Yesterday I was listening to an interview on CNN Late Edition between Wolf Blitzer and the President of Georgia. The full transcript of this interview is here. One thing that made my jaw drop was a response by the President to a question Wolf asked about Americans in Georgia.
Well, one has to say that America is very highly regarded in Georgia. By the way, that’s maybe one of the reasons why we’re being attacked. You know, one of the bombs — one of the unexploded bombs found on a shut down Russian plane yesterday, tragicomically said, “this is for Americans, this is for NATO,” in Russian.
Wolf Blitzer had interviewed earlier a Russian diplomat Darchiev, the charge d’affairs at the Russian embassy in DC, and he played a clip from the interview and asked the President to respond. The President had a map behind him, and he tried to give us a geography lesson in his response.
DARCHIEV: He should be held accountable for the barbaric and treacherous attack on innocent civilians in South Ossetia, that he should be held accountable for the aggression against South Ossetia.
And the best thing he could do right now is to unconditionally — I repeat — unconditionally withdraw his troops and sign a legally binding agreement with Ossetians on non-use of force
SAAKASHVILI: Well, I mean, it sounds a little — quite Orwellian to me and a little bit like old times, which I still remember. I was the youngest president of the world when I got elected, but I still remember old times and I still remember Brezhnev’s times.
But the point here is the following. We are talking about a place just in the middle of Georgia, in the middle of my country. How can I invade the middle of my country?
What’s the — it’s the contradiction in terms. And what we are talking about is we are talking about — we controlled most of this area always, but there is a small area directly administered and run by the Russians.
And, you know, when they talk about South Ossetian separatists and say “South Ossetian tank,” what kind of South Ossetian tank can live there? It is a Russian tank. You know, what kind of South Ossetian soldiers are that? These are soldiers in the service of the Russian army, trained by them, equipped by them, very well armed by them. So what we are saying right now is that this place needs to get rid of this military thing (ph). They need to get — to be cleaned, you know, of all this violence. And this place needs to get back to normal..
If you can get past the biased title of this article in TIME then you will get good background information about this region of the world.
Georgia and South Ossetia have been squared off in an uneasy peace for more than a decade, now, since the region broke away from Georgia in the early ’90s, following its independence from the Soviet Union. After a protracted war that killed around 1,000 people and displaced thousands more ethnic Georgians from the territory, Georgia was compelled to sign a cease-fire agreement that left South Ossetia — a tiny mountainous territory a few football fields smaller than Rhode Island — effectively autonomous, but unable to secure recognition by the international community. Still, Russia has protected the region, providing finance, military protection and even passports, and has used South Ossetia’s secession, together with that of Abkhazia, another breakaway region of Georgia, as leverage against Tblisi’s desire to join NATO. Moscow sees Georgia’s move towards NATO as part of a strategy of hostile encirclement of Russia by Western powers, and when the Western alliance enabled Kosovo’s secession from Serbia earlier this year despite the fact that its independence is not recognized by the United Nations, many analysts expected Russia to retaliate by further stoking the fires of secession in Georgia.
The Georgian leader may have expected Washington to step up to his defense, particularly given his country’s centrality to the geopolitics of energy — Georgia is the only alternative to Russia as the route for a pipeline carrying oil westward from Azerbaijan.
Russians have America and NATO on their minds, and their weapon of choice to defeat America and NATO is control of energy supplies. The only pipeline carrying oil westward from the Caspian Sea that is not Russian goes through Georgia. If this pipeline is destroyed in this war expect the global price of crude to rise significantly.
America needs to fight Russia on the battleground of obtaining more domestic oil. We have been AWOL from this front for 30 years. This will cost Russia much more than any show of military might by the US. If the US aggressively pursues more domestic oil and natural gas the global market price for these commodities will fall. The profits to Russia will fall so dramatically that the Duma might kick out of power folks like Putin and Medved for driving customers like NATO countries and America out of their markets.