Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Responding to the Georgia/Russian conflict

These past few days of seen an disturbing escalation in violence in South Osetia, leaving innocent people under rubble and sending shockwaves through the Atlantic Community. The situation in the region is clearly complex and has been slowly simmering since the Iron Curtain finally fell in the early 1990s. Though many point the finger at the Georgian governments intrusion into South Osetia as the spark the started the fire, the international community is in clear agreement that the Russian response and continuing actions are both illegal and brutally disproportionate.

While a military response from the U.S. or Europe is unlikely, there are plenty of other responses that should be immediately considred by Georgia's allies to the West. David Clark of the Guardian offers three clear punitive measures for Russia's strong handed response: No compromise on Georgian membership in NATO, revoking Russia's privileged membership in the G8, and withdrawing Russia's planned host-status for the Winter Olympics in 2014 at Sochi. These measures would make clear that Russia cannot enjoy the perks of the international community while its leaders thumb their nose at international law and human rights.

Sceptics within Nato, like Germany, will see the conflict as evidence that Georgia is an unreliable partner best kept at arm's length. This is entirely the wrong way of looking at it. Georgia's security concerns are real, and Russia is the cause. The onus should therefore be on Russia to reduce the security fears that drive the desire for Nato membership by withdrawing unwanted troops and becoming part of a political solution to the frozen conflicts. If it will not do this, it has to accept the consequences.

...As so often with bullies, the Russian government's behaviour disguises deep insecurity and a craving for respect. This makes it more susceptible to our opinions than we often think. Further aggressive steps against Georgia would certainly be a reason to reconsider whether Russia should continue to enjoy the prestige that comes with membership of the G8.

Another possible response ties in nicely with our current Olympic obsession. Russia is due to host the Winter Olympics in 2014 at Sochi and hopes to use the event, like the Chinese, as an expression of its power on the world stage. There would be very good grounds for asking the International Olympic Committee to consider whether a country that was actively working to dismember a neighbour only a few kilometres from Sochi was an adequate standard-bearer for the Olympic ideal."

YATA Board Statement on the Conflict in Georgia

The International Board of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association is gravely concerned about the current situation in the Caucasus. Together with our friends in the region, we grieve for the victims of this avoidable conflict and strongly urge the importance of peaceful relations in the region. The ongoing conflict illustrates the futility of unilateral and illegal force as a means to resolve conflict and is fundamentally contrary to universal respect of human rights embraced by the Atlantic Community and international legal norms.

The territorial sovereignty of each nation must universally respected, as a principle of the United Nations Charter in accordance with international law. Respect for minorities, human rights, and pluralism are the core of a stable and democratic country and paramount values of the Atlantic Community. We call all those that are fighting to refrain from the needless killing and to engage in an extensive dialogue with their counterparts to overcome mistrust, anger and the mutually defeating accusations that have lead to the current violence.

Even in the present situation, the youth of Georgia, South and North Ossetia, Abkahzia and Russia, have shown their unwavering commitment to peace through dialogue, to halt the deadly use of force by the parties involved. The YATA Board urges these young leaders to take on this challenge with patience and passion, to ensure that a democratic and stable future can be secured in the region.

YATA reaffirms its steadfast commitment to stability, dialogue, and the protection of human rights, especially when they are threatened by fruitless violence. We will do everything is in our hands to help our fellow young leaders to convince current leaders and national communities that differences must be overcome through dialogue and trust, not fighting and killing.

In the spirit of the YATA family and in sympathy and friendship with our young partners in the Caucasus who wish to live in a peaceful and democratic country, we call on their leaders to respect the will and values of the people whose future they are fighting for, to cease their actions and to work with the international community and international institutions to seek a long-term peace.

The YATA Board