Now that a peace accord has been signed by both parties to
the Georgian-Russian conflict, it�s time to reflect on gains and losses. With
hundreds, if not thousands, dead and upwards of 100,000 refugees, ordinary
people have once again borne the brunt of reckless decisions made by their
As the fog of war dissipates, it�s obvious that the biggest
loser was its instigator. Georgia�s US and Israeli-trained and armed military
has been humiliated and the lack of resolve of its allies exposed. It�s further
clear that Georgia�s sovereignty rests entirely on Moscow�s goodwill.
As I write, there are Russian tanks just 25 miles from the
Georgian capital Tbilisi. Their very presence signals who�s in charge; they don�t
even have to fire a shot. Unfortunately, President Mikheil Saakashvili still
hasn�t got the message. He�s still claiming his country will never surrender
(although it has) and he gets no marks for diplomacy after calling the Russians
21st century barbarians.
Moreover, the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia
and Abkhazia that Saakashvili promised to return to the national fold are
probably lost forever as under the terms of the peace accord, Russian
peacekeepers have a right to not only control the enclaves but also a corridor
within Georgia proper outside the disputed zones.
In the end, Saakashvili gained nothing by his foolish
misadventure except the temporary support of his own electorate, which had
little choice other than to back him up while under siege. Once the Russians
have left, the Georgian president is likely to pay a heavy political cost.
While nominating the biggest loser is relatively simple,
working out who is the biggest winner warrants rather more analysis. Let�s
start with Russia.
The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin must have derived
some satisfaction from giving Saakashvili -- a man for whom Putin harbours a
visceral dislike -- a bloody nose.
In Putin�s eyes, Saakashvili is a man who is collaborating
with Western power against Moscow�s interests; firstly due to his eagerness to
join NATO and secondly because of his enthusiasm for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
pipeline, which resulted from a US plan to cut Russia out of the Caspian energy
Russia has also successfully challenged the lone superpower
and shown that not only does it still possess heavy muscle, it isn�t vulnerable
to US threats. Its aggressive response to Georgia�s belligerence can also be
construed as a firm message to former Soviet states to the effect the Russian
bear is once again on the prowl.
But Russia�s gains, through impressive, may be superficial
In fact, the biggest winners are the more hawkish elements
of the US government. Georgia served as their sacrificial lamb in an effort to
force Moscow to unveil so that Russia could reoccupy its pinnacle as enemy of
the West. After all, the �War on Terror� was getting old and confronting Iran
turned out to be more complicated than initially thought.
The military-industrial complex needed a new enemy to
provide a pretext for its growth and has now got a tried and true remodelled
one. And, indeed, the Western media have once again obliged, consistently
ignoring the facts to paint Russia in the worst possible light in the same way
it coloured Iraq in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
There has also been an important knock on effect, which may
or may not have been part of Washington�s plan. Russia�s role in the conflict
served to push Poland off its fence to agree to US interceptor missiles being
stationed on its soil. The Czech Republic has already agreed to accept US radar
installations, and now Ukraine is apparently clamouring to get in on America�s
missile shield deal under which participants are promised Washington�s
Now that the gloves are off, former Soviet states can no
longer straddle the divide. Theirs is an invidious position. Their firm
alliance with the West makes them Russia�s enemies; particularly uncomfortable
given their proximity to Moscow, which has already warned Poland that it�s now
become a potential nuclear target.
In the meantime, the US and Europe are threatening Russia
with suspension from the G8 and are warning that its future membership in the
World Trade Organisation is at risk. But Russia isn�t Iran or North Korea and
attempting to isolate it could be a highly dangerous strategy especially for
Western Europe which is reliant on Russian gas.
A surprise winner could be Republican presidential hopeful
John McCain, whose experience and military credentials may give him an edge
over the new kid on the block in light of a new US-Russian face off.
Last, but not the least. Kudos to McCain, George W. Bush and
Condoleezza Rice for providing some comic relief.
In the 21st century nations don�t invade other nations, said
McCain, who must have been experiencing a �senior moment.�
Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct
foreign policy in the 21st century, said Bush, forgetting that people in glass
houses shouldn�t throw stones.
But it was his secretary of state who brought tears of mirth
to our eyes with �This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where
Russia can threaten a neighbour, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and
get away with it.� Is this a case of early onset Alzheimer�s or chronic
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.