Saturday, August 16, 2008

Crisis in the Caucus

Last week, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, ordered an invasion of the breakaway region of South Ossetia--shelling the area and possibly killing Russian troops (deemed "peacekeepers") stationed there. The reaction from Moscow who backs the separatist region, was swift. Within days Russia had not only bombed key cities and strategic areas in South Ossetia and beyond, but had routed the Georgian army that fled in disarray. The response from the US has been a mingle of shock and indignation. The Bush administration has condemned Russia for its aggression, demanding they withdraw from Georgia. But with its own military stretched thin, and tarnished credibility when it comes to invasions and occupations, the US has been able to do little more than lodge sullen complaints to deaf Russian ears. Let the corporate news media tell it, and the narrative coming out of the White House on this crisis is the only valid one. It goes something like this: Russia is having delusions of grandeur from their Soviet days, and has attacked a staunch bastion of freedom and democracy; President Saakashvili is a courageous David up against a menacing Goliath.

Of course, foreign policy matters are rarely that simple.

If Russia is a bully, it is only a greater bully than Georgia itself, who launched the initial attack on South Ossetia. The Russian response has certainly been disproportionate, but in this era of a global War on Terror and Israeli blitzes on Lebanon, restraint is in short supply. While Russia certainly does want respect and power, there is little evidence to the claim this is a move back to Empire. If anything, this flare up has exposed some of the dangerous consequences of American global expansionism. Russia's opposition over NATO moving into their backyard has been voiced since the 1990s, and repeatedly ignored.

And America's friend and hero Saakashvili hardly a boyscout, creating close military ties with the US and suppressing demonstrations with the type of violence that is condemned in China, but ignored in Georgia. What's further, exactly what kind of dangerous game was he playing? Did he really believe that the US would, and should, get into a military conflict with a nuclear armed adversary?

Below are some nuanced and balanced articles on the crisis, pointing out that not only is it complex but perhaps more dangerous than most imagine.

The War We Don't Know

Mark Ames, editor of Moscow's alternative paper The eXile, gives a detailed account of the origins of the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Georgia War a Neocon Election Ploy?

Robert Scheer examines how neconservatives are exploiting Russian conflict to push their Pax Americana agendas, and prop up GOP presidential candidate John McCain--who it turns out has extremely close ties to lobbyists for Georgia.

McCain's War: Playing With Nuclear Fire

Steve Weissman examines the dangerous gamble McCain's intended policies towards Russia means when taking into account the nuclear factor.

Ceasefire and Chaos in Georgia

Georgian journalist Margarita Akhvlediani points out that after the cease-fires are met and the new boundary lines are drawn, someone is going to have to investigate just who started this conflict.

Up to 2,000 Killed as Russia-Georgia Fighting Enters Fourth Day

Amy Goodman interviews Col. Sam Gardiner on the Russian-Georgian war, and the danger of any possible escalation or American intervention leading to the possibiilty of nuclear showdown.

The New American Cold War

Originally published in 2006, this article by Russian Studies Professor Stephen Cohen (updated with a new intro for 2008) predicted much of the current discord between the US and Russia, much of it due to American arrogance and expansionism.

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