Russian-Georgian Conflict: a separatist debacle, a thirst for oil & a show of military might

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After a week of fighting and violence that left more than 1,500 dead and 158,000 Georgians flushed out from their homes, Russia’s bullying posture over a small-state neighbor is showing. Supposed to aid the rebellious region of South Ossetia, the Russians went on a campaign to support the separatists and dominate Georgia, a small sovereign state of 4.6 million people.

Sheltering US-supported oil lines which bypass Russia and Iran thus reducing the dependence of fossil fuel from the Middle East, Georgia has strategic importance for Europe and the world. The country is backed by Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania which consider the invasion a chance to stop Russia’s geopolitical design in the region.

The Russian attempt to annex the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia brings a sharp rise in the Poland’s determination to forge a missile defense accord with the US. Originally intended against Iran, the deal is now planned to include a defense against Russia.

Analysts say the Russia-Georgia dispute doesn’t only involve unresolved territorial borders which has been simmering for sometime. They say it also includes political assertiveness, a flexing of military muscle by Russia on surrounding smaller neighbors so it can control the region’s oil supply on which a large part of Europe is dependent on.

There are three key pipelines that run through Georgia. The biggest, designed to bypass Russia, is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, or BTC, which transports about a million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian Sea through Georgia to ports in Turkey. From there, the oil is sent to Europe and other destinations around the world.

There is a lot of concern in America about Russia’s willingness to use oil and gas for political ends,” said Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, a former State Department officer who has studied Russia and its economy.

Kupchan further said, “There is precedent for such worry. In 2006, Russia cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine when that country refused to accept a price hike. As a result of the move, Europeans from France to Finland were left out in the cold.” ABC World News (08/16/08, Martin,R.)

In spite of Russia’s promise to withdraw from Georgia (a staunch ally of USA who sent support troops in Iraq,) Russian soldiers are still causing destruction and fear in at least a third of the country. On Aug 19, 2008, in spite of a ceasefire agreement, the Russians captured 20 Georgian troops in Poti, a seaport city in Western Georgia.

Leaders of Europeand USA and other countries are scrambling to contain the war with negotiations and political maneuverings. This underscores how governments with KGB influence can wantonly use military aggressiveness at the expense of peace of innocent lives. It also reminds the world of the dividends gained from the fall of the Soviet Union which may come to waste when the cold war returns because of reckless actions of a few. PCredits: AP/AFP =0=

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