Thwart Imperialist Designs in Caucasus

8-31-08, 11:31 am

Original source: People's Democracy (India)

After having successfully engineered the disintegration of former Yugoslavia fostering internecine conflict and instability in the Balkans – giving a modern meaning to the word 'Balkanization' – imperialism aided by local chauvinistic outfits is now targeting the Caucasus. The armed conflict in Ossetia in Georgia is assuming alarming proportions. The conflict between Russia and Georgia has security implications for the European Union as a whole. This, naturally, will also impact on international developments.

The ethnic conflict between Georgia and Ossetia goes back to the 18th century Russian Empire. In 1921, when Georgia joined the USSR, southern Ossetia alongwith Adjaria and Abkhazia were declared as autonomous regions. The end of 1980s, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union appearing imminent, saw various nationalist extremist outfits raise their demands for ethnic separation in various parts of the USSR. Georgia, following its separation from the USSR, had annulled all autonomous regions with their late president, Gamsakhurdia, declaring aggressively, “Georgia for Georgians”. Following a three-year armed conflict which saw large-scale attacks on Ossetia leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands rendered as refugees, Yeltsin and Shevardnadze signed an agreement for the settlement of the conflict in June 1992. A Joint Control Commission with the presence of Russian and Georgian peacekeepers was created for the settlement of the conflict.

In March 2008, Georgia unilaterally declared the Joint Control Commission as being ineffective laying the basis for the restarting of conflict. On the night of August 7/8, Georgian military forces launched an attack on southern Ossetia. Reports suggest that nearly 2,000 innocent civilian population have died and over 30,000 refugees have fled from the area. 18 Russian peace keepers were killed and over a hundred wounded.

When the USSR disintegrated, some 25 million Russians found themselves living in foreign countries of the former Soviet Union. The Russian parliament in 1991 adopted a law to the effect that any holder of a USSR passport has the right to become a Russian citizen. Over 90 per cent of the population of South Ossetia are Russian citizens. Under the Russian constitution, the State is obliged to ensure the security of its citizens wherever they may be living. By August 12/13, Russia had announced that they had succeeded in reestablishing peace and insisted that Georgia should enter into a legally binding non-use of force agreement with international guarantees. Georgia has refused to accept such an agreement since the beginning of the conflict in the nineties.

While these are the bare facts, there are other security issues that Russia is concerned about. Georgia is on the verge of joining the NATO and is considered very close to the US administration. Naturally, Russia would be wary of NATO forces on its borders. When Russia was asked to withdraw the former USSR military bases from Georgia, this was to have been accompanied by Georgia adopting a constitutional law prohibiting and proscribing any presence of foreign military bases on Georgian soil forever. Additionally, Russia and Georgia were to establish a joint counter terrorism mechanism as Russia felt that Georgian territory was being used by certain forces against it. While Russia has totally withdrawn its military bases from Georgia, the other two elements of the agreement have not been complied with. With Georgia joining the NATO, Russia, naturally, sees its security interests being challenged with the presence of NATO bases.

US imperialism and its allies seek to portray this as a Russian military operation inside Georgia. Using this as a pretext, USA has extracted an agreement from Poland to station its missiles on Polish territory. Russia had previously come out strongly against the proposed US Missile Defence Shield in Europe targeting Russia. Russia has also strongly objected to the southward expansion of the NATO.

US imperialism’s doublespeak is thoroughly exposed by the fact that while it denounces the Russian action in Ossetia, it had shamelessly sanctioned and legitimised the partitioning of Serbia by recognising Kosovo. It is clear that US imperialism would like to use the present conflict to further its hegemonic designs by strengthening its military presence in Eastern Europe.

One hope that this conflict will not explode to the levels of what happened in the Balkans has come from the French president Sarkozy’s visit to Moscow as the current president of the European Union. A six-point formula has been worked out – refrain from the use of force; absolute cessation of all hostilities; free access to humanitarian assistance; Georgian forces to withdraw to their permanent positions; Russian forces to withdraw to the line they were stationed prior to the outbreak of hostilities; and an international plan for the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – to ensure lasting security.

US imperialism’s eagerness, as it is, to establish its military presence in the former Soviet republics must not be allowed to prevent this six-point programme from succeeding.