In an attempt to reassure the Saakashvili government that the Obama Administration will continue to publicly criticize Russia for its role in the brief 2008 Russo-Georgian War, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lashed Russia for its “invasion” and “continued occupation” of Georgia.
Of course there is no real mystery surrounding the war at this point, as the European Union has issued reports in excruciating detail of the early hours, in which Georgian troops attacked the South Ossetian city of Tshkinvali and Russia responded by destroying much of Georgia’s military.
But in the wake of the war the redrawn borders, or rather the lack of official recognition for borders which had for all intents and purposes been redrawn years prior, remains a sore point. Two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, had been trying to secede from Georgia for years, and Russia formally recognized this secession in the wake of the August 2008 war. The US has refused to acknowledge the new nations, though they had both been de facto independent for years prior to the war.
And it is these two republics that remain at issue, and are the source of Clinton’s claim of “occupation.” Georgian President Saakashvili had promised to use “any means necessary” to reconquer the two enclaves, and with the US pumping military aid into the Georgian government one of the first acts of the newly elected Republics was to ask Russia to sign defense pacts, which they promptly did.
The deals cemented a Russian military presence in both enclaves for the long term, but also provided both republics with a means of survival against a near term threat of invasion. Clinton’s condemnation is in keeping with the US policy not to recognize the new nations’ rights, though in the long run it appears Georgia has no chance of re-obtaining them through military means, and the policy will only serve to be a sore spot in future relations.