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The New Cold War Turns Hot

How Washington’s encirclement of Russia threatens us all

By Antony Black

19/08/08 "
Canadian Dimension" --- Fairytales are wonderful things – except when they are employed by adults to supplant a complex reality. Or, indeed, to turn that reality on its head. Nevertheless, it is precisely the word ‘fairytale’ that best describes the West’s reaction to the outbreak of hostilities in Georgia as even a cursory look at these events, and at the recent historical and political context of Eurasia, make abundantly clear.

To begin with, then, the attack by Georgia on its breakaway republic of South Ossetia in the early morning hours of August 8 was a brutal, gratuitous, undiscriminating assault that targeted virtually every public and civilian building in Tskhinvali. Upwards of 2,000 Ossetians were killed and some 34,000 (out of a population of some 73,000) were driven out of the country. Moreover, both the intensity and the character of the invasion were patently designed, not simply to take over the de facto independent republic, but to ethnically cleanse it of its inhabitants.

Yet, despite the clear sequence of events which demonstrate beyond any shadow of a doubt that Georgia’s Saakashvili was the instigator of an illegal and barbaric act of war, the West chose, instead, to come down on the side of ‘plucky little Georgia’ as though it was the aggrieved party. To comprehend this apparent paradox one need only, as they say, ‘follow the money’.

Thus, not only has Georgia received hundreds of millions of dollars of American and Israeli military equipment over the past 15 years, it’s armed forces have also been the recipient of intense US and Israeli military training. Indeed, only one week prior to the invasion of South Ossetia, the United States staged a combat/assault training exercise in Georgia involving over 1000 US troops.

The paradox is further clarified when one considers that Saakashvili, who was brought to power in early 2004 following the US financed ‘Rose Revolution’, is an American protege who barely blinks without Washington’s prior approval. The assault of Georgia upon South Ossetia should, in this sense, been seen as a US proxy assault on Russia itself.

This brings into consideration the broader strategic aims of both Washington and Moscow with respect to the Eurasian political chessboard.

Following the demise of the Soviet Union and dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, rather than seek to disband NATO, Washington elected, instead, to engage in an aggressive geopolitical and military expansionism that directly targeted the security of Russia. Not only did NATO then absorb virtually all of the former Warsaw Pact members into its own alliance (Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic in 1999; Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuanian, Estonia, Slovakia and Romania in 2004; Georgia and Ukraine are awaiting acceptance in December of 2008), it also began a decade-long destabilization campaign against Yugoslavia (which resisted absorption) and that ended in an unprovoked 78 day air assault on Serbia in 1999.

In every case the US followed up these new alliances with hundreds of weapons and interoperability agreements, and by the installation of new military bases directly abutting Russian territory.

The projection of American imperial power did not, of course, await the bloated expansion of NATO. Released from its own containment by the fall of the Soviets, the US immediately embarked on a series of unprovoked invasions / attacks that included Panama in 1989, Iraq in 1990-91, Somalia in 1992, Yugoslavia in 1999 and, finally, in the new millennium, Afghanistan and Iraq.

One need only look at a world map to see how these new allies and invaded countries – and their associated US military bases and facilities – encircle the western and southern borders of Russia. Additional bases in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines in conjunction with a brand-new nuclear and military alliance with India, nicely round out the circumscription of all of Asia.

The United States has also instigated a new global arms race by developing small, tactical nuclear weapons for employment in otherwise ‘conventional’ warfare situations (this in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty). It has, in addition, continued its development of its so-called missile defense system; a system that is, in fact, designed to defend itself against a residual nuclear attack following a nuclear first-strike against either Russia or China. The latter potential follows from the Pentagon’s long articulated policy (from Bush Sr. through Clinton to Bush Jr.) of ‘nuclear primacy’, which is to say, unilateral global nuclear hegemony.

Moscow, of course, is only too well aware of these machinations and has repeatedly denounced Washington for choosing to establish its missile ‘defense’ system in countries abutting or close to Russia’s borders (giving it virtually no time to respond to either a real or a perceived attack, and, thus, making the danger of an accidental global nuclear holocaust greater than it’s ever been). In particular, both Poland and the Czech Republic have just recently signed on to harbouring these vehicles of global mass destruction.

Meanwhile, the Western press, in a grotesque display of fanciful storytelling has chosen to invert this transparent political reality and paint the Great Russian Bear as the global aggressor. Orwell would have been impressed.

But then how does Georgia fit into this geostrategic picture?

The answer is that the Caucasus has long been of strategic interest to the West ever since Great Britain and Russia fought their ‘Great Game’ for it in the 19th century. Today, Georgia is a critical conduit joining the Caspian energy reserves with the Mediterranean. It is already host to the one million barrel / day Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, and is set to host a number of proposed oil and gas pipelines all of which seek, crucially, to bypass Russian territory. The latter point is of profound strategic significance for Europe as it seeks to lessen its already heavy dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Now despite Washington’s support of Georgia, its moral case for negating South Ossetia’s claim to independence is singularly threadbare given that the US unilaterally recognized, in February, Kosovo’s independence from Serbia (against both Serbian and Russian objections). Indeed, Moscow warned Washington at the time that supporting Kosovo’s independence set a dangerous global precedent. As the French say, ‘touche’.

Finally, Russia’s reaction to Georgia’s assault on South Ossetia is, by any moral and strategic accounting, entirely justified. Thus, in moral terms, Georgia has a long history of violence towards both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and both of these regions have not only been independent of Georgia for over 15 years, but have overwhelmingly sought affiliation with Russia. In strategic terms, Russia had little choice but to respond especially in light of the extensive context of US imperial expansionism and more recent missile ‘defense’ brinkmanship. If it had not responded, Russia might just as well have folded shop and begun the long retreat from Moscow.

For the United States the loss of an undivided Georgia is, of course, a major strategic setback, for not only is the BTC pipeline now threatened, but Europe will almost certainly no longer be so eager to support Washington’s dangerous provocation of, and encroachment upon, Russia.

For the rest of us, the flare-up of hostilities in the Caucasus should bring to mind a similar case of the ‘guns of August’ almost a century ago. Then, a similar flashpoint (in Serbia) signalled the start of WW1. Fortunately, the nightmare conflagration of a WW3 has (hopefully) yet to be similarly ignited - though, truth to tell, it is not for the want of fuel heaped on the geo-political pyre by the global mafia don and its uncritical, cheerleading mass media.

Antony Black tal1@cogeco.ca

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