August 15th, 2008
11:12 AM ET

Blood in the Caucasus

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/15/art.georgiatank.jpg]
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editor, The Nation

"The past week's events in South Ossetia are bound to shock and pain anyone.... Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning to all."
–Mikhail Gorbachev, Washington Post, August 12

Former Soviet President Gorbachev's condemnation of Georgia's assault on Tskhinvali on the night of August 7, which precipitated the larger Russia-Georgia conflict, reminds us that if we had heeded his vision of a truly post-cold war world, we might not today be confronting such dangerous geopolitical gamesmanship. It should also remind us, as a wobbly cease-fire is put in place, that the conflict has been flagrantly misreported in this country.

I am heartsick at the violence and brutalities on all sides. Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian friends have all suffered. Yet commentary in the US media, almost without exception, has turned a longstanding, complex separatist conflict into a casus belli for a new cold war with Russia, ignoring not only the historical and political reasons for South Ossetia's drive for independence from Georgia but also the responsibility of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for the current crisis. So eager have commentators been to indict Vladimir Putin's Russia that they have overlooked Washington's contribution to the rising tensions.

Certainly Russia should be condemned for escalating the fighting beyond what was necessary to defend South Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers. But the US media have failed to provide the full backdrop. For one, the role of Saakashvili–who has sought to provoke Moscow over a range of issues in recent years–has been whitewashed. Georgia's president has often seemed more intent on currying favor with the Bush Administration, which has strongly supported Georgia's bid for NATO membership, than on looking after the interests of his people. The United States has also sent hundreds of military advisers to Georgia and welcomed Georgian troops in its "coalition of the willing" in Iraq. The irony is that the Bush Administration, which violated Iraq's sovereignty, now feigns outrage over Russia's actions. And for all the flowery talk of promoting Georgia's democracy, the Bush Administration has in the past year downplayed Saakashvili's violent crackdown on Georgian protesters, as well as his rigged election, declaration of martial law, attacks on opposition media and jailing of opponents.  

In intervening militarily to protect South Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers, Moscow suggested it was following the precedent of Washington's 1999 war against Serbia. And just as Washington widened that war beyond the Kosovo theater to attack Serbia's infrastructure, Russia expanded its war, hitting targets in Georgia proper, thereby challenging the UN Charter. By doing so, Moscow is warning that NATO expansion on Russia's borders will not be tolerated.

There are also unasked questions about the conflict's eruption. Was Saakashvili's military strike designed to force NATO's hand after its hesitant endorsement of future membership for Georgia? Did the Bush Administration's public support of Saakashvili's belligerent stance toward Russia convince the Georgian president that he would have US backing if he attacked?

Such questions have been virtually ignored amid the relentlessly one-sided commentary, with critics like William Kristol and Robert Kagan drawing hysterical parallels with Munich in 1938, and Clinton Administration diplomat Richard Holbrooke issuing a truculent demand in the Washington Post that Russia pay a price. Yet calls for sanctions or boycotts are hollow. Even if the United States were not already stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush Administration policies have left us with no credibility in Moscow and, therefore, little diplomatic leverage. That is why it was left to the European Union, despite its internal divisions, to arrange a cease-fire and advance a framework for resolving the conflict.

Yet crises like these also present opportunities–and new dangers. As I write, there is ambiguity to the current French-brokered ceasefire agreement-with the Russians interpreting it as permitting them to establish new security measures beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia until international monitoring mechanisms can be worked out. Thus, Russia has positioned forces outside of Gori and have taken control of the port area of Poti. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration's response of sending humanitarian aid–delivered by the US military–poses dangers because it could cause an inadvertent hot war if US military forces engage Russian forces. Bush Administration and Pentagon officials have made it clear that US forces would not be "protecting the Georgian airport or seaport, but we we'll certainly protect our assets if we need to." Instead of hollow threats at this stage, we should seek restraint on all sides, and make every effort to move these issues into an international forum were cooler heads could prevail.

Above all, as Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday night on CNN's Larry King Live, this crisis–and the opportunity it provides–should create the space for a different US-Russian relationship. A new approach must begin with recognition of Georgia's sovereignty but also recognize that Russia has legitimate interests along its borders and in areas that have been its traditional zones of security, from Central Asia to the Caucasus to Ukraine. And having established a precedent in supporting Kosovo's independence, Washington should work with Russia to set up a process, monitored by the UN, that could likewise lead to South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's eventual independence. This could establish the basis for a more cooperative US-Russia relationship that would also be in the interests of the Georgian people. As Mark Ames points out in a companion article at thenation.com, this conflict exposes a clash between two fundamental principles of international relations: the right of nations to control territory within their borders versus the right of peoples to self-determination. The West cannot simply claim the precedence of one principle (self-determination in Kosovo, for example) and then assert that of the other (national sovereignty in Georgia) without exposing its own hypocrisy and motivations based on power politics.

A key element in a new security paradigm must include a US commitment to end eastward expansion of NATO, especially to Georgia and Ukraine. In return, Washington and Moscow should jointly guarantee the sovereignty of those two countries. NATO expansion has furthered no one's security–in fact, it has increased regional tensions, aroused Russian insecurity and hostility, and discouraged countries from pursuing independent relations with Moscow, leading them instead to adopt provocative policies and act, at times, like virtual US colonies.

Worryingly, neither US presidential candidate has given a hint of being willing to rethink policy toward the region. While Obama argues for UN mediation and the importance of finding a settlement, both he and McCain support NATO membership for Georgia. (McCain is, of course, far more bellicose, tied as he is to ultra-neocons who demand that Georgia's–and Ukraine's–NATO membership be expedited and that Russia be excluded from the G-8.) Does either candidate even bother to consider that if Georgia had been a member of NATO when it launched its incursion into South Ossetia, the United States would now be at war with Russia? Isn't it finally time to dissolve a cold war military alliance and build a new geopolitical security structure for this century?

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. J.V.hodgson

    Totally agree the sentiments of this article.
    Georgia and Saakshavilli started this in an historically unstable ethinc part of the globe.
    America and Nato were preemptively politicking, for the same reasons the Iraq war was fought OiI and gas.
    The consequences unless the peace deal and negotiation works are
    1) A new cold war.
    2) Worse still WWIII.
    With its current and economic and military power, Russia is delivering a clear message The west has overstepped the mark. I agree, back off or the west will lose big time economically and politically.

    August 18, 2008 at 2:18 am |
  2. Adana Martinez

    I dont care who's fault it is or who started this conflict. Both sides Georgia and Russia are acting like children. This war is horrific and unfounded in any of its convictions. I respect CNN for looking at both sides of the conflict and I know they would rather we make up our minds about who is to blame and I do have a rather low opinion of the Russians but that doesn't change the fact that the real victims are not the politicians running this show it's the Georgian people being slaughtered and having their houses burned. I've been watching videos on both CNN and BBC world news all week and I can feel hatred but not as much as I feel anguish for those people affected. We should be ashamed of our country for not handling this better. I'm a 17 year old girl from California and I can honestly say I am ashamed of all those politicians we put in power running about running their mouths when really action and humility is what we desperately need.

    August 17, 2008 at 8:34 pm |
  3. richard

    America loves to trash talk the Russians. But, in this case, it seems undeserved. Just another case of "The mouse that roared" . Georgia started this mess, with its attack on Russian troops and "military advisors". (The same type of "military advisors" that the USA has in Georgia) But, when Russia answers the challenge, all the Georgian president can do is point the finger. He points at Russia for thier swift and overpowering response. He points at the USA for "allowing " this to happen. He points at the U.N. for not intervening on Georgias behalf. Just because George Bush calls them a friend and ally doesn't mean they can treat thier neighbors with the impunity they showed in Ossetia. Georgia needs to take responsibility for thier own actions, and quit hiding behind the skirts of the American people and thier military ability.

    August 17, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  4. Giosue' Lorenzo Campi

    Georgian war has signed the central power in the world of EU.Russia will enter in EU and will listen only at EU.EU is powerful and Russia has a credible partner in it.Russia is pointing new rockets fron Kaliningrad region on polish shield to neutralize it fastly.
    Usa can't impose anythyng Russia which has the most dangerous weapons.Usa can do nothing also against EU which has dangerous weapons and the strongest economy in the world.
    Georgia and the travelling all the days of Mrs Rice are the sign of Nato ending and Usa decadence.

    August 17, 2008 at 7:54 am |
  5. Mary Greene

    McCain should have stayed out of this conflict. He is another Bush, ready to start a war. The military is running out McCain. Who will fight then. The elderly. Remember America on have one President at one time. This is Bush's mess again, not yours McCain. You are not President. Please don't be eager to start another war. I see that you are a warmonger.

    August 17, 2008 at 12:22 am |
  6. Svetlana

    It is insane, but when Osetinian Family told the truth on Fox channel that it was GEORGIA that INVADED Osetia and Russians were the saviors and protectors of their OWN territory (most Osetians and Abhazians have russian citizenship) and that Georgia was the agressor, Fox news interrupted them for the commercial.
    Gorbachev has nothing to do with Putin. Putin is not his team and not his generation. Gorbachev is retired and leaves in San Francisco. What he said about Georgia being the aggressor is true.

    August 16, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  7. KJ Western, MA

    I am not worried about a "cold war." I am worried about a physical war between Russia and the USA. I hate what is happening in Georgia my prayers are with everyone involved.

    As for Iraq and Georgia being similar, I do not see it as so. However, I understand how some might.

    August 16, 2008 at 5:28 pm |
  8. Dave

    Using the Russian concept for invading Georgia, can the USA now invade
    Cuba ?

    August 16, 2008 at 2:14 pm |
  9. susan

    Heather,I am glad that you know your history well-that's great!
    But you are trying to accuse modern Russia of doing what it never did.
    I do not believe that you are that old to remember Tzar's times in Russia.Tzars are not existing there anymore-bolsheviks killed all of them.There is another reality now.
    I've been to Russia many times and i saw that people there are very friendly and peaceful,they are not that hateful of everybody who did something wrong to them.
    They could hate Germans for WWII when nazis killed over 50 millions of Russians and every family lost at least one member but they do not.
    Of course,everybody remembers that war but no one blames modern Germany for that because they understand that that was not all german people's fault that Hitler came to power.
    That's not wise to hate a country for what it made to you ancestors once a hundred years ago.
    BTW,do you know that Stalin and Beria (organizers of 1937 repressions in Soviet Union) were Georgians? Do you think Russians should hate all Georgians for that? No,they have always been friends with them. And it always be the same,no matter what outsiders are planning to do with this friendship.
    I know that Russians have no point of inviding Georgia without a cause.It 's never done that before.
    And another absurd you are telling-Osetians live on their own land,it belongs to them.Why should they leave it?
    That was absolutely the goal of Saakashvili when he send it's commandos to Tshinvali -get their land without stubborn people-even his "operation" name was "The clear field"
    Please, surf the Internet for details before saying something with such confedence.
    It's not your mind talking,it's your emotions hitted by american cold-war propaganda.

    August 16, 2008 at 3:57 am |
  10. Lena, CA

    Gorbachev is the only one who told the truth. We are shown only one side of the medal. Why isn't there any information on how everything started and why Russia had to start shooting?!?!? I have friends who live in S. O. and I'm from Abkhazia.
    People, you don't know the truth. Georgians attacked S.O. at midnight and started to kill people. It was not a fight between soldiers, it was destruction of regular men, women and kids. Civilians were killed in beds. Men sent women and kids to hide in the church and it was burnt by Georgians with people inside. I know what happened not from news on TV. My friend called and told me that something horrible was going on. Why are not we shown how Georgian troops killed an old woman who was running away with two kids? Three of them died under the tank. I can write more but the main idea is that Russia helped. On TV we are told 2500 people were killed in S.O. and we are not told that they were killed by Georgian troops before Russian troops got there. Georgia came only for land. Without people.
    I'm shocked how misinformed Americans are.
    And one more. In 1992 the same story took place in Abkhazia. I was standing at the window and saw tanks. I was 12 years old and I still remember everything like as if it happened yesterday. Georgian troops were brushing the city killing Abkhazians. I lived in Sukhumi city in 9 stored building. People of many nationalities lived in Abkhazia. So G. troops had lists with addresses were Abkhazian families lived. They rushed into certain apartments killed people, grabbed valuable things and left. I SAW IT MYSELF!!! Was it war? I don't think so. It was extermination of the nation.
    A week ago the same terrible thing happened to S.O.
    I'm so sorry for people from the both sides but the only guilty person is M. Saakashvily.
    In 1796 Russia saved Georgia from Persians. Thank to Russia Georgia exists as a nation today. And here we are. Russians are bad now.
    It will be a great mistake if you trust M. Saakashvili. Today USA helps Georgia, how Russia did 300 years ago and I don't know what will happen tomorrow?!?!
    Please, read history and find out that neither Abkhazia nor S.O. are not parts of Georgia. And after what happened there is no way they will ever live happily together. Giving Abkhazia and S.O. to Georgia is sending people to die.

    August 16, 2008 at 12:50 am |
  11. alex

    To Heather, CA, US.

    You know nothing about history. Your country together with Estonia and Latvia fought on german side during WW2, at least most of the population. And as we know genocide of Jews is Nazi's little project. Now tell me who was killing jews? Baltic countries still call fashists heros. Georgian soldiers were killing russian peacekeepers and Russia did what it had to do. Your history classes did not go well for you, I guess.

    August 16, 2008 at 12:45 am |
  12. James Dylan

    Putin has made himself a dictator. It is not the US that is trying to return to the past, it is the fact that Russia has. Period, bottomline, end of story.

    August 15, 2008 at 11:04 pm |
  13. Ron, Berkeley,Ca.

    The Neo-Cons are at it again.... The Chicken hawk bunch. They think this farce will get their guy elected president.... I thank God for the internet.... These Crooks want us , The citizens of the United States of America to fall for another Fiasco.
    We need to have an accounting, in this country, and find out how many of these people who help to shape policy, along with our elected leaders, have Dual-Citizenships.
    I want to know, where their alliegencie`s are.
    They claim to be Patriots.... I`m unconvinced...

    August 15, 2008 at 10:34 pm |
  14. Vladimir, California

    to Heather,CA,US

    time has been changed, not so far ago the had salivary. Not so far ago the US has race segregation, or use atomic bomb, I guess even that time this country also called itself as cradle of Freedom. Time changed. Germany has changed, and now one of advanced democracies. Why Russia cannot be changed? You are living with hate, by the way, if one time Russia was your haven, then you chose it. And you you are sending Ossetins somewhere, don't do it. They are living on its own land for centuries. And they being slaughter by Georgians several times. Russia is not perfect, so the US. You guys hate Russia no matter what.

    PS: I wonder when Georgians would removed stature of Stalin from face of the earth. Are you so proud of him? I guess Gugasshvilli and Sakkashvilli one sort of people.

    August 15, 2008 at 9:26 pm |
  15. Annie Kate

    Thanks for posting a fuller picture of what is going on in Georgia. I am glad that someone else recognized the irony of Condi Rice and Bush saying that you couldn't just invade a sovereign nation, take their capital, and depose their leader now – that times have changed. I guess those times changed AFTER Iraq??

    For those of us who lived during the Cold War (even if for a few years) it is hard to appreciate that Russia has changed and might actually be in the right on this one. Its easy to imagine the Cold War coming back especially because Putin, the prime minister of Russia, used to be the chief of the KGB.

    Your article pointed out that we aren't getting the whole story – especially the background and that we need to dig deeper to understand what is happening. I'm not surprised that Bush has led the Georgians to believe they could be a member of NATO – the US is still as bad as ever in picking who to back getting both the US and the country in trouble. Its no wonder our image overseas has fallen so low.

    I hope the cease fire accord that the European Union brokered even though its not perfect will be honored by both Georgia and Russia and some real dialog can be established between both countries and between Russia and the US – we need to better understand each other.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 15, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  16. Heather,CA,US

    Well,Susan,being Jewish with family who had to run for their lives from Lithuania the only place Jews were allowed to be I know plenty.But I guess Im just a dumb American to you.There aren't any Jews left because the Tzar had Kovno wiped of Jews in the 1900's.Even today Russia doesn't like Jews.I know my history very well!America is the land of freedom of all kinds! Thank you for your lovely history lesson Susan however I am a second generation Lithuanian Russian American.My favorite subject is world history and Russia seems to make it owns rules regardless of other countries independence or borders.If these Georgian citizens want to be Russian citizens they should take their Russian passports and pack up their things and move to Russia.

    August 15, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  17. Michael J Arch

    Russia and the rest of the nuclear armed nations all known that nuclear war it is an unwinable war, with that said Russia should also be aware that if any Nation should attack their country they would be destroyed... Weapons of world wide destruction are not the answer or the issue, initiatory force with out proper means to justify the ends is the issue... Russia should be assured that only insanity from insane leaders like hitler should be dealt with swiftly by all means to prevent the very actions Russia has initiated... Being wrong is one thing, correcting the correctable is a noble cause and effect leading to the structure of peace and security for a safer world that includes civilized nations . Georgia knows this. The United States and her allies know this. The United Nations table is available sit down talk civil and use it in the name of peace and Security world wide .

    August 15, 2008 at 7:46 pm |
  18. Niko Laij

    Thank you for very good explanation. I would like to add one more point to McKain. One of his sponsors is Mr. Soros. who accidently helped Mr. Saakashvily to became a president.
    Else want to say about so called democratically elected president of Georgia. Ask him a question what happened to his opponents 2 weeks before last election. 2 were declared a Russian spies. One arrested, an other ran to UK for his life. Rest were absolutely not ready because of trick with timing.

    Can anybody at CNN answer to Mr. Saakashvily what was happened in South Ossetia between Aug 8 12:00 AM to 3:12 PM when first Russian tank crossed the border?

    Where were all western media until Russia intervened?

    How many time can Saakashvily lye before somebody confront him with facts?

    Regards NJ

    August 15, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  19. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    McCain's people are lobbyists for Geogria. They have crafted this whole event. Georgia is lucky Russia didn't wipe them off the map. Georgia attacked first and Russia stopped their movement fast. Hey McCain...........you don't speak for all Americans. You speak for only yourself. You have crafted a conflict with the Georgia President and people were killed. That is on you.....................

    August 15, 2008 at 6:35 pm |
  20. Ivan mandasek

    History repeats it self ....

    Another Texan goes for vacation on his ranch during world crisis...

    Bush 2008
    Johnson 1968

    Any nation which does not learn from history is doomed to repeat same mistakes all over again !

    August 15, 2008 at 6:25 pm |
  21. Tamara

    Russians have more right to be in South Ossetia, than US ever did in Kosovo.
    Russians have a right to protect it's citizens from mass GENOCIDE!!!!

    1,500 Ossetians were killed in 3 days & the city of Tzhenval was level by Georgian millitary, & according to US it's OK b/c it's Georgia?!?!?!?!
    Saakashvilli should be held accountable just like Milocevic was (w/Albanians)& just like Houssein was (w/Kurds), they too killed "their own" citizens, so why are they dead & Saakashvilli is being given "humanitarian aid" (which is actually millitary aid...duuhh)

    August 15, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  22. susan,ca

    To Robert,
    I am glad Army people do not lead countries(and hope,it will never happen in the history,especially in America)
    Otherwise,there will not be such planet as Earth anymore...

    August 15, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  23. Tom

    The Russian Foreign Minister put it pointedly. The west must choose between a real relationship with Russia or an illusory relationship with Georgia. Georgia offered a cease-fire with South Ossetia and then promptly violated it, which gave Russia the valid pretext to go in. The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia fought wars to be free from Georgia, and South Ossetia held a referendum in which the people there declared their independence from Georgia.

    Regardless of the claims made by Georgia, or the US, or Europe, Russia is right and Georgia lost the right to rule those provinces.

    Making a real partnership with Russia is more important for us instead jumping to the old Cold War rhetoric of us versus them that Bush, McCain, and Obama seem to be drawn to.

    August 15, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  24. Mike in NYC

    To: Oleg, Moscow, Russian Federation

    Your views on the current crisis are valuable and appreciated, but ... what was that about wishing Bernanke was President?

    August 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  25. Robert

    We should have stepped up to the plate militarily for Georgia... Period. We have a tendency to fight the 'easy' wars....like Iraq but often change our position when it comes to more hard liners like Iran or Russia who actually have a military might. This makes us look like we have no backbone.. and we constantly fall back on the 'diplomatic' approach . I am not for an all out war, but come on USA lets take a stand and follow through on our commitment not just when its convenient to us! We have been messing around with Iraq for nearly 20 years, a country that doesnt want us there and didnt even have the weapons we thought they had that justified the attack, lets redirect our attention to a country that is alot bigger threat to the world. We know Iran is planning to use their technology for weapons of mass destruction, yet we have done nothing compared to what we did to Iraq when we thought they had them.. Why not??? Because it is a more major fight and will probably result in more bloodshed, but that is the price of freedom sometimes and to maintain freedom around the globe. I am currently in the military and think our position on both Russia's actions and Iran have been lame at best. If I were our ally I would be questioning our integrity as an ally. We need to step up with a show of force by sending military units into Georgia, ships into the area, and planes in the air. Period. The vehicles the Russians are using are about 50 years old, definitely no match for some of our newer vehicles and technology we have. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard...We should be telling the world that Russia has forced our hand, not vice-versa...They dont care about sanctions and diplomacy it is already past that point, the more time we waste the more imbedded in Georgia they become. Make the tough decision and lets do what we need to do!

    August 15, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  26. Oleg, Moscow, Russian Federation

    At least this article seems to be less biased than others, screaming out of 'Cold War'.

    Wake up! If you had a chance to chance to compare US and Russian media you will find it quite different – I'm not talking about coverage of South Osetian crisis, but on different US-Russian mutual reaction. I'm really surprised at the open hosility in US media (much like those 'messages on bombs' nonsense) towards Russia, while – I assure you – you will find considerably LESS of those in Russian media towards US. And you will find much less of that 'hot-headed-saber-rattling'.

    What of Georgia – current US Administration reaction is quite understandeble – Georgia was (remains) an important geopolitical asset for various reasons such as positioning – well suited for missile defence systems deployment; provides a way to control oil pipeline; country situated relatively near Russian military naval base. There are other reasons but these are most obvious.
    Taking this into account, current and past actions become understandable – and most of all – president Bush strong support of Georgia's adoption in NATO (which, by the way, Old Europe resisted) – since if Georgia becomes NATO member deployment of military bases, defence systems and, most likely, electoronic intelligence by NSA will be underway. And this is not something that will be tolerated by Russia.

    So, current fierce actions – mass media attacs are one of them – are all aimed at protecting this valuable asset and making use of it in a future. These steps are understandable and logical.
    Personally, I believe that whether mr. Obama or mr. McCain is to win elections in November – importance of Georgia for the US will remain the same.

    P.S. wish US had a president as mr. Bernanke.

    August 15, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  27. susan,ca

    Ok,Heather,if you are so familiar with Russian history,tell me when Russian bully attacked some country first?
    Mongolians?Sweden,Poland and others18th century? France 19th? Germany 20th century? Do you have any idea what you are talking about? For hundreds of years you say!
    As much as I know,Russia always had to defense itself from others who wanted to grab a part of its territory(very sweet pie for everybody).
    That is very interesting to read posts of Americans who talk about something they have no idea about with such confedence.
    You are so full of that cold war propaganda-it's scary.
    Just remember that bumerang usually comes back.

    August 15, 2008 at 3:57 pm |
  28. Carl

    Russia attacks Georgia, they are the bad guys, we attack Iraq and we are the good guys. No double standard there is it? Guess we can't complain if they don't follow the Geniva Convention.

    August 15, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  29. susan

    First of all,Gorbachev is not in Russian goverment.
    And second,he didn't support Putin until this western anti-Russian propaganda started.
    It's not normal that US is trying to surround Russia with it's anti-missile shield.It's too obvious who this is for.
    What would US do if Russia starts doing the same around America-in Mexico,Cuba,Canada saying that this are against Venezuela? Would you live as if nothing happens?
    Nobody can understand if it's something surrealistic for you,something even on other continent.
    Who is the cold war bully now?

    August 15, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  30. Heather,CA,US

    All I have to say KGB.Once a agent always any agent.Nothing bothers me more than people who do not know their world history who have opions on subjects they know nothibg about.Russia is a bully! They have been for hundreds of years! If the citizens in these parts of Georgia want to be part of Russia then pack your things and leave Georgia for Russia. Don't even think of comparing Iraq to this.You sound like a fool if you do. Georgia is it's country it's borders must be respected.Putin is nothing more than Communist KGB .Russia has enbraced capitalism,but everything is the same.They cut off fuel to Lithuania for political reasons.Which side are you on?

    August 15, 2008 at 3:12 pm |
  31. Gary Chandler in Canada

    Mark August 15th, 2008 12:46 pm ET
    They are not Russians, (though they 'prefer' Russian passports), they are Ossetians, a race distinct from Russian or Georgian, as Tibetans are from Chinese.
    2/3 of S Ossetia is Ossetian, 30% Georgian. 98% of Ossetians have twice passed referenda for freedom and independence.
    Do you know Georgia invaded S Ossetia last Thursday, at night, and the Russians counter attacked on Friday to stop the genocide?
    In the first Georgian attack Blue Beret peace keepers were murdered and injured, along with innocent civilians.

    August 15, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  32. Mike in NYC

    Mark wrote:

    "Even if Ossetia is made up of mostly Russians who want away from Georgia, it is still Georgian territory."

    Let's change a few words:

    "Even if Kosovo is made up of mostly Albanians who want away from Serbia, it is still Serbian territory."

    You also wrote:

    "... especially in a NATO country. I see this as a military act against NATO and NATO should respond harshly."

    Georgia is not part of NATO.

    The drive of NATO, a military alliance, to expand to the borders of Russia is itself a military act, and Russia has responded harshly.

    August 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm |
  33. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    As reported in the Guardian (UK) on Aug 13th, Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch, who is leading a team investigating the humanitarian damage in South Ossetia, stated that the Russian estimates of 2,000 dead in the conflict were "suspicious".

    The HRW investigators had recorded cases of Ossetian fighters burning and looting Georgian villages north of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. They go on to say, "Torching of houses in these villages is in some ways a result of the massive Russia propaganda machine which constantly repeats claims of genocide and exaggerates the scale of casualties. That is then used to justify retribution."

    Neistat said that doctors at Tskhinvali hospital had provided figures that 273 wounded people had been treated there during the conflict and a total of 44 dead people had been brought to the city morgue. Russian and South Ossetian officials have claimed that 1,400 people were killed in the first day of fighting, mostly in Tskhinvali. The HRW's investigation is not complete, but by day five of the conflict they could find no other information or proof to justify Russia's claims.

    I neither trust Russia nor our current administration in being honest. But I do believe that the HRW has no other reason to release this information unless it was based on facts. Therefore, I am much more aprehensive to Russia's real reason for advancing further into the Georgian cities of Gori and Poti.

    August 15, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  34. Susan

    I really do not know how we can dissolve a cold war military as long as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is still the puppet master of Russian policy. Putin has recently discussed the need to re-deploy missiles back into Cuba. Russia is also helping Iran obtain nuclear capabilities. There has been talk of Poland's willingness to accept missile interceptor's being placed in its country by the US. This has drawn the following response from a Russian general, " This would open Poland up for a potential nuclear attack " . Is this just MUSCLE FLEXING? If it is they are some really big muscles and it has been working out for awhile.

    President Bush has seemed to miss or has ignored all these past and or more recent signals coming from Russia.
    Senator John McCain has not.

    The MSM has always portrayed America and its policys in a negative
    light !!!!! Who is the evil empire ????? It appears that history is repeating itself.


    August 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  35. Elmar

    I guess everyone forget that Russian's using the same script as they did with Azerbaijan (Karabah) when Gorbochov was President of former USSR. I have been in Baku at that time and remember exactly what was happening. Russian's just repeat War Script in Georgia and nothing more. I can exactly explain in details how Script works.

    August 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm |
  36. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    Parallels between this and Munich in 1938 are not hysterical. You call for restraint on all sides when the agressor is clearly Russia. Russia has been alarmed with the spread of democracy and potential NATO membership for it's former republics and client states; and has chosen Georgia as a way to send a message. The message is clear, this is our turf-stay out. If we abandon the fledgling democracies of Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics, we will be merely following the path of appeasement tused by Neville Chamberlain with Nazi Germany. Maybe The Nation should be renamed Pravda.

    August 15, 2008 at 12:57 pm |
  37. Mark

    This area of the world has always been a hot bed...but Russia overstepped its grounds by going into Goergia with military force. Even if Ossetia is made up of mostly Russians who want away from Georgia, it is still Georgian territory. Russia should have used diplomatic leverage to ease the tension. I feel the NATO should still punish Russia in any way possible diplomatically. We must show the Russians that they are not Big Brother in the region especially in a NATO country. I see this as a military act against NATO and NATO should respond harshly. We cannot allow Russia to think they can go into to countries and do this when they want to. They are regaining the form they had of the pre cold war era and we must stop it before its gets to that point again. Putin is a very egotistical leader who wishes nothing more than to see Russia back to where it was decades ago. He wants the smaller countries in the region to fear them and he wants to have a strangle hold on them. NATO...Please dont sit back because of who it is...this is no different than Hussein going into Kuwait over oil.

    August 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  38. deborah, OH

    I have been heartsick at the devastation & loss & brutality in this 'conflict'.
    The shooting of the journalist on last night's AC 360 made me physically sick. (My computer had issues & I could not get on to blog or anything!?
    Nothing I have seen or heard has made me feel 'secure' about this situation. Honestly, it sounds like a return to the 'Cold War' days! I hope I am wrong.

    August 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm |
  39. Mary

    Thank you so much for clearing up so many questions I had. It certainly is a convoluted situation. Ii is obvious to me that there was little thought about the people who live in this area. Before reading your article I wondered why there was a debate over Georgia's inclusion to NATO. I have a better understanding now. In defense of the media, if they are to be defended, they are asked for their opinion and how educated of an opinion and how bias it is, seems to depend on who that commentator is and who he works for. This is of course coming from a mere viewer.
    I also hope that something better can come of all of this. Thanks for clarifying things for me.

    August 15, 2008 at 11:58 am |
  40. mgorki

    Shame on CNN for fabricating (yes, fabricating) news, subjective and lobe-sided coverage of this unfolding event. Although CNN is not alone in this matter. Searching the web I didn't find anything more or less objective published by American news agencies. So, where is the prised independent American media?
    It seems that in American English the term "democracy" is a synonym of "US friendly" or "anti-Russian". President of Georgia was not elected, he ceased the power in what was named a "Rose Revolution". He violently prosecuted any strong political opposition. He was the only candidate on the presidential elections. But, he agreed to make his country a strategic stand point in the continuing cold war against Russia, hence, he is a democratically elected president.
    As for our (US) support of territorial integrity, president Bush in his speech said that the territorial integrity of Georgia "must be respected."- meaning the break-away provinces of Georgia must stay under Georgian rule. Wasn't he the first one to acknowledge the self-proclaimed independence of Kosovo from Yugoslavia earlier this year? Well, I guess those annoying pro-Russians don't have the same rights as every one else (pro-Americans).
    In the recent past US has illegally and under false pretenses attacked Yugoslavia and invaded Iraq. I don't condemn these actions, I understand that they are necessary or, at least, good for US. It just pisses me off that my government lies to me about every thing it does. And so does the government-run US media.

    August 15, 2008 at 11:57 am |
  41. Wendy Ontario, Canada

    Thank you for reporting both sides of this conflict. I also worry that the U.S has armed & given Georgia a false sense of security which may have been the start of the violence on Georgia's part. The U.S may now have a larger problem with Geogia as they cannot help them in their fight against Russia. Did the U.S make a mistake in allowing Georgia to think that they would be their protector? Would Georgia have been so bold as to start violence had they known the Americans could do little to stop Russia? McCain is doing far too much sabre rattling with nothing to back it up, he should back off & let the current President handle this issue.

    August 15, 2008 at 11:54 am |
  42. Gary Chandler in Canada

    SURPRISE, CNN posts a balanced report. America can gain the moral high ground by investigating the initial, unprovoked attack by Georgia on S Ossetia. Isn't a surprise attack and slaughter of peace keepers and civilians a war crime?
    Why all the talk about Tibet, which has actually recognized China as its ruler for times gone by, and keep blind folds on when it comes to S Ossetia?
    A proper referendum in S Ossetia would go a long, long way to easing tensions in the area, but Georgia would not like the results.
    (The displaced Ossetian refugees should be allowed to return for such a referendum.)

    August 15, 2008 at 11:42 am |
  43. Cindy

    No surprise that Gorbachev is blaming Georgia for Russia invading them. He is in with the Russian government.

    Isn't South Ossetia still a part of Georgia? So what business is it of Russia's to interfere in their business. If they didn't like what was going on they should have went to the UN and the rest of the world with their complaints and had everyone in on stopping the so called problem. They had no right invading Georgia and taking over any of it. Regardless if the people there wanted help or not.

    That would be like if Texas wanted to leave the US and be it's own country and we wouldn't let them so Mexico jumped in and took over...ok if they had the fire power which they don't but....you get my drift. It makes no sense and there is an ulterior motive that has nothing to do with helping the people of Ossetia. A blind man can see that!

    It is too bad that many innocent people have been hurt and killed because of this. And unfortunately it looks as if it is far from over!


    August 15, 2008 at 11:31 am |