ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Proxy War in the Caucasus

Russia sends a message that it will not tolerate western-backed adventures in the Caucasus.

On August 8, after days of escalating skirmishes over its breakaway province South Ossetia, Georgia launched a full-scale military assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia and set off a chain of bloody events that has ended with Russia very much the master of the region. If it was Georgia’s intention to portray to the world that Russia was an aggressor, Moscow was able to pass on an even stronger message not only to Georgia but also to the others in Russia’s “sphere of influence”:do not seek the support of the west and ally with it against Russia. Although Russia has often been accused of asserting its control in its “near abroad”, Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, did not seem to expect Russia to endanger its international image with a strong military retaliation. The Russian attack, the biggest military deployment outside of its borders since 1991, had little difficulty in forcing the Georgian army to retreat from South Ossetia.

There are genuine security concerns that Russia faces in the Caucasus, a region of strategic importance. The Caucasus mountains roughly divide the South Caucasus, which consists of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, from the North Caucasus, which is a mosaic of Russian republics. For the past two decades Georgia has been facing chaos in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (the two breakaway enclaves): South Ossetia, with its puppet regime in Tskhinvali, desires unification with North Ossetia (in Russian territory), arguing that the present divide between the two is an arbitrary Soviet creation. Moscow has given them strong diplomatic and political support. The Kremlin has always supported South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) with money and military supplies with a design to keep Georgia weak. The Russian Duma also passed a law in April this year authorising official ties with these republics.

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