ONE year ago a brief but potentially dangerous war erupted between Georgia and Russia. The shooting lasted little more than one day but the argument of who shot first is still continuing. A Swiss diplomat is conducting an investigation into the matter and will report in due course; her task will not be easy. Did Georgian forces open fire on its separated province of South Ossetia, provoking a Russian response? Or did Russia deliberately provoke Georgia's action in order to find a reason to re-establish its presence in Georgia?

There is no doubt that Georgia was the loser, whether or not it was the instigator. Unfortunately Georgia's president, then and now, Mikheil Saakashvili, shows no sign of having learnt any lessons from the incident. He is not entirely to blame because he has been indulged by the United States and other Nato members into thinking that he has their support - both for eventual membership of Nato and also for an unnecessarily aggressive stance towards Russia.

Georgia, Ukraine and the wider Caucasus region has always been politically volatile and remains so today. It is seen by Moscow as part of its “near abroad” where its influence predominates. The West does not accept this concept despite its partial historical validity. There are rumours that the Swiss diplomat investigating the source of the short conflict may be inclined to side with Russia's case. If she does President Saakashvilli's will be well advised to accept the verdict quietly.


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