Tensions Flare as Russia-Georgia War Anniversary Approaches

By Sadie Bass

Aug 4, 2009 12:56pm

ABC's Alexander Marquardt reports from Moscow: "Provocative" has been a popular word in Russia and Georgia in recent days, each country liberally painting the other with the label on a near-daily basis as the anniversary of the 2008 war between the two countries looms and tensions spike. The adjective saw more use over the weekend as South Ossetia accused Georgia of firing mortars into the breakaway enclave on Saturday (following the same accusation Thursday), eliciting a promise from Russia’s Defense Ministry "to use all means and resources available to protect the citizens of the republic of South Ossetia and the Russian servicemen." Georgia denied the attack and the following day said a Russian reconnaissance unit entered the Georgian town of Kveshi to try to push South Ossetia’s border farther south.  The unit denied it was trying move the border. South Ossetia’s president Eduard Kokoity announced Monday that Russian troops would be conducting exercises in the small republic next Monday "in order to ensure security and keep the situation under control," according to Interfax. Friday marks the first anniversary of last summer’s five-day war that was sparked when Georgian troops went into the breakaway republic of South Ossetia on August 7.  Russia counter-attacked, routing the Georgian military and taking control of South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia. Following a French-brokered ceasefire, Russia declared them both independent states, but so far only Nicaragua has joined Russia in formally recognizing the two enclaves.   Georgia suffered massive damage during the conflict and its president, Mikheil Saakashvili faces significant opposition to his rule.  Since the brief war ended, Russia has beefed up its troop presence in the two republics and not allowed two international monitoring efforts to remain in the area.  Only the EU has a monitoring mission in Georgia and Russia won’t allow it to enter South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Washington has had to perform a delicate dance all the while, maintaining a friendship with Georgia with one hand and attempting to "reset" relations with Russia with the other.  Vice President Joe Biden’s July trip to Georgia after President Barack Obama’s to Moscow was designed to show that the US values its friendship with the former Soviet nation. In an address to parliament, Biden said the resetting of relations with Russia would not come at the expense of its alliance with Georgia. As emotions flared Monday, Russia’s foreign ministry said the deputy minister had a phone call with US Undersecretary of State William Burns during which they “stressed the importance of preventing any armed provocations which might lead to the aggravation of the already explosive situation on the border between the two countries." Analysts doubt the anniversary will lead to renewed conflict, but you can certainly expect to see both sides cast the other as the "provocative" one in the coming days.

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus