Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

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.

Susan Chandler

Birmingham, AL

Aug 13 2008 - 12:50pm

Web Letter

As has been mentioned in numerous newspaper forums, the Georgian media's account of the conflict is less slanted in its favor compared to Western MSM rants. This indeed seems true with this article. While obviously partial, it is free of blatant falsehoods. It would be nice, however, if The Nation published a similar account by an Ossetian journalist.

Anatoly Panov

Moscow, Russia

Aug 12 2008 - 7:59am

Web Letter

Lest anyone think that this crisis only matters in the Caucasus and has impact limited to focused geopolitics and energy, please remember those of us in the NATO countries of the Baltics (Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania). One of the stated justifications of the Russians was to protect RU citizens. These are newly minted citizens whose basic link to the RU is a passport almost forced on them. This is of great concern to many of us who live in countries with large RU minorities. This justification, linked to any one of a large number of provocations, could easily lead to a demand of RU military access to any or all of the Baltics.

We had a march of support for Georgia in Riga yesterday. I would say nearly 5,000 people participated. The reports in Latvian media emphasize the Georgian support aspect, the locally published Russian language media emphasize the anti-Russian aspect. Latvians have known the Russian bear for too long to be complacent in believing that, given a chance or opportunity, they would stop at Georgia.

Tom Schmit

Riga, Latvia

Aug 12 2008 - 5:05am

Web Letter

Not again! Another war for oil? I couldn't believe what I was hearing on the news the other day--that Georgia's military forces attacked and killed 2,000 Russian citizens in South Ossetia. There must be much more to the story I surmised. Surely, such a small country could not possibly think there would be no reaction from Russia--the superpower--or that tiny Georgia could "defeat" the Russian army.

So what is "really" going on here, I wondered?

Then we learn that a huge pipeline that runs from the Caspian Sea through Georgia is controlled by British Petroleum. They are the largest shareholder in the pipeline, followed by Azerbaijani state oil company, Socar, which holds 25 percent. Other shareholders include US oil companies Chevron and ConocoPhillips, Norway's StatoilHydro, Italy's ENI and France's Total.

I get it--Western oil companies want to control oil in another part of the world, and are willing to kill others to get it. Sound familiar?

Georgia now wants to be part of the NATO alliance, which means it could be "protected" by the collective military forces of the Western world. How does Georgia get into NATO? They put the oil that the West craves at risk by initiating an assault in South Ossetia that they know will provoke a military response from Russia.

When will this madness stop? When are we going to end our addiction to oil and stop these unnecessary wars? Only by breaking this addiction can we change the wrongheaded strategic focus on protecting the supply of fossil fuel. Oil-driven energy policy has become the entire basis of our foreign policy, and until we use our vast technological and financial resources to build a national electric grid fueled by non-fossil fuel sources that can power electric vehicles instead of gas guzzlers, we will continue to be embroiled in conflicts of this sort, in which our military is being used as the private security force of Western oil companies.

Metteyya Brahmana

Santa Cruz, CA

Aug 11 2008 - 7:35pm

Web Letter

Where are we going to find the moral high ground for this one?

James Pinette

Caribou, ME

Aug 11 2008 - 5:38pm