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Russian-American Media: The Old Empire Is Back

New America Media, News report, Ekaterina Basilaia Posted: Aug 25, 2008

Editor's note: Russian-American Media are debating whether Russia had a right to invade Georgia. But they all agreed that the old Empire is back, reports Ekaterina Basilaia. Basilaia is an intern at New America Media.

In the wake of the brief but ferocious war in the Caucasus, where the former Soviet republic of Georgia was forced into a military confrontation with Russia, the Russian-American media remain divided over the issue of whether Russia should have invaded another sovereign country.

But there's one thing all of them agreed upon: The empire is back, and with it the Cold War scenario.

"There is no doubt that Russia was preparing the (military) operation and also Georgians were ready to accept this. Russia won't care for the lives of people. But in this conflict, the Ossetians were lucky that Russia's interests coincided with theirs," said Janna Sundeyeva, editor of the San Francisco-based weekly Russian newspaper, K Stati (To the Point).

But Sundeyeva said that the Russian government's decision to invade Georgia was "adequate and (the) right thing to do." "Considering that in the 1990s, NATO, led by the U.S., bombed Serbia for Kosovo, why couldn't Russia intervene in the conflict between Georgia and Ossetia?" Sundeyeva asked.

When the tiny post-Soviet Republic of Georgia decided to regain its breakaway territory of South Ossetia, a separatist de facto republic for almost 19 years, by launching a defensive military operation in the conflict zone on August 8, Russia decided to launch a counter-offensive for the sake of "peace enforcement" in the Caucasus. That confrontation developed into the wider war between Georgia and Russia. The Russian military penetrated deep into the territories of a sovereign country, bombing its key cities and military bases and occupying two-thirds of the country.

Last week, both countries accepted a France-brokered ceasefire, and Russia has begun withdrawing its troops. However, the Russian military remains in the Georgian city of Poti, which houses Georgia's main harbor.

An opinion piece published in Russkaya Reklama (Russian Advertisement) in New York stated that the war between Georgia and Ossetia has sparked hot debates among Russian-speaking immigrants. The debates have touched upon the possible outcomes of the conflict and how it will affect the relationship between Russia and Georgia, and the relationships between expatriates of former Soviet states. The communities are split -- Russians are for Russia and the rest are for Georgia and the West.

The Russkaya Reklama's writer, Vilen Lyulechkin, said that "the war in the Caucasus is a disaster for the three participating nations. This has never been the case among Georgians, Russians and Ossetians before the conflict broke out. Unfortunately, the leaders of Georgia and Ossetia are only pawns in the bigger battle that is between the United States and Russia."

Vladimir Nuzov, another journalist from New Jersey, said he was outraged with Georgian President Saakashvili's decision to regain South Ossetia through a military operation. He calls Saakashvili a 'criminal.' "Anybody, who has seen the shelling of Tskhinvali (the capital of de facto South Ossetia) would agree with me. And Western politicians do nothing else than scold Russia, calling it an aggressor," Nuzov said.

According to Anatoly Gerjgorin, a journalist from Ruskiy Bazar (Russian-Bazar), Russia is afraid to lose its leverage in Western Europe, which relies mainly on Russian oil. "There is a part of bigger 'Caspian game' in which most of the Post-Soviet Republics have been involved," he wrote. "If Saakashvili abandons the project [BTC pipeline, that runs from Baku through Tbilisi, Georgia to Turkish Ceyhan and then to Europe, avoiding Russia], Moscow will forget the Georgian separatist territories forever and will happily let the country join NATO."

Mikheil Kamenetsky's opinion piece in the Russian language weekly West-East looks at GeorgianRussian antagonism from a more pessimistic standpoint, saying that "if Russia feels itself as the winner, it will enhance the image and authority of Vladimir Putin as the national leader.

"However, will that be good for Russia? Not really. Russia has lost the war, as it is obvious that the country chose its own way; the way that will lead it to a deadlock.

Georgia also lost the war, and more precisely, President Saakashvili, failed to accomplish his goals. And finally, the international community is defeated too, because the war has deteriorated Russia's relationship both with the United States and the European Union. "The general situation in the world came close to the brink of the Cold War."

However, Kamenestky is convinced that whatever happened was inevitable and all the sides had a reason to fight. "Georgia wanted to regain the breakaway republics. As for Russia, it counted on a small victory to change the Georgian government and force Mikheil Saakashvili and his allies out of the country."

And Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, too, "were hoping that with Russia's involvement in the conflict and victory over Georgia, they could finally acquire their independence," Kamenetsky observed.

According to Kamenetsky, the Kremlin was convinced that by destroying the Georgian army, it could dictate to the Georgian government not to join NATO and the European Union. Its victory over Georgia should have been the proof to the world that Russia has "gotten back on its feet" and once more behaves as a great power.

Georgia on My Mind

Oil and Natural Gas Fuel Caspian War

Chicken Comes Home to Roost in Georgia

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