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Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests

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In the early 1990s, Georgia and its breakaway South Ossetia region had agreed to a Russian-mediated ceasefire that provided for Russian peacekeepers to be stationed in the region. Moscow extended citizenship and passports to most ethnic Ossetians. Simmering long-time tensions erupted on the evening of Aug 7, 2008, when South Ossetia and Georgia accused each other of launching intense artillery barrages against each other. Georgia claims that South Ossetian forces did not respond to a ceasefire appeal but intensified their shelling, forcing Georgia to send in troops. On Aug 8, Russia launched large-scale air attacks and dispatched troops to South Ossetia that engaged Georgian forces later in the day. By the morning of Aug 10, Russian troops had occupied the bulk of South Ossetia, reached its border with the rest of Georgia, and were shelling areas across the border. Russian troops occupied several Georgian cities. Russian warships landed troops in Georgias breakaway Abkhazia region and took up positions off Georgias Black Sea coast. On Aug 12, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared that the aggressor has been punished. Medvedev endorsed some elements of a European Union EU peace plan presented by visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The plan called for both sides to cease hostilities and pull troops back to positions they held before the conflict began. It called for humanitarian aid and the return of displaced persons. Sarkozy negotiated a follow-on agreement with Russia on Sept 8 that stipulated that Russian forces would withdraw from areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on Oct 10 and that at least 200 EU observers would be deployed to the conflict zone by October 1. On Aug 13, President Bush announced that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to France and Georgia to assist with the peace plan and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would direct U.S. humanitarian aid shipments to Georgia.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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