Sunday, August 10, 2008

Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia -- and Kosovo

Excerpt...."Strategically, the Russians have been sending signals that they really wanted to flex their muscles, and they're upset about Kosovo," the diplomat said. He was alluding to Russia's anger at the West for recognizing Kosovo's independence from Serbia earlier this year.

Indeed, the decision by the United States and Europe to recognize Kosovo may well have paved the way for Russia's lightning-fast decision to send troops to back the separatists in South Ossetia. During one meeting on Kosovo in Brussels this year, Lavrov, the foreign minister, warned Rice and European diplomats that if they recognized Kosovo, they would be setting a precedent for South Ossetia and other breakaway provinces. As easily as the West could encourage a former Russian satellite toward independence and away from Russia's sphere of influence, the Russians warned, so too, could Moscow encourage pro-Russian breakaway regions like South Ossetia to follow suit.

For the Bush administration, the choice now becomes whether backing Georgia — which, more than any other former Soviet republic has allied with the United States — on the South Ossetia issue is worth alienating Russia at a time when getting Russia's help to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions is at the top of the United States' foreign policy agenda.

One United Nations diplomat joked on Saturday that "if someone went to the Russians and said, 'OK, Kosovo for Iran,' we'd have a deal."....Read More

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