Is It The Cold War The Second Time Around?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

According to a Newsweek article, Russia and Georgia are at war in all but name. After a dramatic day that saw Georgian government forces overrunning much of the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia, Russia sent in 150 tanks and an unknown number of troops to support Russian peacekeepers in the province—as well as to give vital military aid to the Ossetian rebels. By nightfall, Ossetian sources claimed that rebel troops and Russian forces had won back control of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.
Both sides have blamed the other for the sudden escalation of hostilities. Richard Holbrooke, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Friday that "Russia has been trying to destabilize Georgia for years," and added that the latest hostilities were an attempt to oust Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili, "the Western-educated, pro-Western head of the most democratic country in the former Soviet Union … he is a thorn in Russia's side." However, it was the Georgian side that launched a full-scale military assault on Tskhinvali on Thursday night after days of escalating skirmishes.
The irony of this vicious little battle is that Saakashvili and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev could be close allies. They certainly have a lot in common—both are young, dynamic leaders who trained as lawyers before going into politics. They are far more westward-looking than their predecessors, and both of them are passionate about rooting out corruption and introducing the rule of law to their reluctant countrymen.

But instead of cooperating, the two men are on a collision course, locked in a confrontation that only one of them can win. In a sense, both leaders have been hijacked by history. South Ossetia was a festering conflict left over from the chaotic days of the Soviet Union's breakup. For nearly two decades, the Kremlin has supported Ossetia and Abkhazia, another tiny rebel enclave, with money and military supplies as part of an old-fashioned divide-and-rule policy designed to keep Georgia weak. Medvedev inherited that policy from Vladimir Putin—and now has little choice but to follow it through. Medvedev has been fighting the "wimp factor" ever since he took over as president in May; he cannot afford to look weaker than his tough-talking mentor.

The US is an obvious supporter of Georgia, and this spouted an awkward situation between the US and Russia. Recently, Putin and Bush exchanged harsh words, and one can't help but think, can this be the Cold War the second time around? I hope not, this is something the UN security council will see through, or a Nuclear Meltdown of the two superpowers is imperative. It is Five Minutes Till Midnight, but this new threat to world security will surely move the dial to four if this political unrest is not resolved soon.


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