Writing on the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, Mary Dejevsky is wrong to assert that “an independent EU report found that Georgia ‘started it’ and Russia’s action was a response” (7 March).
The EU’s report, written by the Swiss diplomatist Heidi Tagliavini, confirmed that the Georgian action “was only the culminating point of a long period of increasing tensions, provocations and incidents . . . there are a number of reports and publications, including of Russian origin, indicating the provision by the Russian side of training and military equipment to South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces prior to the August 2008 conflict. Additionally there seems to have been an influx of volunteers or mercenaries from the territory of the Russian Federation to South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel and over the Caucasus range in early August 2008”.
Are we not seeing something similar in east and south Ukraine? Traditional Russian tactics seek to create a climate of tension with small-scale infiltrations in order to provoke a reaction that then justifies use of full-scale force.
Watching Russia Today broadcasts from east and south Ukraine one sees a worrying ratcheting up of rhetoric not dissimilar to that used by Milosevic in the late 1980s as he denounced any move to independence from Serb domination. War in or over Crimea or the Donetsk industrial heartlands may seem absurd, but so did war in the Balkans 25 year ago. Policy planners should be prepared for all contingencies now that Putin has lost Kiev.
Denis MacShane, London SW1