Vice President Dick Cheney assured Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Thursday that the United States was “Fully Committed to his country’s efforts to join NATO”. This was hardly a conciliatory tone but it was invested with an admirable clarity that’s sometimes missing in the verbiage of State Department diplomacy. While such a statement is hardly likely to win applause from the Putin regime it serves to underline the continuing power struggle in the Caucasus. Dick Cheney said simply, for the entire world to hear, “Georgia will be in our alliance.”
The Vice President wasn’t done tempting fate as he further angered the Russians with statements such as these:
“Russia’s actions have cast grave doubts on Russia’s intentions and on its reliability as an international partner”
“Now it is the responsibility of the free world to rally to the side of Georgia.”
How did our friends, the Russians, respond to this hardnosed talk and offers of massive aid to Georgia? Not very well as you can imagine. While the real leader of Russia remains Vladimir Putin; the faux President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, had a few harsh words of his own. He blamed the USA for emboldening Georgia to launch this military folly to begin with and argued that US military aid had made the overconfident Georgians belligerent toward Russia. Medvedev condemned the use of military warships for delivering aid to Georgia and demanded that Washington “Reassess its relationship with Georgian Regime” in what he called Russia’s “privileged interests” in the Russian Sphere of Influence.
Tensions in the region remain high as the great powers of Russia and the West engage in a game of brinksmanship in the Caucuses. The Russians are trying to assert their “privileged interests” in all the former states of the USSR and its client states while the West is trying to protect the freedoms and independence of these states. The conflict continues in a more low key tone but the conflict continues and seems to harden in tone the lines of division between Russia and the West.
Dick Cheney is many things but most will agree that when he speaks its well worth listening because he has the pulse of the administration and is an effective advocate for Bush Administration Policy. It seems the USA is digging in for a long hard struggle to avoid another iron curtain being constructed by the Kremlin. Cheney is signaling the Russians that we’re not just going to back away and while we may have some convincing to do in NATO; we’re going about it without hesitation. Russia and the USA are at loggerheads over the situation and that’s not likely to change in the immediate future. Cheney is well aware that he speaks for a lame duck administration that has only months in office remaining to it, but he seems to be assuring the Russians that, Lame Duck or not, the Administration will act forcefully if the Russians continue this adventure.
Russia’s best bet is to wait for the American Elections because if Obama wins they have every expectation of a negotiated settlement that hands them Georgia and perhaps a few other countries on a silver platter. If McCain wins then the stalemate between the Russian Empire and the USA and NATO will have to be seen in terms of the cost to Russia of inflaming the situation further. McCain seems unlikely to grant Russia an inch lest they take a mile, while Obama and his kinder softer America can be molded to the Kremlins interests. In the mean time an uneasy status quo waits for resolution and perhaps for the American Elections to determine the fate of the Caucuses. Russia shows signs of waiting at least that long before resuming the path to Empire and Superpower Status. Our reprieve is sure to be temporary as the war of words continues while the election in America plays out. Neither side’s backing down but the Russians continue to have the upper hand.