THE AUGUST CRISIS IN THE CAUCASUS AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
Alexander Skakov, Ph.D. (Hist.), head of the Department of the Near Abroad Affairs, Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (Moscow, Russia)
Until the summer of 2008 the situation in the Caucasus was determined by the balance of power and parity between the main actors—America and Russia; there were other actors as well—the European Union, Turkey, and Iran. It was Georgia that wanted to defrost the situation in order to change the format of the peacekeeping operation and join NATO. Control over the breakaway regions and the status of the region’s leader were its final aims.
The United States and the EU (NATO) would not have objected to a change in the balance of powers: not satisfied by a situation in which they had to trim their ambitions to suit the interests of others, they believed that the level of their presence in the region was inadequate. The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia served as defrosting instruments: for a long time the situation around them was teetering on the brink of war. In pursuance of their short-term interests the outside players were deliberately shortening the road to NATO for Georgia.
Until 7-8 August, 2008 Georgia’s chances of being included in MAP (the Membership Action Plan) were determined by the Bucharest summit, which postponed the final decision until December 2008; it also promised that both aspirants—Georgia and Ukraine—would eventually be admitted. The Atlantic Alliance, however, was divided over the issue: unlike the United States and New Europe, Old Europe took into account Russia’s position and the Caucasian realities, which are far removed from NATO standards.
Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia pushed the situation beyond the point of no return: irrespective of what Russia could or should have done no status quo could be restored and the exacerbated problems could not be settled.
For more than 15 years Russia has been strictly observing the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity and fulfilling its peacekeeping functions under the 1992 Dagomys Agreement on the Principles of the Settlement of the Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict, one of the factors of regional peace and security.
It set up Joint Peace Keeping Forces (JPKF) in the conflict zone and created a Joint Control Commission (JCC) for the sake of the conflict’s peaceful settlement strictly within the law. Based on the principle of the territorial integrity of states the document referred to the U.N. Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. Kosovo’s independence, recognized by many Western states and described as a unique decision inapplicable to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, did not shatter Russia’s determination to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity.
In an uphill effort to bring the sides’ positions closer together Russia lost about 120 peacekeepers from among the CIS peacekeeping forces in the zone of the Abkhazian-Georgian conflict and sustained considerable material losses. CIS peacekeepers fell victim to those who in an effort to defrost the conflict and resume hostilities staged terrorist attacks on the territories of the breakaway republics. Someone supplied them with weapons and………………