You've heard France (Kouchner), the U.S. (Bush), the UN Secretary General Ban Kim Moon, the International Crisis Group, Sergei Kovalev and other Russian human rights activists sound the alarm about the war between Russia and Georgia and the U.S. and allies are talking about ways to "punish" Russia.
Where's the Security Council on Georgia?
Divided. So it hasn't spoken out with a united voice in the form of a presidential statement (Belgium is in the chair) much less a resolution (that would be extraordinary). Even meeting four times in three days. To be sure, Ban Ki Moon has called for "an immediate cessation of hostilities."
It's not for lack of being "seized" with the issue; in fact, Georgia has long been on the SC agenda (which can be hard to do when the situation involves a Permanent 5 member). As UN Security Report noted back in July, Georgia had asked for a meeting to discuss "the intrusion of Russian military aircraft into Georgian airspace on 8 July." That's the sort of detail that can get lost in the fog of war. Russia admitted it had flown fighter jets over the breakaway territory of Southern Ossetia ostensibly "to prevent bloodshed and to keep the situation within legal and peaceful bounds." Of course, prospective mediators like Kouchner were busy on the situation before; Koucher claimed to have "prevented" a war in Abkhazia with a phone call.
The fault line that runs in the SC around Georgia is the same line that divides the Western members and supporters from Eastern Europe and Latin America from Russia, China, and their allies (including South Africa on many issues). Russia vowed that if the world became involved in securing Kosovo's independence, it would see the Georgian separatist territories of Abkhazia and Souther Ossetia as equivalent, a concept that hasn't found support at least among some international jurists.
It's not as if there weren't plenty of voices warning of these conflicts long ago, including Georgia's own urgency; other elements of the UN have been involved. After a mission to Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia in May 2006, for example, Walter Kalin, representative of the Secretary General on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), saying he was "shocked by the misery in which thousands of IDPs are still living," urging Georgia to end the displacement crisis. Russia provocatively "fixed" this problem by issuing Russian passports to the displaced.
Regardless of the fault-finding that occurs with Georgia, and efforts by the EU or OSCE or throngs of Internet commentators to say "a plague on both their houses," key policy makers in the West are going to describe this as a "Russian bear problem", as the prominent German Russian specialist Alexander Rahr.
While there's a cease-fire declared, Georgia is saying that Russia isn't keeping to it. The other former Soviet states are watching this war closely -- even nervously. One indirect indication of just how nervously comes from the Russian envoy to Belarus, Amb. Aleksandr Surikov, who has blasted the Belarusian government for being insufficiently vocal on the war on Russia's side, noting that such robust support was expected not only of an ally, but an ally that Russia had gone to bat for in international organizations when Belarus was in the dock over human rights abuses.
France is offering a plan and Sarkozy is off to Moscow -- but the larger question of Russia's threat to international peace and security remains. More is expected of Russia, and less has been gotten from Russia on a wide variety of other situations, whether Burma, or more recently Zimbabwe, when Russia, along with China, vetoed a Western-sponsored resolution to condemn the violence there. Amb. Churkov said such an effort took the UN beyond its charter: "We believe such practices to be illegitimate and dangerous, leading to a realignment of the UN system. This draft is nothing but the council’s attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a member state.”
Russia's resurgence of power plays in its backyard takes place in a context with little or no American or European pushback -- this vacuum is sensed particularly acutely by those in Georgia itself:
"Georgians around Gori spoke of America plaintively, uncertainly. They were beginning to feel betrayed.
“Tell your government,” said a man named Truber, fresh from the side of the Tbilisi hospital bed where his son was being treated for combat injuries. “If you had said something stronger, we would not be in this.”