Georgia backs down but Russia doesn’t; Georgia wants America and NATO to step in.
The Russians want regime change--Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin compares Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to Saddam Hussein and is angry that the US is ferrying 2000 Georgian troops home from Iraq after Saakashvili recalled them.
Armed with wealth from oil and gas; holding a near-monopoly over the energy supply to Europe; with a million soldiers, thousands of nuclear warheads and the world’s third-largest military budget, Vladimir Putin believes that now is the time to make his move.(Take note on the oil issue, US Congress.)
Kagan says that this war isn't really about South Ossetia--that Saakashvili’s real crime against Russia is being “president of a small, mostly democratic and adamantly pro-Western nation on the border of Putin's Russia.”
Georgia is owed protection from the US, says Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left. From that assertion, one supposes that there will be no anti-war movement spearheaded the Left this time. I guess War sometimes Is the Answer.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy goes to Tblisi and to Moscow, presumably to talk sense. Sarkozy seems to have a winning personality without being spineless, but that won’t stop this, because, for Russian, it’s all about the runaway slave states.
In all the reports and blog posts I’ve read on the topic in the past few days, one name is conspicuously missing: Dmitrij Medvedev—the Russian President. I guess we know who is wearing the pants in that marriage, as if there was any doubt.
More to follow.
UPDATE: War for Oil? Powerline:
News reports indicate that Russia may have tried to bomb the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs through Georgia. If so, the bombs missed, and flow of oil through the pipeline was not interrupted. The BTC pipeline runs from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey; note Russia to the north and Iran to the south.The pipeline is capable of pumping the equivalent of 1 million barrels a day and is the only oil conduit in the region not in Russian control. Back in 2002, when the pipeline was being built, Russia was adamantly against its construction.
For these reasons, it would be of enormous strategic benefit to Russia if it could reassert dominance over Georgia, or merely have an opportunity to demonstrate to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijain that any means of getting their petroleum products to market independent of Russia may be unreliable. These issues are a key subtext to Russia's conflict with Georgia and Georgia's desire to join NATO, and otherwise seek protection from the West.(Thanks to Roger Kimball; read that, too. It's about Russia and Georgia and McCain and Obama.)
UPDATE: Russians take Gori while President Saakashvili makes a narrow escape from the city and, possibly, from Russian bombers (just seen on cable news).
UPDATE: Saakashvili at WSJ (HT: MTheads):
This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in 1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the international security system. [SNIP]
This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.All Cold Warrior eyes are on the Caucasus region. Believe it.