I liked this piece on the Georgia crisis, by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former British ambassador to Moscow and former chairman of the British Joint Intelligence Committee :
Here is a portion:
"There is a long, tangled, and disputed back history to all this. Georgia, like the former Yugoslavia, is an ethnic patchwork. The native Abkhazians are largely Muslim. The South Ossetians want to unite with their ethnic relations over the Russian border in North Ossetia. Neither liked being in Georgia, and as the Soviet Union broke up, both made a bid for independence. In an ironic parallel, the Georgians closed down the local university in the Abkhazian capital of Sukhumi just as the Serbs were closing down the Albanian university in Kosovo, on the grounds, one very distinguished Georgian philosopher said, that the Abkhazians had no proper language, history or culture, and did not need a university anyway. [Sounds familiar?]
Georgia's first democratically elected president, the disastrous Zviad Gamsakhurdia, then launched a vicious little war against Abkhazia, smashing its capital Sukhumi. But the Georgians were defeated by a combination of Abkhazians and "volunteers" from Russia and Chechnya. Tens of thousands of Georgian refugees fled to Tblisi. Much the same, though on a smaller scale, was happening in South Ossetia.
Various ceasefires were brokered, with Russian "peacekeepers" acting as guarantors. The ceasefires regularly broke down, thanks to provocations and intrigues by all sides. They were as regularly patched up again.
With the arrival of Mikheil Saakashvili, another democratically elected president, things began to go downhill. The Americans gave him political and economic support and advice, and equipped and trained his army. He turned out to be the Sorcerer's Apprentice, and outran American control. He provoked the Russians and the South Ossetians by one pinprick after another, and, above all, by his application to join Nato.
The Russians regularly warned that there would be consequences. Egged on by the Russians, the South Ossetians increased their provocations. Perhaps it was a deliberate trap. If so, Saakashvili fell right into it. His soldiers had no hope of beating the Russians in a fight. Maybe he assumed that the West would bail him out: an epic miscalculation. Many Georgians now feel that the West betrayed them. In due course they will no doubt turn on Saakashvili himself.
Most Russians believe their government's action in Georgia was entirely justified. They are hugely satisfied that they are now dictating the rules of the game, after endless lectures about their human rights record by the people who brought the world Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, after years of having their interests systematically ignored by a triumphalist West. They are now back again, teaching an irritating neighbour a sharp lesson, dictating their will in the energy market, and cocking a snook at Nato and the European Union. It is not a pretty sight, but it is understandable.
The Americans and their allies have been made to look weak and foolish. They do not have the power to force South Ossetia and Abkhazia back into Georgia, any more than the Russians had the power to force Kosovo back into Serbia. Their offer of Nato membership to Ukraine and Georgia looks perilously like bluff.
Nato has the means to defend the Baltic States and Poland from Russian aggression. But Georgia? But Ukraine? Most Ukrainians would like to be linked with the West. But they want to remain on good terms with Russia: that is why, according to polls, a majority oppose Nato membership. Do we propose to force it on them? [LEvko's italics]
We have given small countries meaningless guarantees before. After their shameful betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938, Britain and France declared war on Hitler in September 1939 to honour their guarantee to Poland. Everyone else, including America, fought only after he had moved against them. But the guarantee did not save Poland, which ended the war under Soviet domination."