Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
I have not turned on the television news today, but I did listen to the BBC today. The report: that the Russians are not hurrying to move from their positions inside Georgia. Surely this is no surprise. The Russians are looking for further security guarantees. The cynicism would really be amusing - but war isn't funny.
The Washington Post had a good piece today on the conflict. The article methodically mapped out the events that led up to open warfare last week. Good because it paid attention to the role that both parties played. Of course, both parties will complain about the bias - so this is probably a good sign. Yes, the Georgians endured month and months of taunts and provocations - but the fact remains that the evidence appears to show that it was the Georgians who started the shelling of Tskhinvali. Of course, this was exactly what the Russians wanted - a response to their provocation, the excuse to begin a complete invasion.
I remarked yesterday to an American friend that the war has really been a tragedy for all concerned, not least the Russian people. Why the Russians? he asked. I think the Russian people - as opposed to the insiders at the Kremlin - will suffer if the conflict widens or persists. Yes, the Russian government budget sits on a comfortable surplus now, but this doesn't mean that the Russian economy as a whole is healthy. It remains overly dependent on its energy resources. The country needs investment in its infrastructure and its people. And the fat energy revenues mask serious problems in the economy. Corruption and inefficiency are persistent problems. These problems will only be exacerbated if Russia become further economically and politically isolated as a result of this conflict.
But - because the country's leaders do not fear democratic elections, the real interests of the country don't rank very high in the decision-making criteria.
Then again - my own country is supposedly democratic - and I sometimes wonder if its leaders consider the long-term interests of its people.
By the way - here is a blog also written by a Baku resident, also talking about the war in Georgia. It was recommended to me recently by a friend.
On a separate topic entirely, the lunar eclipse was quite visible last night in Baku. I woke up about 1:30 a.m. and happened to notice as the sun's shadow starting easing over the big silver moon. Took a photo or two - but they were really unimpressive. Instead - here's a show I took of the full moon rising over the Caspian last night. And a shot of the "bulvar."