With 1,500 reported dead in clashes between Georgian and Russian forces, does anyone know whether any conflict early warning systems had already forecast the outbreak and escalation of violence? I wonder if DARPA’s Integrated Conflict Early Warning System (ICEWS) project accurately predicted this “Event of Interest” or EOI.
In any case, I did some quick research to identify potential “early warning” signs in the news back in January and February 2008 and came across these:
January 18: Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey:
Abkhaz leader Sergei Bagapsh believes it is quite possible that Georgian President elect Mikhail Saakashvili could resort to increasing tensions between Tbilisi and the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in an attempt to consolidate the Georgian nation. “It is always extremely alarming when a neighboring country is in turmoil. You cannot be democratic for the outside world and undemocratic in your own country. Therefore, when the country is in such a situation, the only way to consolidate the nation is a small victorious war,” Bagapsh said on Russia’s Channel One television on Friday. “I cannot rule out the possibility that Georgia might resort to such a conflict,” he said. “A war in the Caucasus might start in regions, either in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia,” he said. Georgian opposition leader Giorgi Khaindrava, who also took part in the program, said, “we are used to the fact that people in both Sukhumi and Tskhinvali talk about war all the time. However, talk is one thing and reality is quite another.”
February 6: Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russian:
South Ossetian Leader Believes Kokoyty’s Plans Could Lead to Major Russian-Georgian War. “In general, I have to say that Kokoyty is playing a very dangerous game. After all, South Ossetia joining Russia is in essence an annexation of Georgian territory. Given such a turn of events, a clash between Georgia and Russia would be inevitable and a major war could start in which everyone would suffer, above all the Ossetians. Not a stone would be left standing here. We are offering another way, which, first of all, would allow us to avoid that catastrophe and, secondly, would preserve the territory’s integrity. What Eduard Kokoyty is trying to bring about in his political goals is a dead end.
February 19: Tbilisi Rustavi-2 Television in Georgia:
The Abkhaz de-facto government has started a military exercise on (word indistinct) territory in Ochamchire (district). The training is being carried out near the settlement. Military hardware, armoured vehicles, howitzers, anti-tank missiles and guided devices are used in the exercise. Several families have been harmed as a result of the exercise. Representatives of the de-facto government are saying openly that they are getting ready for war and are training the population as reservists. The de-facto government is again urging the population to take Russian passports. An Abkhaz television (station) has circulated footage where the population welcomes Kosovo’s independence, saying that Abkhazia’s independence should have been recognized prior to Kosovo’s recognition.
And more recently, on July 15, the Washington Post wrote this piece entitled “A War the West Must Stop.” I’d say these early warning signs are rather clear. Which begs the following question: is conflict early warning really the problem, or is early response (a.k.a. political will, or lack thereof) the main barrier?