Mixing Love Triangles With Global Affairs

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The interrelationship between Russia, Georgia and the West is like a classic love triangle.

Russia loves the West and dreams that one day its warm feelings will be reciprocated. In halting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's insane aggression, which was designed to wipe South Ossetia clean of its Ossetian inhabitants, Russia was defending what it thought were shared Western values.

But regardless of the circumstances, the West is incapable of showing love toward Russia because it is fixated on the fact that the country's former president and present prime minister worked as a mid-level operative in the KGB many years ago.

At the same time, it is in love with the sweet-talking and handsome Georgian leader with the fiery eyes.

In the end, the West branded Russia an aggressor during and after the Georgian conflict and insulted it in every possible way in the media. In a fit of resentment and jealousy, Russia decided to punish Georgia further by recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Thus, the young Georgian empire fell victim to Russia's unrequited love for the West.

Russia's recognition of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's independence -- however hasty and impulsive that decision might have been -- has created new opportunities in a region that had long remained out of reach.

It is clear that Georgia, after fighting colonial wars over the breakaway republics since the late 1980s and early 1990s, has now lost its former possessions for good.

Meanwhile, the main victim in these wars is not Georgia's territorial integrity, but the people themselves. Thousands of people representing many different ethnic groups in Abkhazia and South Ossetia lost their homes and their loved ones. There are hundreds of thousands of Georgian refugees alone.

I am certain that a very small number of those refugees committed atrocities or fought in the battles on the side of Georgia over the past 17 years. Most were merely escaping the wars or had to abandon their homes as the fighting raged in their towns and villages.

Ordinary Georgians, Ossetians, Abkhaz, Armenians and Russians who helped one another under horrible conditions of war far outnumber the bandits who fought on either side of the conflict.

As long as Abkhazia and South Ossetia were formally part of Georgia, there was no chance whatsoever that the hundreds of thousands of refugees could return to their homes.

But now that Russia has guaranteed the independence and security of the newly minted nations, there is a new window of opportunity. Even psychologically, the people of these new countries can now view those same Georgian refugees not as representatives of a hostile colonizer, but as former good neighbors.

On one hand, restoring a peaceful coexistence among ethnic groups that have engaged in a bloody conflict is a very difficult task. On the other hand, repatriating its refugees or compensating them for the losses they incurred during the wars is perhaps the best policy for strengthening the newly born nations of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

As the protectorate of these territories, Russia should help finance the repatriation and resettlement of refugees. This is certainly expected from Moscow -- particularly after it assumed the role as the main sponsor of the republics' independence.

If Moscow finds the political courage to take such a humanitarian initiative, will the capricious West grow any fonder of Russia? Or will it continue to fawn over Saakashvili?

Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP Magazine for publishing business professionals.