The still-small but dangerous war that broke out over the weekend between Georgia and Russia is the culmination of decades of mutual hostility fed by centuries of acrimonious history remembered conveniently by partisans on all sides.
Also in play were recent developments that made the Caucasus region something of a tinderbox waiting for a spark. Just who lit that spark is still not entirely clear.
What is clear is the resolution of the conflict does not affect the United States’ core interests, and even if it did, the United States has little ability to affect the outcome.
Condemnation of Russia’s aggressive military moves inside Georgia proper is certainly appropriate, but beyond that the United States would do well to avoid commitments that could lead to involvement in conflicts that do not serve our interests.
Georgia, with a population of 5 million on Russia’s southern border, has been an ethnically distinct region for centuries but has not been truly politically independent until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Czarist Russia incorporated Georgia into the Russian empire in 1801.
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze (Mikhail Gorbachev’s last foreign minister) was overthrown peacefully in the 2003 Rose Revolution, when Mikhail Saakashvili was elected.