by Ken Oxley
Aug 17 2008
WHEN Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, Britain’s then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded in her customary iron-fisted way.
I don’t recall there being a huge outcry over the decision to shoot up the Argies. Or sink the Belgrano. After all, they were the aggressors weren’t they? I’m struggling to see how this situation differs markedly from Russia’s decision to act in the face of Georgia’s blatant aggression.
Georgia’s decision to go blundering into South Ossetia — to all intents and purposes an independent state since1991 — was the spark that ignited this conflict.
And Russia, as far I can see, was only doing what Britain did 26 years ago . . . coming to the aid of under-attack civilians who, in this case, happened to be pro-Russian. Reading the headlines this week — Russia Attacks Georgia, Roar of the Russian Bear and so on — it seems Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is being cast in the role of a modern-day General Galtieri by the West.
Without doubt the Russian response has been unnecessarily severe . . . and they have been rightly criticised for flouting a ceasefire. But, even taking this into account, it seems to me the tone of many reports in the western media is deliberately skewed.
What it reveals is an anti-Russian bias that has its roots in the Cold War. It’s true that the Russia of today is still a long way off being a paragon of democracy and its human rights record leaves a lot to be desired.
But for a country emerging from seemingly everlasting dictatorship, it has made progress.
So when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili claimed the Russian attack amounted to “pre-meditated murder of a small country” I was stunned by his utter hypocrisy.
On August 7 he set the current chain of events in motion by ordering multiple rocket launches on the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. If that wasn’t “pre-meditated murder” what was it? The truth is, there are faults on both sides here. But for some reason the West has to create a “goodie” and a “baddie” . . . and we always cast the Russians in the latter role. The Russian response has been disproportionate. Putin didn’t need much of an excuse to give US-backed Georgia a kicking and thanks to Saakashvili’s stupidity the opportunity was handed to him on a plate. However, writing in the Guardian this week, Mikhail Gorbachev — the last president of the Soviet Union and a Nobel Peace Prize winner — said he believed Russia had no choice other than to respond to Georgia’s act of war.
He also said a peaceful, political solution can be found to the South Ossetian problem.
Saakashvili’s actions — even more than Putin’s — have set back that goal.