Simon Sebag Montefiore, kjent for to bøker om Stalin, har besøkt Georgia mange ganger og deler sine inntrykk av landet i lys av den siste utviklingen. Han sier imperiet har slått tilbake etter sine ydmykelser og rystet verdensordenen.

I’ve been visiting Georgia since the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991. I’ve known all three Georgian presidents since independence, and witnessed the wars and revolutions of the Caucasian tinderbox. In 1991 the chief of the Georgian partisans in the first Ossetian war, a dentist turned warlord, drove me up to villages around Tskhinvali, highlands of lusciously green beauty, where a vicious war between Georgian and Ossetian farmers was being waged with the ferocity of intimate neighbours, using comically armoured tractors instead of tanks.
To understand this week’s events, we must travel back a thousand years: long before Russia existed, Georgia was a Christian-warrior kingdom. The Caucasus was the natural borderland of the three great empires of the Near East: the battlefield between Orthodox Russia, the Islamic Ottomans and Persians. In 1783 the embattled King Eralke II was forced to claim the protection of Prince Potemkin, Catherine the Great’s partner-in-power. Between 1801 and 1810 Russia swallowed the last Georgian principalities. In 1918 Georgia enjoyed independence for three years before Stalin seized it back for Moscow.

No one understood its ethnic complexity and strategic significance like Stalin, that Georgian romantic turned Russian imperialist, who had been born in Gori, the town that has been overrun by Russian forces and where a marble temple now stands over the hut where he was born. The Ossetians who straddled the border had early sought Russian alliance, earning Georgian disdain. Hence Stalin was accused by his enemies of being an Ossetian: his father was of Ossetian descent, though long since Georgianised. Stalin drew the borders of the Soviet republics to ensure Georgia contained autonomous ethnic entities, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adzharia, through which Moscow could keep Georgia in order.

Vesten må forstå alvoret i det som har skjedd:

The retaking of Ossetia is a minor part of the Russian campaign. More significant is the attack on Georgia proper, which reasserts Russia’s hegemony over the Caucasus, assuages the humiliations of the past 20 years, subverts Georgian democracy – and defies and defangs American superpowerdom. The swaggering arrival of Vladimir Putin, now the Prime Minister, across the border, macho in his tight jeans and white leather jacket, shows he, not President Medvedev, remains Russia’s paramount leader.

This war is really a celebration of ferocious force in the realm of international power, a dangerous precedent. The West must protest with unified resolve; Russia both despises Western hypocrisy and craves Western approval. Georgian democracy and sovereignty matter. So do our oil supplies: the West built a pipeline to bring oil from Azerbaijan and Central Asian across Georgia to Turkey, free of Russian interference.

Another battle in the 1,000-year Russia-Georgia grudge match

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