Last week our featured topic was Russia,
with a focus on the hostilities with neighboring Georgia and the
diplomatic turmoil that has followed. Georgia's invasion of the
breakaway region of South Ossetia on August 8th, and Russia's fierce
retaliation and ongoing occupation of Georgia, have captured media
attention worldwide. Even during the Olympic games in Beijing, coverage
of the Russia-Georgia conflict has remained prominent in both the
domestic and foreign press.
The conflict, echoing Cold War postures and involving fundamental issues of sovereignty, has prompted a diversity of perspectives and claims in the news media, many of them widely inconsistent. Some of the most hotly disputed topics have included the debate over which country was the true aggressor, the weakness of the European Union as a mediator, and the possible role of the United States in antagonizing the conflict. Here are some of our top rated stories on Russia, organized by source location:
We found that American media, with some notable exceptions, took a generally pro-Georgia tone and tended to portray Russia's response as opportunistic and excessive:
A two-sided descent into full-scale war
Washington Post (Special Report)
At Putin's mercy
Atlantic (Special Report)
The war we don't know
The Nation (Opinion)
The Russo-Georgian war and the balance of power
Stratfor (Special Report)
Russia blames the victim
New York Times (Opinion)
European media appeared more likely to scrutinize both countries' actions leading up to the armed conflict, as well as the Georgia's strong ties to the United States:
The new Cold War: Crisis in the Caucasus
Independent (News Report)
This is a tale of US expansion not Russian aggression
The Guardian (Opinion)
Russia and Georgia – A scripted war
Economist (News Analysis)
Early lessons from S Ossetia conflict
BBC News (News Analysis)
Georgia, Russia: "What's next?"
Global Voices (Blog Post)
Asian and Middle Eastern Sources
Stories from several Middle Eastern and Asian media outlets reviewed by the NewsTrust community, while not fully representative, showcase a level of sympathy for Russia and South Ossetia largely absent in Western media. Exceptions were the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz and Aljazeera, which cast Russia as more aggressive:
The Russian giant returns
Russia bids to rid Georgia of its folly
Asia Times (Opinion)
Crisis in the Caucasus
The Hindu (Editorial)
Inside Story: South Ossetia
Aljazeera (News Analysis)
Thanks to our host, Walter Cox!
Our host for this News Hunt on Russia was founding member Walter Cox, a scholar of U.S.-Russian relations and a Wikipedia editor. Lending his expertise on this topic, Walter reviewed and submitted over three dozen stories and led the way in evaluating this complex conflict. We asked him how hosting the Russia topic changed his understanding of the key issues in the region. He responded with this thoughtful observation:
As the week’s events unfolded, it became obvious to me that Russia’s essential attitude toward the “outside world” has not changed a great deal since my initial immersion in Soviet politics before the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Partnered with Medvedev, Putin has embarked on a more aggressive foreign policy, buoyed by his popularity at home and the enormous oil and gas revenues flowing into Russia from abroad. Obviously, the Russians feel threatened by what they view, with some justification, as a renewal of George Kennan’s original policy of “Western containment.”
Nevertheless it has been somewhat of a shock suddenly to hear explicit nuclear threats revived -- towards Poland, Ukraine and the West in general. Since there no longer exists any ideological need for containment, it will be up to the next U.S. President to provide leadership in fashioning some artful geopolitical compromise that satisfies Russian security concerns and attempts to bring Russia into the Western democratic camp. If we fail to do so, the alternative may be for Russia to partner with nations following the more authoritarian “Asian model,” most dangerously China.
This past week marks the beginning of what I suspect will be a long and difficult process. The Russian bear has awakened.
We would like to extend a special thanks to Walter Cox for leading our Russia News Hunt. His well-reasoned perspective and insights on the Russia-Georgia conflict helped raise the quality of all the reviews on our site. Thanks, Walter!
This Week's News Hunt: Money and Politics
This week, we're turning back to domestic issues, with a News Hunt on Money and Politics. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have called for curbing the influence of money in U.S. politics. How do large campaign contributions and lobbying impact American democracy? What can we do about them? Help us find the best journalism on our Money and Politics topic page.