The messenger logo

Russia’s outrageous behavior should not go unchecked

By M. Alkhazashvili
Monday, July 14
Last week Russia did an extraordinary thing—it acknowledged its utter disregard for Georgian sovereignty by confirming that its warplanes circled over South Ossetia for forty minutes on July 8.

The admission was extraordinary, but there was nothing unusual about the action itself: Russian jets have repeatedly violated Georgian airspace, shot down Georgian surveillance drones and once memorably buried a missile into farmland 65 kilometers from Tbilisi.

The confirmation of its airborne aggression elevated the situation another notch. Russia says it needed to stave off a Georgian operation into South Ossetia, letting “hot heads in Tbilisi cool down.”

The Kremlin should cool down South Ossetian separatist leader Eduard Kokoity, who speaking to Russian television last week threatened to bombard the town of Gori.

But Kokoity is a proxy, and that message came from Moscow, which is not interested in cooling down tensions but in asserting its dominance in the region.

Its threats only serve to foment danger, and Russia should face immediate reproach from the states it deals with.

Tbilisi says it will seek United Nations Security Council censure and wide condemnation of the flyover, and use the event galvanize Georgia’s friends into supporting a change to the Russian peacekeeping format. There has been little movement on that so far, but with Washington backing, substantive talks could come this month.

That will require some give-and-take with Moscow, but it should not be an excuse to tolerate the most outrageous Russian behavior. In the coming days, anything short of clear condemnation of the flyover will leave aggression unchecked, and the Kremlin feeling free to trample on Georgian sovereignty whenever it wishes to make a point.