Posted by: brothermartin | August 9, 2008

RUSSIA GAMBLES ON AMERICAN IMPOTENCE

RUSSIA INVADES GEORGIA

by J. R. Nyquist

Weekly Column Published: 08.08.2008

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A s these words are written, Russian mechanized troops are moving against the Republic of Georgia. The Georgian leadership has been taken by surprise. They did not think the Russians would go this far. So the question has to be asked: Why is Russia invading Georgia now? What would a war between Georgia and Russia accomplish?

Some observers have stated that Russia wouldn’t dare invade Georgia. Such an invasion would bog them down in an endless fight against Georgian guerrillas. From the Kremlin standpoint this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad outcome. First, the suppression of ragtag forces is always possible if the invader is persistent and determined. In Chechnya the Kremlin’s determination has been unwavering and brutal for almost nine years. Nobody thinks Russia has lost the war in Chechnya.

During World War II one of Hitler’s generals fretted about Russian partisans. Hitler corrected the general. Fighting partisans was a sign of victory, he explained. It meant that the enemy’s main forces were defeated. It meant that Germany’s losses would be comparatively minor. Only those who cannot keep the field in regular warfare hide in caves and snipe at convoys from the underbrush. In totalitarian terms, the Russian action is entirely rational.

One thing is certain: the Russian invasion of Georgia, if it continues, will mark a turning point. Why are the Russians acting in such a bold manner? Some may speculate that it’s about the price of oil, as the world’s second-longest oil pipeline passes through Georgia. And this point should be considered. But more than anything, the invasion impacts U.S.-Russian relations in a decisive manner. It changes the political atmosphere in Europe and the Far East, in Washington and London and Tokyo. The Kremlin strategists already know that the global economy is headed for trouble. This means growing political weakness within the democratic countries.

Already America has been weakened on many fronts. In strategic terms, this may be the perfect moment for Russia to break with the United States. There may never be a better moment to paint America as an imperialist aggressor. In Washington D.C., however, there is no desire for a break with Russia. American policy-makers have long assumed that Russia is a friendly country. They have assumed that disagreements can be worked out, and peace will prevail. There has been no real preparation for a renewed Cold War. Western politicians pose the following questions: Why should the Russians shoot themselves in the foot? Why should they damage their own economic chances? But these questions misunderstand the real situation.

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Analysis: energy pipeline that supplies West threatened by war Georgia conflict

The conflict that has erupted in the Caucasus has set alarm bells ringing because of Georgia’s pivotal role in the global energy market.

Georgia has no significant oil or gas reserves of its own but it is a key transit point for oil from the Caspian and central Asia destined for Europe and the US.

Crucially, it is the only practical route from this increasingly important producer region that avoids both Russia and Iran.

The 1,770km (1,100 miles) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which entered service only last year, pumps up to 1 million barrels of oil per day from Baku in Azerbaijan to Yumurtalik, Turkey, where it is loaded on to supertankers for delivery to Europe and the US. Around 249km of the route passes through Georgia, with parts running only 55km from South Ossetia.

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