As the dust settles in South Ossetia, what has the Russo-Georgia conflict taught us about the complex politics of the Caucasian region? Russia had plenty of reasons for intervening so drastically in Georgia, of course, including the manoeuvring of traditional power politics and the urge to keep an uppity, restive neighbour in check.
But one aspect that many analysts have missed is the role played by Russia’s southern republics: North Ossetia, of course, but also Dagestan, Ingushetia and even Chechnya. Over the past few years the Kremlin has secured the loyalty of all the governments of these regions, but a continuing Islamic insurgency in the north Caucasus, which remains Russia’s top national security headache, means Moscow is unlikely to miss an opprtunity to keep the southern republics sweet—and found one in South Ossetia. North Ossetia obviously has an interest in defending its ethnic brethren over the Georgian border, but many of the other republics were also happy to see it stuck to the Georgians because of their closeness to the country’s other troublesome region, Abkhazia.
It’s a complex situation—Daniel J Gerstle, a writer and human rights consultant who has spent time in the Caucasus, tries to untangle it for us.
Also this week: as Labour’s fortunes under Gordon Brown continue to decline, Kieran Brett and Michael Macdonnell, former advisers inside No 10, urge the party to embrace pragmatism and to ignore those calling for it to return to its ideological roots. And Duncan O’Leary looks at how the Conservatives are responding to the increasing politicisation of public behaviour.