John O’Sullivan writes this:
It has been widely argued, for instance, that Mr. Putin’s recognition of South Ossetia was a response to the recognition of Kosovo’s independence by the United States and European Union. Since Russia has been helping the secessionists for 16 years, this would make Russia’s response a unique event in history: the first occasion on which an effect preceded its own cause.
Cleverly put. Nevertheless, while I don’t believe that it justifies what has happened, I do think that it is a mistake not to face the fact that the recognition of Kosovo has helped provide useful cover for the way that Russia has now dramatically ratcheted up (a far, far too mild a term to describe the horror of what is now going on) the level of force it has long applied in Georgia/South Ossetia.
The more I think about it, the more I think that the timing and the manner of the Kosovo recognition were mistaken. In his piece, John describes South Ossetia as “a squalid depopulated entrepôt for drugs, smuggling, money-laundering and other criminal endeavours.” I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that were indeed the case. You can, however, take a look at this report in the Washington Times from 2007 and quite reasonably wonder how different that sounds from the Kosovo that the US and various EU countries decided to recognize this year. Food for thought, perhaps.
As to what to do now to assist Georgia, the answer, will in the end, I suspect, be a matter of generous aid and assistance with reconstruction more than anything else. What won’t help anybody is proceeding as if Russia is in the process of transforming itself into some sort of revived Soviet Union. It’s not.