Punching a bear in the nose

The BBC has an excellent and balanced analysis of the Russia-Georgia conflict to date, raising many of the issues inherent in the situation. Here’s one worth some reflection, especially if you want to put odds on the next trouble spot:

8. Are borders in Europe to be sacrosanct for ever?

It has been one of the rules of post-war Europe – borders cannot be changed except by agreement, as say in Czechoslovakia. Perhaps this rule has been applied too inflexibly. Yet governments like that of Georgia are reluctant to give up any territory, even when the local population is so clearly hostile and might be in that state simply as a result of some past arbitrary decision. It was the Soviet Union that created a semi-autonomous region of South Ossetia in Georgia in 1922. Nikita Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954. Will this lead to trouble one day?

As the article mentions, August is a good time to think about alliances, it being the same month that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. I’m no apologist for the violence and appalling lack of concern for human life that Russia reliably demonstrates wherever it goes, most recently in Georgia/South Ossetia — but does anyone really want to be at the beck and call of a hotheaded, reckless leader who spends more than 5% of his country’s GDP on arms and training from Israel and the U.S. and is prone to regularly waving red flags in front of bulls?