Dr. David McFadden comments on Russian-Georgian conflict
(Posted on July 23, 2009) Dr. David McFadden, professor of history and director of Fairfield University's Program in Russian and East European Studies, has been following with interest the developments in Georgia and Russia. McFadden has taught American history and Russian-American Relations at universities in St. Petersburg and northwest Russia and has visited Georgia three times.
Following are two important points Dr. McFadden makes concerning recent developments in U.S. relations with Russia and Georgia:
- President Obama's recent summit with President Medvedev in Moscow emphasized common elements in the long-term relationship between the United States and Russia and set the groundwork for cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran and nuclear proliferation while at the same time supporting human rights, educational reform, and democratic institutions.
- Vice-President Biden's trip to Ukraine and Georgia has emphasized U.S. support for these independent states while at the same time reiterating that the U.S. will continue to work with Russia, and that Ukraine and Georgia's security is best preserved not only by the relationship with the EU and the United States but by resolving conflicts with Russia.
Dr. McFadden provides the following valuable background information:
- Georgians are an ancient people with their own history, culture, and language which are totally distinct from Russians (or Ossetians or Abkhazians). The Georgian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian continuously existing Christian communities in the world (antedated only by Egyptian Coptic Christians and Armenian Orthodox).
- The current conflict dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its empire in 1988-1991. At that time, within Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia which both border on Russia, declared their autonomy while Georgia declared its independence. A low-scale civil war has been simmering between Abkhazia and Georgia since that time, and more recently both South Ossetia and Abkhazia have declared their independence and have received Russian rhetorical, political and limited military support.
- Since the election of President Saakashvili in 2004, Georgia has been determined to reclaim its "lost" provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and to join NATO and the European Union. A resurgent Russian military under former President and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has at the same time been determined to reassert its own power on its borderlands.
- The United States applauds the democratic changes that have taken place in Georgia, but at the same time needs to work with Russia on broader issues such as international terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
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Vol. 42, No. 12