Sunday, August 10, 2008

What's the End Game in Georgia?

Reports are beginning to file in that Russia has moved past the South Ossetia border and into Georgia Proper, attacking the town of Gori. It should, however, go without saying that accepting any reports from a war zone at face value is inadvisable. Whatever the case, if it is indeed true, the Russians are most likely aiming for regime change. On Friday, President Medvedev hinted as much, saying that invading South Ossetia would be "the last mistake [President Saakashvili] would make as president."

The geopolitical picture here seems to be settling on a indication that the Georgian government expected much more support from NATO and especially the US, the lack of which has already brought about ire among the population and the Georgian military.

It was the question of the day. As Russian forces massed Sunday on two fronts, Georgians were heading south with whatever they could carry. When they met Western journalists, they all said the same thing: Where is the United States? When is NATO coming?

Since the conflict began, Western leaders have worked frantically to broker a cease-fire. But for Georgians — so boisterously pro-American that Tbilisi, the capital, has a George W. Bush Street — diplomacy fell far short of what they expected.

The question, then is what, if any, assurances were given to the Georgians before their offensive. It's hard to conceive that the US would have explicitly committed troops, so more than likely there was a excess of optimism or a misreading of signals.

What can be safely assumed, though, is that the US knew of Saakashvili's plans in advance, and did nothing to dissuade him from pursuing them. Why is a different matter. Surely the US never believed the Georgian military, despite the immense amount of arms and training provided it by the US, would be an equal match for the Russians, and the US wouldn't stand to gain much by provoking Russia over the breakaway province at a time when the US's attention is elsewhere. Those answers are even harder to come by than accurate reports from the front.

The Pavlovian Cold Warriors at Powerline have it figured out though: It's about the oil. That's right, the same people who wax apoplectic at the slightest hint that Iraqi oil had anything to do with the 2003 invasion are absolutely positive the BTC pipeline is the sole reason for the Russian activities in Georgia. As always, in American foreign policy, consistency and logic need not apply.

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