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LOOKING AHEAD
10.08.2008

August 10, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Vladimir Bukarsky

THE CAPITAL OF SOUTH OSSETIA IS WIPED OFF THE POLITICAL MAP

Instead, the Russian city of Tskhinval has emerged

In any community – a school class, a workshop, an army unit or a prison cell Ц laymen are tested for strength. Tests may be different: a special procedure of "initiation", a provocation, a physical contest or psychological pressure. In the same way, a goalkeeper in a soccer game is tested at the start with long-distance and precarious blows. Global policy follows similar rules.

During recent decades, the West has been systematically testing Moscow leaders for strength. Yury Andropov was tested by a South Korean aircraft illegitimately entering the air territory of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev's personal psychological and political reaction was tested by German pilot Matthias Rust who landed his sports plane on the Red Square in Moscow. Boris Yeltsin was tested with the first Chechen war. A multitude of tests were invented for Vladimir Putin, including the military provocation in Dagestan, explosions in Moscow houses, and the capture of a school by a group of terrorists in Beslan, North Ossetia. However, Putin disappointed the tough guys, displaying strength in most precarious situations and moreover, consolidating his domestic popularity each time when the attempts to test him obviously failed.

Regardless from Putin's choice of successor, the plan of Tbilisi's assault on South Ossetia was prepared in advance. The successor was going to be humiliated, bullied and ridiculed before the whole world. His weakness was supposed to be demonstrated to Russia’s rivals and allies, as well as to the Russian people.

It is not true that Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili went crazy or chose a flight-forward option just before the assault on South Ossetia. Saakashvili spent the whole term of his presidency provoking Russia for physical response Ц to his verbal humiliating statements, to the capture and interrogation of officers of the Russian peacekeeping contingent by his henchmen, to the selection of an alternative government of South Ossetia etc. Thus, when Georgian aircrafts and artillery were systematically bombing living quarters and hospitals of Tskhinval, the center of the breakaway South Ossetia, and killing injured peacekeepers, he was just doing his job. He was doing what he was instructed to do by his US employers.

Moscow, with a new President and a new Defense Minister, both viewed as inexperienced and psychologically unprepared, was supposed to cave in and to fail to adequately respond to the demonstratively outrageous crackdown on the adjacent territory where the majority of population held Russian citizenship. It was well known that on the day of the assault, August 8, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was planning to take part in the opening ceremony of the Olympic Gams in Beijing. Thus, President Dmitry Medvedev, "left alone" in Kremlin, was believed to be incapable of a strong response. He was expected just to express indignation, to stamp his feet and not more, and to be too anxious for the future Olympic Games in Sochi Ц this city being too close to the area of conflict Ц to venture a strong response with military means.

"In such cases, the winner is always right", said Oasu Nantoj, a radical Moldavian nationalist and Russia-hater, in an interview to Regnum. "We just have to follow the events". This judgment was correct: in case Medvedev caved in, the 1600 civilians, killed on August 8 night in Tskhinval, would be neglected by the global media is the same way as the Serbs, exterminated in the Oluja operation, as well as the 200 Serbian villages in Bosnia, swept from the map by butcher Naser Oric, not speaking of the tragedy of Serbian refugees from Bosnia, Kraina, and Kosovo.

In the morning of August 8, it really seemed that Russia is going to cave in and timidly wipe the spit from its face. A number of Moscow websites and blogs already concluded that Kremlin "has given away South Osstetia in the same way as the Kosovo Serbs", that Medvedev "does not know what to do". In case Medvedev really surrendered, it would not be forgiven by the Russian population: he would acquire a reputation of Yeltsin's Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev, regarded in Russia as a personification of treason. He would be sympathetically patted on the shoulder in the West but despised by fellow citizens. Moreover, a cave-in in South Ossetia would trigger a new wave of separatism in the Caucasus. One of the bloggers expressed the view that "in case Moscow betrays South Ossetia, the secession of the whole North Caucasus would become inevitable, as a despised Kremlin would not be regarded as an authority". Author Yegor Kholmogorov added that in case South Ossetians are betrayed, Russia should be pressured on all the debated territories, returning back to the powerless time of the 1990s in one day.

However, the broadly expected surrender did not happen. While bloggers were speculating on the surrender, the 19th brigade of the 58th Army of the Russian Armed Forces was already paving its way across the Roki Range to the destroyed Tskhinval, and Rusian aviation was clearing the air above South Ossetia. President Dmitry Medvedev expressed his firm commitment to protect Russian citizens wherever their lives are endangered. Within a day, Tskhinval was almost wholly taken under joint control of Russian and South Ossetian military forces. For the first time, Russia gave a carte blanche for volunteers wishing to fight for their fellow citizens Ц in the 1990s that could not be imagined.

The war in South Ossetia is not over. Russia has to withstand a full-fledged attack from international mass media that describe Russia as the aggressive side, Georgia as the victim and Ossetian civilians as Russia-fed separatists. Despite lack of experience in Internet wars, Moscow promptly accumulates the required capabilities.

Tskhinvali, as the center of the unrecognized state of South Ossetia, does not exists any longer. What does exist is the Russian city of Tskhinval. The day of August 8 has put a final and irreversible end to the claims of Georgia for this territory. This obvious fact just has to be recognized officially. Today, Moscow possesses an unquestionable moral right for declaring South Ossetia and Abkhazia as territories of Russia. The will of the peoples, expressed earlier at the public referendums, is to be satisfied, as well as their natural desire to be protected by a strong nation.


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