Saturday, August 9, 2008

Russian Bear Upstages Olympics

In contrast to the more decorous competitions in Beijing, a classic David and Goliath military standoff is unfolding today between tiny Georgia, a democracy and strong ally of the United States situated on the eastern edge of the Black Sea, and the mightier Russian bear.

Russia's suspiciously well-planned and entirely unprovoked invasion of S. Ossetia, a separatist province of independent Georgia, shouldn't really be all that surprising.

While many in S. Ossetia have pushed for unification with N. Ossetia, a Russian province, many more have pressed for outright autonomy and have done so since 1921. (Why Georgia was granted autonomy at the time of the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991 and S. Ossetia wasn't may, in time, be worthy of further study. But, as of today, it is internationally recognized as being a part of Georgia.)

Easily gleaned from today's newsprint, it was S. Ossetian separatist attacks on Georgia which precipitated Georgia's crackdown and the subsequent Russian intervention.

However, what may not be as obvious is the fact that S. Ossetia is strategically positioned as a corridor through which both gas and oil may be transported from Georgia via Ukraine to Europe outside the control of both Russia and Iran. (This is why in recent years Russia has been carefully cultivating and intensifying ties with S. Ossetian separatists.) Anyway, Russia can't blackmail Europe with oil and gas cut-offs if there's a viable alternative transport system available to them, right? Thus, the underlying reason for Russia's invasion to "protect" the poor victimized people of S. Ossetia.

Sound familiar yet?

And let's not forget that Russia is also intent upon reasserting hegemony over its lost territories now strategically ringing the moribund Soviet Union. For Russia, it's a historical imperative. The burgeoning coziness between many of the former Soviet-dominated republics, like Georgia, and the West as well as the specter of NATO members "surrounding" a shrunken Russia is nothing short of viscerally alarming to our friends in Moscow.

So, control of oil to hold Europe at bay + a primeval need for buffer zones = Russian invasion of neighbor

How history does repeat itself. And who says history is dead or of no practical relevance to the modern world? If innocents weren't being killed, it would be almost laughable. And, of course, all the diplomats of the world are scurrying about and wringing their hands with a keen sense of powerlessness in order to stanch the flow of blood and to restore order in Georgia.

In all sincerity, though, I hope the diplomats will again successfully blunder through and restore peace and stability there. And I hope the United States adopts a persuasively firm stance to protect its ally.

All Americans should know that with Georgia, a tiny country of about 5 million strong who deeply appreciate the fruits of their hard-won independence and liberty, we have enjoyed an extraordinarily close friendship and alliance. We should also be thankful for this tiny democracy's generous commitment of 2,000 troops to the coalition's successful struggle in Iraq. Faced with a Russian invasion, of course, this week Georgia was compelled to recall its contingent from Iraq. With America's help, these valiant Georgian soldiers are being hastily transported from Iraq to their beleaguered homeland.

Godspeed, Georgia. America is praying for you.