Symposium on the Five-day War in Washington D.C

April 20, 2009, by Kimitaka Matsuzato  

On April 6, 2009, George Washington University’s Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, the journals Demokratizatsiya and World Affairs, and Radio Free Europe cosponsored a symposium, entitled “Putin's Blueprint and The Five-Day War in Georgia: Security and Political Implications in the CEE/CIS and U.S. Policy” at the Heldref Publishers’ building, not far from Dupont Circle. This event was organized to prepare a special issue of Democratizatsiya, dedicated to elucidating the impact of the South Ossetian War on domestic politics of the warring and surrounding countries – Georgia first of all, Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. In other words, this event shared the approach with SRC’s international symposium held on March 5-6, 2009 .

The initiator of this event, Professor Henry Hale of George Washington University invited me to deliver a paper half a year ago. After an unsuccessful attempt to visit South Ossetia in January of this year, I was finally able to visit the area in March, which hopefully enabled me to make a more or less meaningful contribution to the event.

The panelists of the first session presented mutually complementary papers concerning Georgian politics with differing assessments of Saakashvili’s role in Georgia’s democratization: still positive (Svante Cornell), negative (me), and neutral (Cory Welt). Taras Kuzio set forth the interesting view that not only the nationalists, but also the Left-wing forces in Ukraine (i.e., the Party of Regions, Communists) are unwilling to support Russia’s new policy towards South Ossetia because their Soviet traditionalism makes the principle of territorial wholeness sacred. In discussion Anar Valiyev noted that Turkey’s policy after August 2008, namely non-criticism of Russia and historical reconciliation with Armenia, provoked uneasiness in Azerbaijan society. Moreover, Azerbaijan, as is the case with Moldova, resumed its endeavor to involve Russia in the regulation of the Karabav conflict actively because, as Valiyev legitimately admits, Azerbaijan is barely able to conduct a two-front war: against Armenia and Russia simultaneously.

See Voice of America’s interviews with the panelists.

Looking at the Russian and South Ossetian outpost with their flags from the Georgian outpost in Ergneti. Before 2004, a huge bazaar sold Georgian, Ossetian and Russian commodities here. One of the first tasks Saakashvili realized after he became the president of Georgia was to close this bazaar. Since Ergneti was used to shell Tskhinval in 2008, the Ossetian paramilitaries completely destroyed this village during its occupation by Russia. Thus, Ergneti transformed from a symbol of peace and coexistence to that of devastation and confrontation.


*The views expressed in the essay belong solely to the author and do not represent the official position of any organizations to which the author is permanently or was temporarily affiliated.


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