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South Ossetia and Abkhazia: Placing the Conflict in Context

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Publisher: SIPRI
November, 2008
Since early August 2008 much of the international political and media discourse on the six-day conflict in and around South Ossetia has been dominated by comparisons between Kosovo and South Ossetia and the Russia–West ‘strategic rivalry’ framework. Serious analysis needs to go beyond these simplistic frameworks.

Attention must be paid to some of the less publicized but no less important local, regional and broader international developments related to the conflict. These include the role of the North Caucasian context in Russia’s decision to intervene in support of South Ossetia; the unexpected implications for the frozen conflicts in the Caucasus and the Black Sea region, where the preference for political solutions was strongly reaffirmed; and Turkey’s growing mediation role in the region. At the international level, special attention must be paid to the failure of the August conflict to escalate into a broader confrontation and the limited impact on the rest of the world of the Russia–Georgia tensions and related Russia–West disagreements.


Dr Ekaterina Stepanova was a Senior Fellow and Programme Leader of the SIPRI Armed Conflicts and Conflict Management Programme.