Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday morning blog: shock as National Express do not cancel train

Mark this in your diary. Today I turned up at Newcastle Central to catch the 7.40am train to London and it hasn't been cancelled! I can hardly believe my luck. I don't want to count my chickens before they have hatched as the train is not yet at the station, but things could be looking up with National Excess. Perhaps they have been reminded they are a train operating company, which means they have to run train services, not simply cancel them.

Good news - train now approaching platform.

Not so good news - I am now on the train and as usual, this is not the seat I booked. I don't know why National Excess give the option of choosing the type of seat you want to occupy. It is always different to what is booked.

Anyway, unless I missed it (which is a possibility as I spent most of the weekend either in the kitchen or gathering in food from the allotment or from wild sources) there was no major political news over the past couple of days. No Labour rows or punch ups on which to comment. The warfare instead has been taking place in Georgia.

I visited this country in November 2006. It had been one of the Cold War's front lines. We went along to the border with Turkey, on the coast to get a flavour of what it was like in Soviet days. Then we went off to look at Roman remains and then around Batumi.

I was left with the impression that this was a country that was poor but wanted to move on. It is not surprising that it was looking to the West. The country had constantly passed between one regional great power and another, contributing to the patchwork of ethnicity and languages that covers Georgia and the Caucasus generally.

So is Russia largely in the wrong to invade? Generally, the answer is yes. Georgia is, after all, a sovereign country. Yet the West does not have a clean record on issues of other countries' sovereignty. Just look at Iraq. And the independence of Kosovo as a solution to ethnic divisions has clearly been taken by Russia as the model for intervention here.

Russia is guilty of invading a sovereign state (even though they already had troops there in a "peacekeeping" role). Russia clearly wants to prevent Georgia from joining Nato and the EU. Russia continues to see Georgia as its own backyard. And some of the actions of the West have given the Kremlin the off-the-shelf model they need to intervene. This is not a black and white situation. We need both to condemn and understand what has happened.

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1 comment:

kevin scott said...

Good comments about Georgia.

How can Bush talk about Georgia's 'territorial integrity', when he didn't give a stuff about Serbia's over Kosovo?

Likewise, David Miliband, when he talks about violence not being the answer to international disputes.

One word, Mr Miliband: Iraq!!

Where was Miliband when Blair's government decided to use force to settle that particular dispute?

I'm very symapthetic to small countries wanting to maintain their sovereign independence (not sure how Georgia's enthusiasm for the EU, etc, fits into this, however), and you are right, Jonathan, the actions of the US and the West in recent times have only given countries such as Russia an example on which to base their own foreign policy.

Our government only has itself to blame if Russia (and other big countries such as China)act in a similar way.