Commentary

Georgia, in a geo-political sense, is an outpost of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that sits directly on the border of Russia on one side and close to the Middle Eastern theater of war and Central Asia on its other side. South Ossetia, which Georgia invaded, is at the crossroads of strategic oil and gas pipeline routes.

Georgia actually hooked up with NATO in a written agreement it signed in April 1999 at the very start of the war the alliance began against Yugoslavia. Georgia also has signed bi-lateral agreements with the U.S. Both sets of agreements are designed to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian Sea basin as well as pipeline routes. Since the signing of the 1999 agreement the country has received large amounts of U.S. military equipment.

There is plenty of evidence that Georgia acted with at least the knowledge, if not the encouragement, of the neo-cons in control in Washington.

In mid-July, Georgian and U.S. troops held a joint military exercise called “Immediate Response” that we now know involved 1,200 U.S. and 800 Georgian troops.

The Associated Press reported July 15 on an announcement by the Georgian Ministry of Defense that had stated “U.S. and Georgian troops will train for three weeks at the Vaziani military base” near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The exercises were completed less than a week before the Aug. 7 Georgian attack on South Ossetia.

A day after the U.S.-Georgian war games began, the Russian Defense Ministry started its own military maneuvers in the North Caucasus region. No surprise, but no comfort to those who seek a world without danger of war.

Who knew

While NATO and U.S. military advisers likely did not participate in the Georgian military operation itself, it is clear they were involved in planning and logistics.

Israel, for example, admits that the ground assault mounted against South Ossetia by the Georgians on Aug. 7 was aided by Israeli military advisers. Israel also admits to supplying Georgia with Hermes-450 and Skylark unmanned aerial vehicles, which were used by the Georgian military in the weeks leading up to the attack and at the war games with the U.S. A military jet factory on the outskirts of Tbilisi is producing Su-25 fighter jets, under the supervision of technical personnel from Israel.

When the police try to figure out who committed a crime they start by making a list of the crime’s beneficiaries. In this conflict those who see their long-term interests served by a broader U.S. – Russia military confrontation benefits more than even the right-wing despotic government of Georgia. The neo-cons in Washington and the big oil interests around the world, salivating over the world’s largest supply of “black gold” in Russia, want to see how far they can push the Russians in this region so they can plan even bigger land and resource grabs in the future. The right-wing despots in power in Georgia, meanwhile, want to take over two little autonomous border regions.

We can assess whose interests come first by carefully analyzing what happened.

If the big objective was to achieve Georgian control over the provincial government in Ossetia, we would have seen a very different type of operation. Well trained special forces would have been sent in to occupy key political buildings, communications networks and a variety of other major institutions. Instead we saw all out bombing raids on residential areas, hospitals and even a university. Provoking Russia, rather than giving South Ossetia to Georgia, was the aim. The South Ossetian and Georgian people were not clamoring for the chance to kill each other. They were not itching for the chance to jump into a civil war. Both, in fact, are victims of those who don’t mind creating a broader Middle East and Central Asian war to serve the long term interests of the ultra-right in the U.S., leading circles in NATO, multi-national oil corporations and even those looking for a launching pad for an attack on Iran.

The Russians continue to yell about the dangers inherent in NATO arming of Georgia. Sergey Lavrov, the country’s foreign minister, told Russia Today on August 9, “It all confirms our numerous warnings to the international community that it is necessary to pay attention to massive arms purchasing by Georgia during several years. Now we see how these arms and Georgian special troops who had been trained by foreign specialists are used.”

Moscow’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, sent official notes to the representatives of every NATO country a day after the Georgian attacks. He shared with them intelligence information the Russians had gathered. According to Rogozin, Georgia had initially planned to “start military action against Abkhazia (another autonomous region on the Black Sea that Georgia wants to control) but Abkhazia was too well fortified and unassailable for Georgian armed forces, therefore a different tactic was chosen aimed against South Ossetia, which is more accessible territorially. I have no doubts that Mikheil Saakashvili (Georgia’s president) had been cautioned about his actions by his sponsors – the people with whom he is negotiating his entrance into NATO.”

The argument that the attack on Ossetia was an orchestrated provocation against Russia is strengthened too by the fact that a Georgian occupation of South Ossetia was never militarily possible. The swift Russian success in repelling the invaders proved that.

From the point of view of NATO militarists a humanitarian disaster was just as much, if not more useful than a Georgian military victory – so it was the humanitarian disaster they went for.

It brought about the expected result – a swift response from the Russians, now angry that NATO was waving a red flag in their face and none to happy about 34,000 South Ossetians streaming into their country as they fled Georgian attacks. Needless to say, the Russians also weren’t happy about all their dead peace keepers in Ossetia – the first to be killed by the invading Georgians.

A test or more?

We still don’t have the answer to the next logical question: Was this simply a test to see how far Russia could be pushed or was this part of a deliberate neo-con strategy to not only trigger a Russian response but suck the Russians into a bigger conflict, first with Georgia and later with other Western forces? If it was the latter we run the risk of the conflict escalating into all out war.

There is evidence that the neo-cons are willing to risk at least some serious escalation. Georgia has the third largest contingent of “coalition” forces in Iraq after the U.S. and the UK, with some 2000 troops. Georgian troops in Iraq are now being repatriated in U.S. military planes, theoretically at least, to fight Russian forces.

It would not be beyond a few in the Bush administration, some observers note, to use these troops and Georgian troops already in Georgia as canon fodder against any massive deployment of Russian forces.

By early May of this year the Russians began sending out alarms about the destabilizing effect of continued Western arms shipments into Georgia.

Wired News on May 19 quoted the Russian defense Minister: “Georgia has received 206 tanks, of which 175 units were supplied by NATO states, 186 armored vehicles, of which 126 were supplied by NATO, 25 helicopters, of which 12 were supplied by NATO, 70 mortars, ten surface-to-air missile systems, eight Israeli-made unmanned aircraft, and other weapons.

The Interfax News Agency reported on Aug. 7 that the Georgians were, at that point, waiting for delivery of 145 armored vehicles, 262 guns and mortars, 14 combat aircraft including four Mirazh-2000 destroyers, 25 combat helicopters, 15 American Black Hawk aircraft, six surface-to-air missile systems and other arms.”

On top of the steady flow of U.S., NATO and Israeli military equipment into Georgia there appears to be a steady flow of personnel provided as “trainers” and “consulters.”

The Pentagon admits to at least 100 “military trainers” in Georgia. A Pentagon spokesman said “there are no plans to re-deploy the 130 U.S. troops and civilian contractors who we now have stationed in and around Tbilisi. Some say the numbers stationed there are much higher.

Georgia and NATO

Although Georgia is not officially a part of NATO it can almost be described as a “de-facto” NATO state now.

First, under a March 31, 2006 agreement between Moscow and Tbilisi, Russia’s two Soviet-era military bases in Georgia – Akhalkalaki and Batumi – have been closed down. The Russian pullout from Batumi began in May, 2007 and the last Russian troops left Batumi the first week of July, 2008. Six days after they left the U.S. began its joint war games with Georgia and 29 days after they left Georgia attacked South Ossetia. If that doesn’t qualify as a provocation it would be hard to imagine what would.

Second, well before the last Russian troops pulled out Georgia’s president bragged that his country was already a real part of NATO. In a 2005 speech at the inauguration of a military base in Senskaya he boasted that the base “fully meets NATO standards.” Soon after Georgia opened a second military base at Gori which the Georgian president also said would “comply with NATO regulations in terms of military requirements as well as social conditions.”

BTC pipeline

A July, 2006 report by Global Research sheds a great deal of light on the reasons for Israel’s participation in the movement by the West to arm Georgia:

Israel is a partner in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline which brings oil to the Eastern Mediterranean. More than 20 percent of Israeli oil; is imported from Azerbaijan, of which a large share is pumped through the BTC pipeline. Controlled by British Petroleum, the BTC pipeline has dramatically altered the political realities in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucusus.

“The BTC pipeline considerably changes the status of the region’s countries and cements a new pro-West alliance. Having taken the pipeline to the Mediterranean, Washington has practically set up a new bloc with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel,” Komerzant reported in July of 2006.

The Global Research report noted that “while the official reports state that the BTC pipeline will ‘channel oil to Western markets,” what is rarely acknowledged is that part of the oil from the Caspian Sea would be directly channeled towards Israel, via Georgia. In this regard, an Israeli-Turkish pipeline project has been envisaged which would link Ceyhan to the Israeli port of Ashkelon and from there through Israel’s main pipeline system, to the Red Sea.

The report notes that Israel’s objective is not only to acquire Caspian Sea oil for its own consumption needs but also to play a key role in re-exporting Caspian Sea oil back to Asian markets through the Red Sea port of Eilat. The strategic implications of this re-routing of Caspian Sea oil are far reaching.

Israel, therefore, has a major interest in “protecting” Eastern Mediterranean transport and pipeline corridors and in channeling both military aid and training to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The first major military cooperation agreement between Tbilisi and Tel Aviv was signed a month before Georgia signed its first agreement to work with NATO. It was signed in 1999 by then Georgian President Shevardnadze and then Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. The military agreements were, of course designed to undermine Russia’s presence and influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The current crisis in Georgia, then, is the result of a long process of escalation and confrontation pursued by the neo-cons, intent on world domination. It has the potential, if not curbed, of creating a situation far worse than what we saw in the Cold War era.

Most Americans, it is safe to say, don’t know the details behind the events unfolding these days in the Caucasus. As they discover them, however, it is safe to say they will opt for economic cooperation and friendship with Russia over confrontation and war.

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