Peacekeeping: To Protect And Keep

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September 5, 2012: For the second time in four years, tiny Georgia had been invaded from Russia. Last time, it was by the Russian Army, this time it was at least twenty Islamic terrorists from Dagestan, who went to a village and kidnapped five people. Police responded and two of them were killed (along with a military medic) before more police and soldiers showed up, drove off the invaders (killing at least eleven of them), and rescued the hostages. The dead Dagestanis were identified, with the help of Russia, as wanted Islamic terrorists. It was still unclear why these guys came south and kidnapped five people. Best guess is that the Islamic terrorists were attempting to set up a camp, that would be safe from Russia, for the Winter. But some civilians were encountered and were taken prisoner. After about a day the police were informed about the missing civilians and things went downhill after that.

Despite this second invasion, Georgians are not eager to cooperate with Russia on counter-terrorism issues. This is because four years ago Russia invaded Georgia to complete the process by which Russia annexed six percent of Georgia's territory. Georgians are still very angry about this. The stolen areas, Abkhazia (population 200,000) and South Ossetia (population 50,000), were never really part of historical Georgia until the Russians took control of the then kingdom of Georgia two centuries ago. During the Soviet period Abkhazia and South Ossetia were made autonomous parts of Georgia. The Abkhazians and South Ossetia are ethnically dissimilar to Georgians (different language and customs) but both areas were too small to be separate provinces. So for administrative reasons the Russians just attached the two areas to Georgia.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Abkhazia and South Ossetia found themselves part of an independent Georgia, which was, in turn, on bad terms with Russia (a normal state-of-affairs for Georgians). Abkhazia and South Ossetia both sought to become independent from Georgia, which produced over a decade  of violence, with Russia seeing an opportunity and eventually intervening on the side of the Abkhazians and South Ossetians, by sending troops (as peacekeepers) to both places. Finally, four years ago, Russia invaded Georgia and, in a brief but violent war, forced Georgia to accept the fact that they had lost Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia then proceeded to make both areas parts of Russia. Three years ago Russia took over border security in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At the same time these two ethnic separatist areas declared themselves independent but they have actually become part of Russia. Georgia has a population of 4.6 million and a hostile relationship (going back centuries) with Russia. Now Georgia has to live with the fact that Russia annexed six percent of its population and territory and no one can do anything about it. This annoys the UN, as Russia has, in effect, taken territory from neighboring Georgia and gotten away with it. The UN Charter discourages that sort of thing.

Georgia was one of three provinces (of the Soviet Union) in the southern Caucasus that declared their independence in 1991, and got away with it. Chechnya, just north of Georgia, also tried to declare independence but Russia would not allow that. After much fighting Russia managed to keep Chechnya part of the new, slimmed down (half the population of the Soviet Union) country. The other two new countries in the Caucasus (Armenia and Azerbaijan) are on better terms with Russia. Armenia even has allowed Russia to base troops in its territory. Georgia and Armenia are both Christian nations in the midst of Moslem nations (especially Turkey and Iran), but Azerbaijan stays friendly with Russia in return for protection from Iran (which considers Azerbaijan a lost Iranian province).

This use of peacekeepers as the first step in a takeover is a centuries old Russian ploy. Actually, it's an ancient ploy worldwide. But the Russians have used it more aggressively over the centuries, offering peacekeepers or protection from an aggressive enemy, only to eventually take control of the bordering area it was initially just protecting.

 


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