The oil pipeline certainly is at issue, for both the US and Russia, but it's not as simple as that. Georgian overtures to the West and NATO certainly are at issue, but it's not as simple as that, either. There have been ethnic and religious conflicts in the outer reaches of the former Russian Empire and its near neighbors going back hundreds of years. The autocratic monarchy and then the Soviet system put an artificial damper on the problems, which is a very different thing than solving them. Even the current conflicts over South Ossetia and Abkhazia date back to the disintegration of the Soviet Union, not just the past few months.
The official borders in this part of the world have been drawn in a variety of places at different points in history. So it's not as simple as letting each group have its own piece of land, either. Each region has a small, but significant, ethnic or religious minority more commonly associated with some other nearby region. Such people understandably fear abuse if every group gets its own country... but they are just as understandably loath to pick up and leave an area where their family is now established.
There are no nice, neat black hats and white hats in this picture.
Aug 13 2008 - 12:50pm