reports on how diplomacy to expel the Russians is failing
A running sore
Saturday 8 August
It's the first anniversary of Europe's last war. Across Georgia, they're marking the date. At midnight a series of bonfires were lit across the country. The first and the biggest was in the capital Tbilisi. Gori was the town that perhaps suffered most. It was bombed, many people died, homes were destroyed, and the Russians invaded, making it their headquarters. Here hundreds of people gathered together and formed themselves into a giant Georgian flag, gathering around the town's medieval fortress.
It was here that Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, addressed the nation, insisting that he was determined to forge closer links with the EU. This was a row over territory and influence. When Saakashvili took over five years ago, his pro-Western stance alarmed Russia. Their sphere of influence was diminishing. He said that he wanted to join the EU and NATO. Moscow immediately became very suspicious of this populist politician.
Last summer, another row erupted over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They belong to Georgia, but the majority of the people swear their loyalty to Moscow. A row over monitoring borders and breakaways sparked the violence which ended in a 10-day-war with many casualties. Both sides still blame each other for starting the war. Russia won it comprehensively and the two breakaway regions declared their independence. So far only Russia and Belarus have officially recognised these rump nations.
Tensions remain, and 30,000 people remain 'displaced', unable to return to their homes and the lives that they knew before. Saakashvili says diplomacy is the only way to expel Russia from South Ossetia and Abkhazia. There's no sign that they're moving soon, or that this running sore will soon be healed.
Sunday 9 August
The Taliban in Pakistan would appear to be in turmoil. I say appear, because few credible sources make it to north-west Pakistan to give an accurate picture of what is happening there. The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was Baitullah Mehsud. He was reported to have been killed when a US drone hit his father-in-law's house.
The group denied their leader was dead. Hakimullah Mehsud insisted to anyone who would listen that his boss was alive and well. The idea of some public appearance was rejected; worried it would alert the authorities to his whereabouts. Now it appears – that word again – that at a meeting to decide his succession, a gun battle erupted and a number of people died. It's reported that Hakimullah himself has been killed. The other leader allegedly involved in the shootout was Waliur Rehman, a name little known outside Pakistan, but one which may start to take on added significance. Remember Baitullah Mehsud was accused of being behind the death of thousands of Pakistanis in numerous attacks including the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, and of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
But while the Americans may be delighting in the infighting which threatens to tear one of their enemies apart, a new survey reveals that 59% of Pakistanis see America as the biggest threat to their country. They say it is a bigger danger than the Taliban or even the traditional enemy India. It's a deeply worrying statistic for the planners in Washington.
Monday 10 August
In 10 days the people of Afghanistan will go to the polls to elect a new president. The incumbent Hamid Karzai leads in the polls – and seems certain to secure another five years in charge of his deeply divided country. The election campaign has taken the candidates to many places – but others have remained off-limits simply because of security concerns.
Britain and America are pouring extra troops in to ensure security on polling day – but there already clear signs of the danger that exists. Five Afghan police have been killed and 26 others injured after a grenade and gun attack on government offices in the east of the country. The Taliban says it will disrupt the polling and has promised to stage more attacks right across the country. There are few who do not believe that they are capable of doing what they say.
Provincial government compounds are not as well-guarded as those in Kabul and attacks like this are designed to challenge the authority of the Afghan government. The poll is on 20 August. These are dangerous days in a dangerous place.
Tuesday 11 August
Having started the week marking the anniversary of his war with Georgia, Russia's president has now accused one of his counterparts of 'anti-Russian' behaviour.
Dmitry Medvedev claims Ukraine sent weapons to the Georgians – and those guns 'killed civilians and Russian peacekeepers' in South Ossetia – and expressed the hope that relations would return to normal under new Ukrainian leadership.
It's another attempt by the Russians to influence political developments in neighbouring countries. The Ukrainian president, Vicktor Yushchenko, came to power five years ago and has forged close links with the US, the EU and NATO, just like the Georgians. He's expected to run for re-election in January.
President Medvedev has a list of problems with the Ukrainians. He believes Russia has been bypassed in their deals with the EU for gas supplies. He argues that the Russian fleet based in the Ukraine port of Sevastapol has had problems with the authorities there, and he has accused the Yushchenko administration of driving the Russian language out of the Ukrainian media, education and culture and re-writing the history books.
The Russians favour Viktor Yanukovych, and the outburst by Moscow is seen as the first step in what will be a bitter and hotly contested election, which everyone hopes will end peacefully.