Foreign Policy Blogs

Facts on the Ground

As of this writing, Russia has declared a halt to its military offensive in Georgia, some 24 hours after Georgia declared a ceasefire of its own. The olive branch was waved in Moscow by President Medvedev, who stated that "the aggressor has been punished." If the ceasefire holds, the outside world may have an opportunity to check the veracity of the statements issued by Moscow and Tbilisi, see first-hand the casualties and assess the damage. Hopefully we can use this blog to highlight this information as it becomes available.

Even now, however, some facts on the ground are clearly beyond dispute. All the violence took place within the internationally recognized boundaries of Georgia. While the conflict began in South Ossetia, Russian forces quickly responded by attacking targets well beyond this contested region, including the town of Gori, in central Georgia, as well as Abkhazia, and Senaki, in Georgia to the west. According to the photos taken by Reuters early Monday, residential apartment buildings were hit in Gori. Video footage broadcast yesterday throughout the world showed Georgian President Saakashvili being hustled to cover by his guards in Gori, not far from the Georgian capital. The Washington Post reported that both Georgian and Russian officials confirmed the Russian takeover of Senaki. French Foreign Minister Kouchner saw the destruction in Gori first hand. Yet Russian UN Ambassador Churkin cautioned, predictably, that such reports should be taken "with a grain of salt."

Russia has had armed "peacekeepers" in South Ossetia since 1992, when they were "invited" in by Ossetians following the breakup of the USSR. Georgia has been trying to get rid of the Russians ever since. As Moscow issued Russian passports to inhabitants of South Ossetia, it set the stage for a casus belli, once it determined that its "own" citizens were threatened by Georgian "aggression."

Sudetenland. Danzig. Land grabs in Europe have often been justified as efforts to protect borderland minorities. Now South Ossetia. What will be next — Transdnistra? Russia has armed "peacekeepers" there as well. Wherever ethnic Russians dwell in countries sharing a border with the Russian Federation, today there is concern that Moscow may try to create new facts on the ground. Look at this report from Riga:

RIGA, Latvia (AFP)–Russia's ambassador to Latvia Monday warned the Baltic states and Poland that they would pay for their criticism of the Kremlin over the conflict in Georgia, the Baltic news agency BNS reported.

“One must not hurry on such serious issues, as serious mistakes can be made that have to be paid for a long time afterwards,” Alexander Veshnyakov was quoted as saying by BNS.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Riga confirmed the ambassador's comments but declined to elaborate.

Shall we take such reports with a grain of salt as well?

— Mark Dillen



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict

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