,000 people are said to have fled Gori alone.
Let’s all hope that the dick swinging will end tomorrow and some kind of cease fire will be brokered.