Holbrooke’s comments are going to drive a lot of my Russian visitors crazy but its backing of separatist parties could only have led to this. Russia will not find much sympathy in the West:
The West, already deeply concerned about Russia’s rising military assertiveness, is likely to see Russia’s involvement as naked aggression and its frequent calls for peace as disingenuous.
South Ossetia was trouble waiting to happen for years — a “frozen conflict” with tensions building just below the surface.
Georgia’s thunderous assault may have been a go-for-broke move by a country that felt it was out of options amid Russia’s growing dominance in the region. Or South Ossetia’s separatists may have provoked Georgia once too often.
A grudging cease-fire that ended a separatist war in 1992 left the region mostly under control of an internationally unrecognized government, but dappled with areas held by Georgian forces.
South Ossetia longed to be incorporated into Russia, whose province of North Ossetia contains their ethnic brethren. Georgia firmly rejected the prospect: Ceding the territory would bring Russia within 50 miles of the Georgian capital.
Negotiations were sporadic, often foundering on who should participate. Clashes broke out, especially near the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali, which is in a pocket nearly surrounded by Georgian-held territory.
Tensions rose markedly this year after South Ossetia basked in Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, calling it an international precedent that legitimized its own refusal to remain part of Georgia.
Moscow boosted ties with the separatist government — and with a similar regime in Georgia’s other separatist region, Abkhazia — and repeatedly denounced Saakashvili’s push to join NATO.
If Georgia was seeking to light a fire under its allies it succeeded. I wonder what Israel will take away from this?
Richard Holbrooke (Wikipedia)