It's official. Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia, has just declared a "state of war" in response, he claims, to an unprovoked Russian attack.
Russian spokespeople are saying that they were merely protecting the people of the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. Now Abkhazia is being drawn into the conflict. The Russians claim 2,000 Ossetians have been killed. Separatist South Ossetians claim the death toll is closer to 1,600. The Georgians claim the death toll is 100. Whom to believe?
The "state of war" declaration gives Saakashvili broad powers but is not yet tantamount to a declaration of war. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is in Vladikavkaz, near Russia's border with Georgia. Saakashvili is appealing to Western powers to pressure Russia into a ceasefire. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claims that Russia is merely responding to Georgian attacks on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia.
As a result of the conflict, Georgia is withdrawing its military force of 2,000 troops from Iraq. The U.S. is responsible for transporting the troops to Georgia, where Saakashvili says they are needed. However, no schedule was announced, so it's unclear exactly when the withdrawal takes place.
To no one's great surprise, there is oil involved. Why else would the CIA have sponsored the "Rose Revolution" that "liberated" Georgia? Why else would the Western powers seek involvement? James Schneider gives you the dirt on the situation there. We're off to repair our sad ignorance of the history and politics of that region. Stumble It!