Under cover of the Republican convention, Vice President Dick Cheney journeyed to Georgia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan during the first week of September, hoping to stir the pot and whip up a new cold war for the next president. Cheney made a joint appearance with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and was as provocative as possible. “Russia’s actions have cast grave doubt on its intentions and on its reliability as an international partner, not just in Georgia, but across this region and indeed throughout the international system,” intoned the man who masterminded the unilateral U.S. invasion of Iraq. Saakashvili, a vocal U.S. ally, whose surprise attack on the break-away province of South Ossetia triggered a devastating Russian counter-attack, needs support from Washington because he is now under attack by Georgia’s opposition parties. For example, David Gamkredlidze, leader of the New Right party, said last week, “Despite numerous warnings Saakashvili unilaterally took the criminal and irresponsible decision to shell (the South Ossetian capital) Tskhinvali, which led to catastrophic consequences for the country.”
Saakashvili seems to have been lured into initiating the war with Russia by the Bush administration’s push for Georgia to be admitted into NATO. If so, the war and its aftermath are the result of a series of aggressive U.S. moves since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990. While dragging his feet on a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Boris Yeltsin, President Bill Clinton initiated a policy of offering NATO membership to the former communist countries of Eastern Europe. The Bush administration enhanced this policy by pushing for NATO membership for former Soviet Republics, like Ukraine and Georgia, on Russia’s borders.
It is here, as with the situation in Iraq before the invasion, that national security policy intersects with oil. The Clinton administration and now the Bush administration have been pushing for the building of pipelines from oil-rich Azerbajain (Georgia’s neighbor to the east), Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan through Georgia to the Black Sea. This would by-pass the largest existing pipeline route to the large European market. That pipeline runs through Russia. Once again, Cheney is working toward an expansion of the American empire into an unstable oil region through armed diplomacy. In fact, as Sarah Palin pointed out last week in her TV interview, if our European allies had given in to Bush administration pressure last spring and admitted Georgia into NATO, then the U.S. would have had a treaty obligation to send soldiers into Georgia to confront the Russian threat. “Asked whether the U.S. would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the tiny country was part of NATO, Palin said, ‘Perhaps so.”
Into this potent mix of military treaties and oil scheming steps John McCain. The Republican presidential candidate was quick to support Saakashvili, telling an audience, “I told him that I know I speak for every American when I say to him, ‘Today, we are all Georgians.'” McCain has already signaled his intention to take an aggressive stance against Russia, proposing last spring to evict Putin’s country from the Group of Eight industrial nations that meet yearly to discuss the world economy because Russian is not a functioning democracy. Thus, election of the McCain-Palin ticket is likely to mean a return to a confrontational cold war relationship with Russia – just as Cheney has planned it.