I lived in Tbilisi in 1998-99 and would like to offer my perspective on your article. I hope you have listened to your Georgia reporter on RadioNation and now understand that the situation is much more complex than this article recognized.
The idea that every ethnic group in every country should have the right to break away and form its own country is downright silly. Claiming this right for the South Ossetians is like arguing that the Abenakis in Vermont should be permitted to secede from the US--and there are more Abenakis in Vermont than Ossetians in South Ossetia. Neither the ethnic Ossetians nor the Abkhazians had a majority in their provinces before the ethnic cleansing that occurred during and following the clashes in the early 1990s.
If the US had acted more respectfully toward Russia during Yeltsin's presidency, then it is likely that relations between the US and Russia would now be much friendlier. However, the current Russian leadership seems intent or regaining its influence on the neighboring republics of the former Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, I doubt that the genie can be stuffed back into the bottle quickly, given the distrust between the US and Russia based on US actions over the past twenty years and Russian hostility toward the governments of the Baltics, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. While the US can and should work to repair our relationship with Russia, at the same time we need to find ways to help the former Soviet republic maintain the independence and freedom it has developed over the past twenty years.
Improving our relations with Russia without abandoning our friends in the other republics won't be easy. But finding ways to accomplish this objective could be a key to avoiding a new cold war.
David S. Martin
Aug 29 2008 - 1:51pm