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Echo of Cold War as US flexs its muscles in Russia/Georgia conflict

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Angus, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    From The Times
    August 14, 2008
    Echo of Cold War as US flexes its muscles in the Russia / Georgia conflict
    Richard Beeston: Commentary

    Sending US forces into Georgia, albeit to deliver humanitarian supplies, represents the most serious military escalation between Washington and Moscow since the end of the Cold War.

    Not since British paratroopers came nose to nose with Russian soldiers at Pristina airport in 1999 have the old East-West rivalries resurfaced in such explosive form. Back then, the situation was defused by General Sir Mike Jackson, the British commander, who refused to confront the Russians and “start World War III”.

    It is to be hoped that the commanders of the US Navy and Air Force now leading their forces to Georgia will be equipped with the same diplomatic skills. Nevertheless, entering a new war zone is fraught with dangers. The US Navy’s task force will be challenging the Russian naval blockade of Georgia’s ports, while the giant US military cargo planes will be landing close to areas recently bombed by Russian warplanes. The Georgians tried to exploit the move last night by declaring that their ports and airports would be put under US military control, an offer the Pentagon quickly declined.

    Everyone concerned is fully aware that this operation has little to do with humanitarian needs. Georgia is not an African country in the grip of a terrible drought. It is a small pro-Western nation at Europe’s fringe that is struggling to recover from a vicious bashing by its giant neighbour.

    The Russia-Georgia grudge match

    Simon Sebag Montefiore says retaking Ossetia is just one part of Russia's campaign to reassert dominance and defy the US

    The presence of US airmen and sailors is meant to send a powerful signal to Tbilisi that Washington will stand by its allies, in this case the crumbling Government of President Saakashvili. The US move is also intended to demonstrate to the Kremlin that US forces can and will operate in Russia’s backyard.

    The Russian military could continue to make life difficult for Georgia, but President Bush’s warning of other action against Russia will give Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister, pause for thought. There are already calls to bar Russia from the World Trade Organisation, to expel it from the G8 and even to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Mr Putin’s pet project. So what prompted Mr Bush to come out with such a tough response against his erstwhile ally, after six days of dithering? One clue could be the sabre-rattling by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, who said at the weekend that the Kremlin’s move would not go unanswered. Mr Cheney may have persuaded Mr Bush that a more robust response was needed. The White House may have felt the need to reimpose its authority after the tough stand taken by John McCain, the Republican nominee for the presidency, who has used the crisis to demonstrate his leadership on national security matters.

    The success or failure of the US initiative will depend in large part on how its allies respond. It has called for an emergency meeting of Nato next week to agree a unified response, including confirmation that Georgia and Ukraine will be future members. Countries from the former Soviet bloc are already committed to defending Georgia, but Germany, France and Italy will press for reconciliation with Russia.

    Nobody wants a small war in the Caucasus to become the trigger for a new global conflict.

    Six-point peace plan

    The two sides agreed to:

    — The nonuse of force to resolve the conflict

    — Immediate halt to military action

    — Free access to humanitarian aid

    — Georgian troops returning to their positions of August 8, before the conflict opened

    Complication These include troops with the international peacekeeping force. Russia said it would no longer accept a Georgian role in this force since the country’s troops had turned “traitor”

    — Russian troops returning to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out, Russian peacekeepers are to take up an additional security role

    Complication Russia appears to be using this clause to extend its operations in Georgia

    — The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

    Complication This paragraph was changed after Georgia objected to the original Franco-Russian phrasing. This said that the “future status” of the two separatist regions would be reviewed. Mr Sarkozy said both sides agreed on respecting Georgia’s sovereignty


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