proxy war between the United States and Russia. Even a numb-skull Bush supporter can recognize the danger posed by that kind of development.
For the United States, Georgia is strategically vital. The Baku-Tbilsi-Ceyhan pipeline (owned by various Big Oil corporations), which about a year ago began transporting 1 million barrels of oil daily from Azerbaijan to Turkey, runs right through the heart of Georgia. The pipeline snakes down between two American rivals: Russia and Iran. Obviously, with oil production being a growing concern all across the globe, the world's leading oil consumer has a vital interest in keeping this pipeline outside the respective hegemonies of those two countries.
Russia, on the other hand, has concerns about military encirclement. Many eastern European states are pursuing or have already implemented membership in the European Economic Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And Georgia is now pursuing membership in NATO. Coupled with concerns over Junior Bush's ill-conceived missle defense shield program, which he is attempting to deploy well within Russia's former sphere of influence (Poland, Bulgaria and other places), Russian concerns would seem legitimate.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are two regions that fall within the internationally-recognized borders of Georgia. However, the peoples that live in those regions tend to identify more with Russia than with Georgia. There are strong separatist sentiments in both regions.
Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili has insisted that both disputed regions will remain part of Georgia.
Condoleeza Rice, in all her Gucci handbag glory, was in Tblisi back in July emphasizing the deepening ties of Georgia to the United States. The trip was made over the objections of Russia, and, in retrospect, seems provocative.
One wonders what promises or assurances Condi may have made to Saakashvili as she strutted around with her entourage, smiling and waving at cameras. But they must have been whoppers for Saakashvili to have miscalculated so badly. It would seem that when he moved troops into South Ossetia he did not anticipate the magnitude of the Russian response. The most recent reports out of the region indicate that the Russians came loaded for bear. There are reports of perhaps thousands of civilian casualties and Georgia is now calling for a truce even as the Russian military seems to be expanding the conflict by bombing cities in Georgia proper, and attacking the Georgian navy on the Black Sea.
In the United States, the usual neo-conservative meatheads are calling for a muscular (read: military) response to the crisis. According to some in the American media, Putin and Junior had a "heated" conversation about the situation as they each enjoyed the Olympic Games in Beijing. But the reality is that there is very little, short of a military response, that Junior can do.
This is a very, very dangerous situation. With everything that has been going on recently, the shifting hegemonies, the dangerous instability of nuclear powers, the disruption of supply for foodstuffs, the general increase of fear and anxiety, something like this was bound to happen. American leadership, rather than inspiring confidence, only adds to the problem. The gang of glorified used-car salesmen that are running the White House are intellectually and morally outgunned.
Georgia is a geopolitical powder keg and the fuse is lit. If cooler heads do not prevail, the dire predictions of another world war could quickly become a reality.