The United States deliberately provoked the Russo-Georgian war in order to benefit a presidential candidate, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today alleged. Putin claimed that US citizens were “in the area” and “taking direct orders from their leaders” during the conflict in South Ossetia and were “taking direct orders from their leaders”. The White House dismissed his comments as “not rational”.
The Kremlin today failed to secure the support of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (S.C.O.), the grouping of largely autocratic regimes comprising Russia, China and Central Asian states, meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The S.C.O. declined Moscow’s request to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Given the demands for autonomy from its Tibetan and Uighur minorities, China, in particular, is reluctant to condone secessionist moves elsewhere.
The S.C.O.’s position confirms Russia’s international isolation on the issue. Even Cuba and Venezuela have declined to recognize the separatist Georgian regions, one analyst notes, observing that “the Soviet Union was not so alone even in 1968″ when Russia led Warsaw Pact forces into Czechoslovakia to suppress the reform movement for ‘socialism with a human face’.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev tried to spin a statement expressing “grave concern” at recent events, claiming that the S.C.O. had fact supported Russia’s actions and had sent a “strong signal” to the international community.
“I am sure that the united position of the S.C.O. member states will have international resonance,” he said, before echoing Putin: “It is well known who helped Georgian authorities and even encouraged them in pursuit of their own mercenary aims.”
Russia proposed adding new members to the organization. Iran recently applied for membership. “Expanding the group would realize Russia’s goal of turning the S.C.O. into an anti-American, anti-NATO counterweight,” said Yevgeny Volk, a Moscow-based analyst for the Heritage Foundation.
Despite their similar autocratic regimes, there remain important differences and geo-political rivalries between Beijing and Moscow. China’s economy is more closely integrated with the West, in foreign policy it has sought to portray a “peaceful rise” to power, and it appears to be on a different political trajectory. “While Russia has spent the past decade becoming more authoritarian, China has been slowly moving in the opposite direction – even if it took a lurch backwards in the run-up to the Olympics,” one commentator notes.