Military specialists from the U.S. and European countries have already released a report saying that it was a Russian airplane that dropped the bomb Aug. 6 near the border with the Georgian conflict region – South Ossetia.
This bomb with about 310 pounds of the explosive material trotyl,also known as TNT,didn't explode and no one was hurt. But it's already had an explosive effect on the region's politics.
South Ossetia is one of two conflict regions in Georgia that has not been under the control of the Georgian government since the beginning of 1990s. The region has its own government.
The region's leaders are split over whether they want independence or to become part of the Russian Republic aligned with the Northern Ossetia region.
The dispute over the bomb disrupted what was to have been the first meeting later this month of all the sides in the region. The Joint Control Commission with representatives from the Georgian,Ossetian and Russian sides was to take place in the Georgian capital to discuss the conflict.
The region has had a long period with armed actions and protests,including a war in the 1990s,with brief periods of calm.
The Russian government said the day after the bomb that it was not its plane. News reports quoted Sergei Ivanov,the first Russian prime minister,as saying the bomb was a “theatrical presentation” orchestrated by the Georgians.
The Georgian Defense Ministry said Georgia has neither such airplanes nor bombs of that type.
The U.S. State Department said the bomb incident should not interfere with the continuing negotiations over South Ossetia.
“We would condemn any attack on a sovereign country regardless of the circumstances,” Sean McCormack,the State Department's spokesman said last week.
Georgia's capital,Tbilisi,is radically against South Ossetia becoming independent or becoming a new Russian republic. In 2005,the Georgian government proposed to the South Ossetian leaders a status of autonomy under Georgian rule. The U.S. and some European countries favored that approach. But Tskhinvali,South Ossetia's capital,declined.
South Ossetia is a transit region that before war with Georgia used to connect the Southern Caucasus countries with Russia.
The U.S. government says it is the route for smuggling of contraband,including untaxed cigarettes,drugs,arms and counterfeit dollars. Last year,a man from South Ossetia was imprisoned because of attempts to sell nuclear agents.
The majority of Georgian officials think South Ossetia is under great influence of Russia,and it is Moscow's fault that they cannot agree with Tskhinvali. They say the Russian military people rule some of the main official positions.
Thee are no direct contacts between Georgia and South Ossetia. The only route for diplomatic negotiations is through the Joint Control Commission,which the Georgian side says needs to be reformed.
The JCC consists of representatives from Tbilisi,Tskhinvali and two representatives from the Russian side – one from Moscow and one from the Northern Ossetia Republic.
The Georgian side says that it unfair,as it is alone against three. Georgia wants direct dialogue with South Ossetia and only consultations with other sides.
The Georgian president wants the U.S.,Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to participate in the process.
But other JCC members have little enthusiasm for reform. Some Russian officials believe the U.S. may not be an independent voice in the JCC,as it is known as Georgia's main ally and supporter.
Rood said participation by the U.S. and other countries may bring “some serious progress into the resolution process.”
The U.S. gave about $1 million for economic rehabilitation in the South Ossetia region,including agriculture and infrastructure projects.
Cory Welt,deputy director and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Russia and Eurasia Program,said U.S. political participation in the conflict resolution may not happen in the near future,as it will bring to the U.S. more problems with the Russia.
A member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs,Rep. Eliot Engel,D-N.Y.,said the U.S. should be stronger and not worry so much about whether U.S. participation would cause problems with Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin “objected to the American missile system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Putin asked the United States to back down. The United States refused. And I think we need to refuse to back down on a lot of these issues,” Engel said.
Welt said the U.S. has been more reserved recently about the dispute,when for example,Washington didn't publicly support a new initiative of the Georgian government to form a new South Ossetia government with Georgian protection. The governments of both South Ossetia and Russia reacted harshly to the proposal.
The South Ossetia temporary administration of Dimitri Sanakoev is financed by the Georgian government. It promotes Georgian ideas to form an autonomous republic of South Ossetia. Tbilisi says Sanakoev's administration is its main hope to change a frozen diplomacy.
Sanakoev and his small administration control only about 20 percent of South Ossetia,mainly the part populated by Georgians.
Officials in the State Department said Sanakoev's administration was “a surprise.”
Matthew Bryza,deputy assistant secretary in the State Department,said that the protection of Sanakoev should come from Ossetians in that region and the U.S. would support him only if he is elected through fair and internationally observed elections.
Welt said the U.S. isn't in a hurry to support Sanakoev's administration because the Russian side will be able to say that it was “the U.S. project” against Russia.
Natalia Narochnitskaya,the deputy in the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee,said Ossetian people in that region are not ready to support Sanakoev,as his project is “staged” by Georgians.
“Besides these people remember insults and killings,they are pulled into NATO against Russia – it is just impossible!” Narochnitskaya said. Georgia is seeking membership in NATO.
Nikolai Zlobin,the director of the Russia and Eurasia Project at the World Security Institute,said the creation of Sanakoev's administration will damage the likelihood for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He said it could cause a civil war.