Mysteries of International Relations

The mere fact of the Georgian attack on South Ossetia was, I think, perfectly adequate pretext for a limited Russian military response. For whatever reason, though, as Tom Lasseter reminds us, the Russians decided to come up with a lot of outlandish and implausible stories of Georgian atrocities:

Russian politicians and their partners in Tskhinvali, the capital of the breakaway region South Ossetia, said that when Georgian forces tried to seize control of the city and the surrounding area, the physical damage was comparable to Stalingrad and the killings similar to the Holocaust.

This turns out to be totally untrue:

But a trip to the city on Sunday, without official escorts, revealed a very different picture. While it was clear there had been heavy fighting — missiles knocked holes in walls, and bombs tore away rooftops — almost all of the buildings seen in an afternoon driving around Tskhinvali were still standing.

Meanwhile, even if it had been true, it’s not clear why that would justify what the Russians are doing now in terms of sitting in Gori. And beyond that, justified or not there’s really not much anyone can do to make the Russians leave. And even further beyond that, the Russians would probably be smart to leave anyway having taught Georgia a lesson rather than get bogged down in the inevitable problems of trying to occupy hostile territory over the long run. But why bother with these lies? What does it accomplish?


At any rate, if you’re looking for some accurate information, I would recommend Human Rights Watch which doesn’t let Georgia off the hook (“Georgian military used indiscriminate and disproportionate force resulting in civilian deaths in South Ossetia”) but doesn’t support anything resembling Russia’s charges and, further, makes it clear that the bulk of the illegal activity has been committed by Russian or Russian-aligned forces.