Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia wars

A recent diary takes the left to task for not sharply enough attacking Russia's incursion into Georgia.  I would suggest that Russia's attack on Georgia is at least as defensible as the NATO attack on Serbia of 1999, which the left largely supported.

Consider the following:

(1) Kosovo has been an important historical region within Serbia for many centuries.  The historical ties of South Ossetia to Georgia are more questionable.

(2) Serbia's military crackdown in Kosovo (that was used as a justification of the NATO attacks) was in response to a violent insurgency by the Kosovo Liberation Army.  Georgia's military attack on South Ossetia was unprovoked by any act of violence.

(3) South Ossetia has a natural connection to Russia, dating back to the days of the Soviet Union, and the people of South Ossetia have worked steadily to maintain that connection. In other words, the breakup of the Soviet Union thwarted a natural cultural/political climate for South Ossetians, in which they were part of an entity (the USSR) that includes North Ossetia, that was tied to Ossetian language and culture and Russian language and culture, etc. The autonomy that South Ossetia received shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union allowed South Ossetians to continue their cultural and linguistic traditions, traditional alliances, etc.  (And the Georgian military incursion threatened to halt that.)   Kosovo had no history of political connection to Albania or NATO. Kosovo was part of Serbia-dominated Yugoslavia, and, when that broke up, Kosovo remained part of Serbia.  In a sense, then, the Russian incursion into Georgia was designed to maintain a political  status quo of autonomy, whereas the NATO incursion into Serbia was designed to break up a status quo.

Of course there are counter-arguments, the main one being that Serbia's atrocities against the Kosovars were so widespread as to justify intervention.  However, I think that perspective needs to be balanced with the ones above, which is that Georgia precipated the military conflict, etc.

I should also mention that I have been a strong supporter of both Clintons and that I put this perspective out even though it was my hero, Bill Clinton, who was largely responsible for the NATO action in Kosovo.

The bottom line?  I think it is very hypocritical to attack the Russians for what they have done in Georgia, when the U.S./NATO took action that was no more defensible, and perhaps less defensible, in Serbia.

Tags: Georgia, russia, South Ossetia (all tags)

Comments

7 Comments

Re: Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia w

I think the atrocities in Serbia are what made the whole thing justifiable.  Otherwise I think it's a little nutty to think we can take sides in every single dispute over territory anywhere in the world.

Even when something truly horrible is going on - like in Darfur - you at least have to do some semblance of a risk/reward analysis unless the national interest is directly implicated.  That's my opinion, of course.  I was younger and more idealistic once upon a time.

by Steve M 2008-08-13 09:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia w

I'm not necessarily arguing that the NATO intervention in Serbia wasn't justifiable.  I have mixed feelings about the issue.  However, if we do conclude that the NATO intervention in Serbia was justifiable, then I think we should similarly conclude that the Russian intervention in Georgia was justifiable.

by markjay 2008-08-13 10:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia w

But Georgia wasn't engaging in widespread ethnic cleansing.  That's what I'm getting at.

by Steve M 2008-08-13 10:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia w

It's not a perfect analogy by any means.  Milosevic's regime in Serbia was brutal and guilty of war crimes.  NATO probably wouldn't have bombed Serbia if that country hadn't damaged its reputation so severely during previous years.

I think you're right, though, in an important respect.  The people who live in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, clearly, don't want to be part of Georgia, and those who pretend that this is just a detail are kidding themselves.

by IncognitoErgoSum 2008-08-13 10:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Comparing the Russia-Georgia and NATO-Serbia w

Whatever justification there was for NATO action in Serbia and subsequent recognition of Kosovo as an independent state, it definitely has opened up on international can of worms regarding redrawing of accepted international borders to reflect the interest of minority groups that are dominant in particular regions.  Russia has made clear that that would apply that precedent in South Ossetia, and they have now done so.

by markjay 2008-08-13 10:13AM | 0 recs
this is a straw man argument
first NATO action in Kosovo and Bosnia was to prevent ongoing genocide. There has been nothing even close in South Ossetia. Independent Kosovo was mandated by the UN.
Secondly, South Ossetians are very different ethnicity from Russians or Georgians that is why they had an autonomous region. What happened since 1992 was that more Georgians were displaced and there was resettlement by ethnic Russians. Moreover the current conflict was set-off by the killing of Georgian peace-keeping forces in Ossetia. That this was but a pretext to make Georgia react and widen the conflict is evident by the speed at which Russia reacted by invading Georgia (not just Ossetia and Abhkazia) with ground, air and naval forces.
There is justification no here.
by tarheel74 2008-08-13 11:20AM | 0 recs
Are you talking about my diary ?

If so, you should provide a link and remove the guesswork required of the reader.

And I disagree with yoru comparison: the NATO action in Kosovo was to prevent a genocide... it was limited in scope (air war only), and NATO forces did not enter until an agreement had been secured.

That is an example of a properly measured response!!

And Georgia precipitated the military conflict the same way the Vietnamese precipitated the War with the US with their silly bombings in the Tonkin gulf!!

by SevenStrings 2008-08-13 12:14PM | 0 recs

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