In the case of South Ossetia there is reason to believe that the majority of people are more sympathetic to the Russian forces than to the Georgian forces that provoked Russia, but if there have also been coordinated military operations, I have not seen them so clearly reported. In both cases, therefore, it appears that Russia has struck in places where it enjoys popular favor, or at least local judgment that Russia is the lesser evil.
While these moves are no doubt embarrassing to the American-trained and equipped Georgian Army, a more ominous geopolitical concern will likely point in the direction of the Ceyhan-Tblisi-Baku (BTC) pipeline which crosses Georgia to the south of the breakaway states. Once again, we could be presented with an oil war.
A survey of cable news and financial networks on Friday indicated that the American propaganda network was caught flatfooted by the Russian actions. But we should probably anticipate a speedy recovery. Who knows what the official line will be next week, but very likely it will converge on language posted at the State Department web site: “The United States supports the territorial integrity of Georgia,” meaning that the breakaway states will be considered outlaws of a kind.
So long as Russian incursions remain confined to the breakaway states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, voices of peace might consider replying to the official line by pointing out that the peoples of both breakaway states have already established “de facto” autonomy. Fighting Russia in these cases would mean fighting also against the preferences — perhaps they are grudging preferences — of the people in the area.
In the case of Abkhazia, ethnic cleansing of Georgians has apparently already taken place. But in the case of South Ossetia, there are living risks that Georgians in some villages may be endangered by ethnic cleansing. For this reason, voices of peace may consider supporting Georgian military defenses in those areas.
These are comments based on quick studies of internet materials, designed more to focus discussion than to present an expert conclusion. Nevertheless, they don’t fall very far from what historian Mark Almond argued in a CounterPunch article when he asked: “If westerners readily conceded non-Russian republics’ right to secede from the USSR in 1991, what is the logic of insisting that non-Georgians must remain inside a microempire which happens to be pro-western?”