Conflict on the Georgia-Russia Border

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Most of the press I’d come across prior to my somewhat more
detailed investigation into the conflict occurring between Russia and Georgia displayed Russia
as the sole aggressor in this conflict. Yet, the violence that erupted earlier
this month is much more complicated than the simple media-translated image of a
large and powerful Russia bullying a small and weaker Georgia.
And, as with most international issues, many underlying facts, as well as the
diverse responses of other nations towards the conflict, can be explained
through geography.

First, a quick (and I mean quick) summary of the recent
events:

                       Georgiamap

 

August 7:
Georgian troops are sent into a small region along the Russian/Georgian border known
as
South Ossetia. The territory is composed
mostly of Ossetians, a distinct Iranian ethnic group, and is one of two regions
bordering Russia whose
independence has been in question since the break up of the
Soviet
Union. Most of those living in the region have Russian citizenship.
Yet, South Ossetia has been vying for
independence for a long time, especially since the international recognition earlier
this year of Kosovo as independent from Serbia.

Why did Georgia send troops into the region?: Recently,
Georgia has been trying to gain membership into NATO. Because Russia is against this action, and because they
know that Georgia wants South Ossetia, they threatened to grant the small
territory its independence. Thus, Georgia moved in to secure control, and Russia
retaliated with military action. Badabing, badabang, suddenly you have yourself
a rather violent situation. The U.S has condemned Russia for
“attacking Georgia,”
and has posed it, to some degree, as an attack on democracy (the Georgian
government is democratically elected). As stated above, however, the story
becomes much more convoluted when one key factor is taken into
account–geography.

You see, there are a number of large pipelines that run
through Georgia, some located only a few kilometers from points occupied by
Russian forces. The fact that the pipelines go through Georgia provides
a benefit to European and western consumers, because they can purchase gas and
oil directly from allied producers there, eliminating the less-predictable
Russian middleman. On the other hand, acquiring
the Georgian pipelines would mean greater control and supply of oil and lower
costs for the Russians. So it makes sense that the U.S. might have an interest in supporting Georgia,
since it would be against our economic interests if Russia were to control these valuable resource transportation routes and potentially prevent
U.S.
access. This is especially true given the current weak state of the U.S.
economy and high oil prices.

Caspian_sea_oil_gas2001

Of course there’s much more to both sides of the story. This
is only a small window into the vast and complex world of international
relations. I bring it up to point out the fact that through knowledge of
geography, history, and natural resource use we can begin to see things in
completely different ways. It allows us to question what we read, see and hear.

 Personally, I think the U.S.(and other international)
reactions are driven by much more than a defense of democracy. Global issues
are never that black and white. The truth is, as long as we continue to consume
oil and gas like there’s no tomorrow, our government will have to work to make
sure it can get those resources as cheaply as possible. I can sit here and
accuse them all I want of having ulterior motives, but the reality remains that
the more I consume the more I become part of those ulterior motives.

But…enough about what I think. What do YOU think? Tell me
I’m wrong. Tell me I have no idea what I’m talking about. Then tell me why!

 

Addendum: NPR had a great story on the topic just this morning (Aug. 28) titled “Conflict Hinders
Plan for Georgian Energy Corridor.”

Check it out!

Jeremy for My Wonderful World

Images courtesy BBC and University
of Texas Library

 



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