COMMENTS: South Ossetia: Georgian Territory, Russian Population

On the opening day of the Olympic Games, when the globe celebrates One World, One Dream, war broke out between Russia and Georgia. None of the networks had a correspondent in the Caucasus: ABC's Clarissa Ward (embargoed link) filed from Moscow; NBC's John Yang was with the traveling White House press corps in Beijing; CBS used Richard Roth in London.

A dispute over South Ossetia triggered the fighting. It is a province of Georgia, almost all of whose citizens are Russian, with Russian instead of Georgian passports. The province had been policed by Russian peacekeepers until Tbilisi decided to assert Georgian sovereignty. When its troops moved northwards, Russia responded by moving its troops southwards. Thus war began.

Local journalist Giorgi Lomsardze filed this dispatch for CBS' Roth: "If Russia eventually moved to use all its military might against Georgia, in that case Georgia does not stand a chance." In such an asymmetrical fight, it is exquisitely important to frame the antagonists accurately.

"Georgia launched a major military offensive to take back the breakaway region"--ABC's Ward.

"Moscow puts blame on the United States and its allies saying what made Georgia's offensive possible is military aid from the west"--CBS' Roth.

"South Ossetia is situated along the Russian border between Russia to the north and Georgia to the south…The United States, which backs Georgia's claim to the region, urged restraint"--NBC's Yang.

"This is the first time that Russian troops have been in combat action in a foreign country since the end of their war in Afghanistan"--ITN's Julian Manyon, quoted by NBC's Yang.

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