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Story Publication logo August 26, 2008

Georgia, Russia and a whiff of 1914

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The war between Russia and Georgia caught most of the world by surprise but it is a conflict that...

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Pulitzer Center Staff

Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer spoke to the World Affairs Council of Houston Tuesday night (8/26), addressing the Caucasus conflict -- its roots, the media coverage of the Georgia/Russia war, and likely repercussions. He drew on his own reporting from Georgia and South Ossetia two years ago and on the current Pulitzer-funded reporting by Jason Maloney, Kira Kay and Zygmunt Dziesciolowski.

As Russia and the U.S. raise the ante -- Russia by recognizing the breakaway republics of S. Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and the U.S. responding by dispatching Vice President Dick Cheney to Georgia in a show of solidarity -- Sawyer says there's plenty of blame on all sides for letting the situation escalate as it has. Among his observations:

I don't buy the loosely offered analogies to past Russian outrages, whether Poland or Czechoslovakia or Afghanistan. I do see parallels to another August, in 1914, when small-minded politicians spurred on by jingoistic journalism allowed an obscure conflict in a remote corner of Europe to erupt into a brutal world war. My hope is that this time cooler heads will prevail, that the media will play its role more responsibly, and that solutions will be found that put the interests of civilians – not politicians – first.

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