Monday, September 1, 2008

Cold War II?

Back when my family and I still lived in Georgia, the only association I had with the date of September 1st was the end of my summer holidays when I, along with my peers, ran back to school first thing in the morning and resumed my studies.

Years later, it is no longer just a date that symbolizes going back to school but something rather patriotic and all the more meaningful not only to an average young pupil but on a larger scale to every Georgian residing back home and abroad.

In other words, as of today, September 1 has been declared the day of Georgian Unity.

More than 1 million people across Georgia protested Russian military action and the Kremlin's backing for the country's two separatist regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Many waving the red-and-white Georgian flag, protesters linked arms in the capital, Tbilisi, in a human chain that snaked through the city under cloudy skies.

Flags flew from balconies and protesters chanted "Long Live Georgia!" and "Stop Russia!"

According to Reuters, countrywide, police said more than 1 million people took part in what authorities said was a show of unity after Russia last month crushed a Georgian bid to retake breakaway South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

By the end of the rally, the figure could not be independently confirmed by any one source, but it could arguably account for more than one-fifth of the country's 4.5 million + population.

"Today we can say Georgia is not alone because the whole world is standing beside us," President Mikheil Saakashvili told the crowd on Tbilisi's Freedom Square.

He said Monday's protest marked the largest gathering in Georgia since the country of split from the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the meantime, earlier today the European Union held an emergency summit on Georgia. Collectively shying away from any particular sanctions, the leaders decided to postpone talks on a new EU-Russia partnership scheduled for later this month if Moscow has not withdrawn its troops to pre-conflict positions in Georgia by then.

Not many, including the Russian Federation, could have imagined the small Caucasian Republic of Georgia, often confused in the US with one of the American States, taking the center stage in one of the most talked-about international upheavals in the recent period.

In fact, the conflict that swiftly escalated into a war between nations a few weeks ago in the heart of the breakaway region of South Ossetia came very close to ignited a new Cold War between the US and Russia, let alone striking a serious diplomatic dispute between a large portion of the western world and the Kremlin in Moscow.

"We are not afraid of anything, including the prospect of a new Cold War," Russian President Medvedev was quoted as saying Tuesday by the ITAR-Tass news agency. "But we don't want it and in this situation everything depends on the position of our partners."

Is it over? Not quite..... But what's next - nobody knows. And that's the scary part.

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