NATO's adventures in the real world I: Proxy war with Russia, anyone?

“If it’s true that Russian troops and armaments have been sent to Georgia, it means that we are in a state of war with Russia,” Georgia’s National Security Council secretary Alexander Lomia told AFP today. Well. Above is an LA Times photo of Russian troops and armaments being sent into South Ossetia, a multi-ethnic breakaway province which Georgia still defines as Georgian territory.

Already both the Russians and the Georgians have exchanged artillery fire and there are conflicting reports about who has the upper hand. Whether the two countries are now at war depends on your definitions, but it’s hard to see how one can be avoided at this point.

The stakes here could hardly be higher, for many reasons, including this one:

Canada supports Georgia’s (eventual, not imminent) accession to NATO member-state status (it’s mentioned in the last paragraph of this release about Ukraine). NATO is a collective security organization whose central tenet is that an attack on one is an attack on all. There’s a shortish line between the South Ossetia conflict and a NATO-Russia war in which Canada would, at some level, be involved. Not our problem today, but that would change if Georgia ever became a member.

When I visited Tbilisi last December, Georgia’s acting president Nino Burjanadze said a direct Russian-Georgian confrontation in South Ossetia or Abhkazia would be a “very, very difficult situation.” And now it’s here.

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