Conflict in Caucasus

IT IS a tragedy that despite 21st century diplomacy, it takes war or at least the threat of it to prompt serious talks on lingering international issues.

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Published: Sun 17 Aug 2008, 11:11 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

The Russia-Georgia conflict is a fitting example. After the weight of the UN and the world's most influential capitals are put it, the position will revert to pre-Aug 7 settings. However, the subsequent script will necessarily include substantial discussions not only on the respective fates of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but Russia's greater standoff with the West, with EU's growing influence and strengthening, with Nato's eastward expansion right into Moscow's backyard, with America's controversial missile defence shield drawing 'nuclear' threats from Russian hardliners.

From the diplomatic point of view, Medvedev did his predecessor proud, who would no doubt be hovering close to decision-making presidential quarters anyway. Entering the fray after Georgia decided to spring a military surprise on South Ossetia, Russia not only managed to spread its army right into the heart of Georgia, but also exposed Nato and Washington as presently limp and unable to extend any meaningful support beyond the usual rhetoric.

It bears noting that George Bush's presidency and the ill-fated war against terrorism came at a time when the emerging economy phenomenon was fuelling rapid growth in lesser entities of not long ago. With the war dramatically catalyzing America's diplomatic hegemony, a number of players have emerged to challenge Washington's usual top spot in settling international matters. Russia has been at the forefront of such forces ever since former President Putin began sharp criticism of the Bush administration's policies in Munich last February.

It is also pertinent to note the kind of debate that is likely to follow. Stiff mutual opposition is likely to persist on all principal matters — the missile defence row, Nato's expansion, and of course energy matters concerning the EU. Ask Ukraine how that crunch feels.

With traditional capital checks of the sole superpower order no longer in play, all and sundry will have to come to terms with the new arrangement, and find a fitting place for themselves. From here on, all will not be as it has been. America will remain the biggest economy and military, yet its diplomatic will continually trim till it finally rests at a more acceptable level to the rest of the world. However, it would be a loss for both America and the rest if till then it will take more wars, or at least the threat of some, to bring attention to important matters.

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