For those who never heard of South Ossetia before fighting between Russians and Georgians erupted there, the BBC’s Paul Reynolds provides some needed background and analysis, including this pearl of wisdom: “Do not punch a bear on the nose unless it is tied down.”


Although the fighting over South Ossetia is not over, and fighting for another Georgian enclave, Abkhazia, looks like [it is] developing, it is perhaps not too early to learn some tentative lessons from the crisis.

1. Do not punch a bear on the nose unless it is tied down.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili must have thought that Russia would not react strongly when he sent his forces in on the eve of the Olympic games to regain control of a territory he had insisted must remain part of Georgia, albeit with some form of autonomy.

Yet Russia was always likely to respond. It already had forces there, leading the peacekeeping force agreed back in the easier days of 1992 between President Boris Yeltsin of Russia and President Edward Shevardnadze of Georgia, himself the former Soviet foreign minister who helped bring the Cold War to an end.

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