The Olympics began in China yesterday. And with the world's attention on Beijing, Russia took the opportunity to invade another country. Red Army tanks have rolled into Georgia's province of South Ossetia, which is mostly full of Russians who've long wanted to break away from Georgia. The timing of the assault was surely no accident.
Although South Ossetia's been a restless place since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, its demands to separate from Georgia slipped down the agenda a bit during the 90s. In those days Georgia was being run by the former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Schevardnadze. But since a revolution in 2003, Georgia's been led by a pro-western government, which has annoyed both Russia and those Russians living in South Ossetia. In recent times, Russian-backed rebels have gradually gained control of large parts of the province, and the Georgians have used their own military to try to put down that rebellion.
And it's against that backdrop that Russia has moved in. It says it's only sending in its military to support the rebels. But Georgian leaders have already called it an invasion, insisting they won't let South Ossetia break away in order to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Funnily enough, that's exactly the same reason the Russians have long given for their desperation to hang on to one of their own breakaway areas, Chechnya. That makes the Kremlin's position on South Ossetia very hypocritical. Just don't expect that to bother them.