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Secretary Rice comes at a perilous time

Wednesday, July 9
The United States secretary of state arrives in Tbilisi today amid the highest tensions in years. This is already the most violent month in the conflict zones since November 2004 by number of attacks—and that’s just counting the first seven days.

At the start of this week, we said the violence in the conflict zones has been dialed up to a dangerous and unsustainable level. Visits from the UN and the OSCE may soothe the situation, but that alone is not enough: yesterday President Saakashvili threatened a police operation to free four Georgian soldiers held by South Ossetia in a highly provocative overnight capture. [See article on page 4.]

The capture was a calculated move, but above all else demonstrates that not everyone in the neighborhood is fully interested in peace.

Before coming here, Condoleeza Rice encouragingly acknowledged that “some of the things that the Russians did over the last couple of months added to tensions in the region.”

It is up to Sokhumi and Tbilisi to rebuild mutual trust as they pursue a much-needed peace, but that cannot be done when, as Secretary Rice says, Moscow adds to the tension.

The first fire to put out is this month’s spate of violence. That must subside, and hawks on all sides must be restrained.

After that, Georgia’s friends should set to convincing Russia that a peaceful Caucasus is in its interests. Because if Georgia is left alone to fend off Russian aggression, an already perilous situation can only get worse.