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Crisis in South Ossetia

August 8, 2008

As the 2008 Beijing Olympics opened this morning, Georgia launched a major military offensive to retake control of South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian province with staunchly pro-Russian sentiments. In response, Moscow sent tanks into into South Ossetia with the stated aim of protecting Russian citizens living in the breakaway province. According to Eduard Kokoity, president of South Ossetia, the capital–Tskhinvali–has been destroyed and nearly 1,400 are dead.

According to Georgian Ambassador to the U.N. Irakli Alasania, pro-Moscow seperatists want to “ethnically cleanse” Georgians from the region. Irakli Alasansia incited Georgia’s ‘responsibility to protect’ Georgian citizens, as a justification for sending military troops.

While Georgian president has accused Russia of a “well-planned invasion”, it’s hard to believe Georgia’s move wasn’t planned to coincide with the opening ceremony in Beijing. U.S. diplomats have called for restraint and respect for Georgian sovereignty, which is probably has more to do with the geo-politics of thwarting an increasingly authoritarian Russia, not to mention political support for a key ally in the war on terror. Georgia is the third largest contributer of forces to the war in Iraq and received $6.5 million in counter-terrorism aid from the U.S. in Fiscal Year 06.

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