During the brief war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, one of the earliest targets was Gori, a nondescript industrial town near the border of South Ossetia, one of the two separatist provinces over which the conflict was fought. Russian jets bombed the city, hitting apartment buildings and a school. A missile thudded onto the grounds of the city’s hospital; cluster bombs exploded in the square. According to the Georgian government, at least 60 people died. It was curious, therefore, that two local landmarks escaped the bombardment entirely.
After the Russo-Georgian War in August 2008, the European Union found itself in a difficult position. Moscow had not only invaded a neighbor for the first time since the Soviet assault on Afghanistan in 1979. In recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, it had also broken the cardinal rule of post-cold war European security: that borders in Europe would never again be changed by force of arms. Yet Georgia, too, had clearly made mistakes, not the least in embroiling itself in a military conflict with Russia that Georgia's own allies had repeatedly warned against.
Julia Ioffe is a writer living in New York. Today in Tbilisi, around 60,000 protesters came out to demand President Mikheil Saakashvili's ouster and to commemorate the 19 Georgians who died on this day in 1989, when Soviet forces crushed an independence rally there. The Georgian president stands accused of undermining the liberal goals of the 2003 Rose Revolution that he led--and that President Bush celebrated as a massive democratic success. Saakashvili's also in trouble for abandoning economic and political reform just as the Georgian economy weakens with the rest of the world's.
RAMZAN KADYROV, one would assume, is hardly the sort of man the Russian government would want to show off to a group of foreign dignitaries. The Moscow-appointed president of Chechnya has been accused of deploying his several-thousand-man-strong personal militia—since absorbed into the Chechen government—to torture and murder his opponents, and many suspect that he played a role in the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist who exposed Russia’s brutal repression of separatists.
The future of Russia's excursion in Georgia remains to be determined. But some conclusions can already be drawn: 1. Russian power is extraordinarily brutal in the post-Soviet era, as we have already seen in Chechnya. This brutality has been confirmed -- although on a smaller scale -- in the spectacle of the Russian army occupying a sovereign country, moving through it as it pleases, advancing and retreating at will, and casually destroying the military and civilian infrastructures of a young democracy as an astonished world watches. Today it is Georgia. Tomorrow will it be Ukraine?
While a few foreign policy watchers were sounding the alarm about the Caucasus months in advance, Russia's invasion of Georgia sent most of the public and the commentariat running to their world maps. To avoid a repeat, we should probably keep an eye on the next likely flashpoint: Ukraine. The IHT has an update on developments there, which turn on the status of Russia's naval base in Crimea: Ukraine, bigger than France and traditionally seen by Russians as integral to their heritage and dominion, has been conspicuously quiet over the past week.
The guns around Tbilisi have now fallen silent. Efforts are underway to finalize a truce between Russia and Georgia to end Moscow’s bloody invasion. It is time for the West to look in the mirror and ask: What went wrong? How did this disaster happen? Make no mistake. While this is first and foremost a disaster for the people and government of Georgia, it is also a disaster for the West--and for the U.S. in particular. After all, Georgia was, in a fairly basic sense, our project. The Rose Revolution was inspired by American ideals--and prodding.
AS THE HELICOPTER crossed the Black Sea coast and began descending toward the airfield in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, I could see the telltale aftermath of war through the window. Against the incongruous backdrop of lush vegetation and citrus groves were abandoned, burnt-out houses and farms, untouched since Georgians and ethnic Abkhaz fought for dominance of the region in 1992-1993. Since the end of the fighting, the conflict has remained frozen in place. Abkhazia has declared independence from Georgia, but Tbilisi remains intent on reasserting its control. Abkhaz officials and i