Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Georgia On Our Minds

Russia has invaded Georgia. Again. This has been going on since the 19th Century. The nation of Georgia, with a shoreline on the Black Sea and Russia just over the Caucasus Mountains, is an old song but not a sweet one. Regarding the recent military conflicts, Russia claims Georgia started it. French president Nicolas Sarkozy has negotiated a cease-fire. To help resolve the current crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have made personal visits to Georgia to meet with President Mikhail Saakashvili. Joseph Biden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and minister without portfolio for Barack Obama, also has travelled to Georgia. “I’m just here to learn,” Sen. Biden told reporters. Even if the cease-fire holds and Russia withdraws from the areas of its incursion, Russia will still maintain a peace-keeping force in Ossetia, as it has for years. Many citizens of Ossetia will still consider themselves Russians.

Donald Rayfield, emeritus professor of the school of modern languages, Queen Mary University of London, proposes Georgia give up the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in order to find its own national identity, as did the Czech Republic by going its separate way from the old Czechoslovakia. Professor Rayfield, editor of the Comprehensive Georgian-English Dictionary and author of Stalin And His Hangmen, depicts Georgia’s President different from Larry King Live and other U.S. television. Saakashvili, “behind his multilingual fluency and American lawyer's education,” is “a dangerously unstable and sometimes ruthless politician,” says Rayfield.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, construction of pipelines and railroads are part of a strategy to capitalize on Georgia's strategic location between Europe and Asia and develop its role as a transit point for gas, oil and other goods. Since the dissolution of the USSR, progress on market reforms and democratization in Georgia has been complicated by the ethnic conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “These two territories remain outside the control of the central government (of Georgia) and are ruled by de facto, unrecognized governments, supported by Russia,” the CIA says.

Georgia was the birthplace of the Soviet Union’s dominant 20th Century leader, known to the world by his nom-de-guerre, Joseph Stalin. Stalin’s homeland was not named after any king of England but rather St. George, the slayer of dragons. In 1956 Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest, Hungary, to crush a revolution led by students, who fought the tanks at close enough range to set them ablaze with Molotov cocktails. The U.S. condemned Moscow’s actions, which were repeated in 1968 in Prague, Czechoslovakia, again provoking U.S. condemnation. Times have changed. The U.S. now plans to deploy Patriot missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic. Secretary of State Rice signed the deal with Poland on her way to visit Georgia. The Missile Shield is to protect NATO against attack by Iran or other potential upstart developers of nuclear capabilities. Russia, however, believes the missiles will be pointed at Russia. Georgia on the Black Sea wants to join NATO. If that happens, the next time Russia invades Georgia, the United States, the backbone of NATO, will be obligated by solemn treaty to respond militarily.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

1 comment:

Tina said...

And the United States military is stretched so very thin by the war in Iraq that we might be unable to protect our allies in an emergency.


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