As the military action continues and the death count rises in Georgia, here is some information to provide a bit of background to the current events. Courtesy of Tim Dunlop, a BBC News overview provides a good background to the region and the New York Times gives more detail.
This Daily Kos diary from Jerome a Paris talks more about the geopolitical significance of Georgia to the West (once again, oil plays a role) and suggests that while the current conflict has only just appeared on our screens as news, it was foreseeable. The actions of Russia in supporting the autonomy of South Ossetia are also examined in light of Western support for Kosovo’s independence.
It looks like this is going to be sorted out militarily or, in the best case, diplomatically, but another issue here is the tension between international legal principles of self-determination and sovereignty. As with Kosovo, there will be competing arguments that (i) ethnic Ossetians are entitled by their right for self-determination to secede from Georgia and seek to unite with their counterparts in the Russian Federation, and (ii) Georgia is a sovereign state and entitled to protect its territorial integrity without interference from Russia. Of course, resolving these legal tensions takes a back seat while thousands of people are dying.