- Alastair Reith
In the weeks leading up to the recent conflict in South Ossetia and Georgia, the big news was that the Serbian general Radovan Karadzic had been captured. The capitalist media was spitting with fury at the heinous crimes this officer had committed. The most heavily denounced of these was his use of artillery strikes against the civilian areas of Sarajevo. The actions of Karadzic were carried out in the name of preserving Yugoslavia’s territorial integrity against ethnic separatists.
On 7 August 2008, Georgian forces invaded South Ossetia. As part of their attack, they launched artillery strikes against civilian areas of the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. This has killed somewhere between 200 and 2000 people (depending on whose account you believe), and forced 30,000 South Ossetians to flee for their lives, out of a total population of 70,000. The Georgians carried out this attack in the name of preserving their territorial integrity against ethnic separatists.
When Radovan Karadzic bombed civilians, it was denounced as an atrocity that justified his being put before the International Criminal Court to be tried for war crimes. There is a complete double standard here. No American leaders have been charged with war crimes for the similar bombings they unleashed on Fallujah. And when Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili bombed civilians, there were no such denunciations. Almost the opposite: when Russia responded to these attacks on an area that has strong ties with it and where Russian troops were stationed, Mikheil Saakashvili was suddenly depicted as an innocent victim of Russian aggression.
Why has Karadzic been condemned as a war criminal, while President Saakashvili is being lauded as a hero, a defender of democracy and a victim. all at once?
The answer is simple. Georgia is a US puppet state with heavy investment from Western capitalism, whereas Yugoslavia was pursuing an independent line and refusing to become a Western imperialist neocolony.
Karadzic was a mass murdering thug and the regime he was a part of was hardly a progressive one, but the point is that Saakashvili fits very well into this description as well. The President of Georgia is fortunate to have imperialist backing and the resulting Get Out of Jail Free Card that keeps him out of the International Criminal Court.
This war is as much about US expansionism as it is about “Russian aggression”. Western imperialism is expanding NATO further and further into the territories once under the sphere of the former USSR, and is setting up missile and radar bases in Ukraine and Poland (despite massive opposition to this amongst the population of both countries). Georgia is currently negotiating to become a member of NATO.
Russia has become increasingly strong militarily and economically over the past decade or so, and has begun flexing its muscles once again. It was inevitable that Russia would take action to prevent the hostile US encirclement it can see taking place.
We should support neither Russia nor Georgia and the US in this conflict. Both sides are pursuing imperialist agendas, and are aiming to strengthen themselves at the expense of their rivals. However, the development of a counter-balance to US imperialism, which has had sole dominance of the world ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is a good thing, because it will open up space for revolutionary and national liberation movements to grow and win successes. The US will be more reluctant to intervene militarily in other countries if it has to be cautious in the face of an increasingly powerful Russia.
Russia’s actions should not be upheld, but we should recognise that the resurgence of Russian economic and military power is not a bad thing for liberation movements around the world.
It is too early at this stage to determine exactly what forces are at play, and what the real reasons are behind this conflict. More will be written about that as details begin to emerge. But for the time being it’s enough to say that things are a lot more complicated than our ruling class tries to make out.