The British Press enjoy nothing better than absolutism and certainty when reporting about Johnny Foreigner.
Thus the Portuguese Police are rendered as being hopelessly incompetent in the McCann case when here we have the grotesque treatment of rape victims, the miscarriage of justice against Barry George and the British led bungled investigation into the death of Bob Woolmer.
Then there is the way that we must have goodies and baddies in any overseas conflict. Thus Croatia was always the victim during the 1990’s Balkans War, whilst Serbia always bore the brunt of negative press in the West.
Not for one minute however, am I going to act as an apologist for a nation that was inexorably mixed up in atrocities such as the massacre at Srebrenica, and the siege of Sarajevo but it has to be borne in mind that during the Nazi occupation of the region in the 1940’s many Croats were less than ambivalent towards their conquerors as repression of the Serb Slav ethnic community suited their aims, and indeed it was the Serbs who were in the vanguard of the feted Partisan resistance and it is to the credit of the Slav part of Yugoslavia that recriminations regarding this era were, at least in public largely absent until the collapse of the Communist regime and the cessation of various parts of this unusual union in the ‘Nineties.
So to the Ossetia War, which enters its third week with considerable loss of life.
To the British media this is an example of Russian brutish behaviour reminiscent of the Soviet era, and lets face it the Kremlin has form for this kind of things as exemplified in Chechnya via it’s hammer fisted interventions in the last decade and into this century, which we in the West shamefully connived in through turning a blind eye. But as in Bosnia Muslims were on the receiving end, and had no worthwhile resources so it didn’t matter.
Georgia has decided to cash in its chips with the USA gleaned via its enthusiastic participation in Iraq whilst Bush is still in office, by attempting to annex the autonomous Russian-speaking region of South Ossetia.
This move smacks of cynical opportunism as they probably reckoned that an Obama White House, committed to getting out of Iraq would view such an “ally” with suspicion and have played the We Are A Small Democratic Nation Standing Up To Tyranny card, but the expected US backing has failed to materialise, not even the prospect of a Security Council Resolution (token as it would be) has been offered. Bush, as expected has condemned but not acted. There is nothing it for him as his Presidency winds down, and another complex foreign policy foray is the last thing he wants on his lazy enough agenda, so a few weasel words and some film of planes with humanitarian aid will suffice.
In addition Georgia reckoned that Putin’s presence at the Olympics would prevent any serious retaliation as they banked on the former President turned Prime Minister would baulk at the prospect of bad publicity.
But when had that ever bothered Russia? In fact domestically it has done Putin a power of good with today’s Guardian carrying strong support and justification from none other than Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev who casts the Georgians in the role of aggressor and Putin as protector of the South Ossetian community whom in 2006 voted in record numbers (96% on a 42,000 turnout) for the secessionist
Government to press for international recognition.
This vote to me however, sounds reminiscent of ‘Thirties Plebiscites, but whatever the arguments the Press should report without the obvious bias of recent times, and the UN should be more proactive in securing a ceasefire, to be followed by round table talks to thrash out a compromise as it is precisely these sorts of conflicts, marginal to all but the protagonists on a global scale, that could easily ratchet up the possibility of a return to Cold War posturing and the potential for nuclear disaster to occur.
One last point has been raised by this war. Where is Gordon Brown? We hear Prescott saying it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t smile (true), but surely this is a good opportunity for the PM to sound statesman like on an issue that most people at home know little about, and if you are being cynical it could show him as a World leader of some importance and act as a distraction from the intercine warfare within the Party and give Brown something to get stuck into which the Cabinet would have to support.