For more than 15 years people in Caucasus got used to the concept of frozen conflicts of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh. Some expected the conflicts to be settled, one day, some just lived as if they were to be kept frozen forever. None of these two options became reality: the military solution led to an “unfrozen situation” … with temperature close to a cold war…
From March on, after the recognition of Kosovo in February, tension was indeed escalating. On the 13th the Russian Duma recommended the Government to strengthen the ties with the two breakaway regions, and on the 15th Saakashvili reiterated his refusal to sign the treaty about non use of force stating that “We are told to sign a new agreement on the non-use of our armed forces – Georgia is a peaceful country and we have many times said that we want to settle all the conflicts only peacefully - but with whom should we sign this agreement?”.
Now the answer seems to be clearer: with the two new existing states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They may not enjoy the recognition of so many states as Kosova, but it’s pretty sure that there is no way to step back to older positions. South Ossetia and Abkhazia are lost.
The two new ethno-states, may be a very unfriendly environment for minorities, especially the Georgian one, and it’s highly improbable that the return of the new and old waves of refugees will be easy and in short term. This is another side effect of the misinterpretation of the principle of self determination, which is leading not only to the disregard of the territorial integrity of countries, but also to the de facto violation of the rights of minorities.
A political solution may have led to a progressive reintegration of IDPs, the military one just high picked mutual animosity. And this is one of the long term effects of this war. But, talking about short term effects, Saakashvili managed, till now, to survive the impact of his mistake. For the second time in few months he proved to be unable to handle situations of protracted high tension, and to prefer to resort to – hopefully – successful use of force. In November, against the opposition, in August, against South Ossetia. In both cases, although partially discredited, he got away with it. At least till now, but for sure he seems to be a much less reliable counterpart, than few weeks ago. Let alone the fact that the Russian Government wouldn’t like to consider him a counterpart at all.
The massive change occurred in the last 3 weeks will effect Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well. The first will have to face the suggested “united position” at the session of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) [Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan] on September the 5th, and support the Russian intervention. This may lead to another tense situation on its border, and, as Onnik Krikorian pointed out “Over 90 percent of [Armenia’s] trade goes through Georgia, and although Russia is considered its most strategic ally, military operations targetting civilian infrastructure — especially the railway bridge outside of Kaspi — adversely affected imports and exports." (http://blog.oneworld.am/2008/08/28/georgia-armenias-predicament/)
Azerbaijan got the message: Russian grip on the Caucasus is meant to be long lasting, and a frozen conflict is much more convenient than an unfrozen one…This must be kept for sure in regard with incoming elections and gas policies. Incidentally, the decision of official Baku to transport Azerbaijani gas to Europe via Russia will be adopted by results of talks with Gazprom and Turkey Enegry Ministry, as stated the 29th.
Russia position is firm and unshaken. Some voiced that the rest of the world will isolate it, ostracize it, or whatever. But it’s not true: as Putin suggested, the West is not the entire world, and, talking about world policy, no one should underestimate anymore the importance of China, which is standing by the Russian Federation. And, moreover, the West is not just Poland, the Baltic States, or even the United States... Who really thinks convenient to turn an Euroasiatic power into and Asiatic one, and find itself isolated, and cold, not metaphorically?
A mistake, at the beginning of August, which will be deterministically followed by many necessary others.