Publication: Perspectives on International Security: Speeches and Papers from the 50th Anniversary Year of the International Institute for Strategic Studies
31 December 2008
It is rather difficult for me to address this issue and to talk about the current conflict in the Caucasus. There are three reasons for this. One is that, for two and a half years, I have been mediating the informal ‘track-one-and-a-half’ Georgian–Ossetian dialogue process, which was the only initiative of the past ten years to bring together senior Georgian and South Ossetian officials in a purely bilateral format to discuss the prospects for conflict resolution. I saw with my own eyes what could have been done just three years ago to genuinely encourage the conflict-resolution process and to avoid arriving at the situation that we are in at the moment. I feel sorry that this and other opportunities to prevent what happened on 7 August were missed.
My second reason for feeling uneasy talking about the current situation is because I lived through the Cold War in the Soviet Union, and I am upset by how easily in the current crisis we have become engaged in an extremely unproductive discussion about a ‘new Cold War’. To me, it is very clear that what we have today has nothing at all to do with the Cold War, and I think that this rhetoric and this thinking – which has unfortunately been frequently found both in the media and in the statements of officials on all sides – is extremely unhelpful to understanding how we move towards genuine resolution of the current crisis.
The third reason is that, regrettably, in the way in which it has been reported so differently by the Western and Russian medias, this has been a very classic conflict. Being able to observe the differences and to give interviews to both sides, I can see the extent to which there are completely opposing perceptions of what has happened and what is going on now. It is very difficult to bridge this gap in understanding, but I will attempt to do so.