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This is one of those obscenely complicated and convoluted subjects that is difficult to explain without sounding like a ranting lunatic. And like any complicated subject, it takes a while to explain, so get comfy while I take this step-by-step (I’m getting this report out early because, after working on it for nearly a week, some of my points are already being scooped):

(Let me preface this by saying Russia has committed enormous crimes here. They over-reacted to Georgia’s invasion of the breakaway regions, going WAY beyond protecting them to actually invading Georgia itself and killing over a thousand people. So no one get the idea I’m suggesting Russia is blameless in all this. – Mugsy)

First, the recent conflict in Georgia didn’t begin with the August 8th invasion of Ossetia by Georgia. Not even close. It was the culmination of months (years?) of Diplomatic failure by the Bush Administration, negotiating talks between Russia and Georgia.

The Democratic Republic of Georgia, a former Soviet satellite nation, has been a very good friend indeed to the Bush Administration. Despite a population of barely 250,000, Georgia contributed 2,000 troops to fight in Iraq, making them the third largest force in Iraq after the U.S. (135,000) and Great Brittan (7,500). Considering their small population, that’s a pretty massive commitment.

To describe the relationship between Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (SA-cosh-villi), and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev (med-VYEH-dev) as “stormy” would be like describing the relationship between Cindy Sheehan and George W Bush as “cordial”. These two men despise each other. Both view the others’ election as illegitimate. Saakashvilli, a American-educated lawyer was just 35 when he led Georgia’s “Rose Revolution” of 2004 into the Georgia Parliament and demanded the resignation of President Shevardnadze. Medvedev was Putin’s hand-picked successor. Both Putin and Medvedev opposed the invasion of Iraq and never provided any troops. Saakashvili saw great opportunity in befriending the U.S., with the big prize being admission into NATO. Just last March, President Saakashvilli visited the White House to discuss membership into NATO. President Bush pledged to push for Georgia’s admission at the next NATO summit in April.

So why all the love between the Bushies and Georgia? Dirt poor with no real assets of its own, already an ally in the “War on Terrorâ„¢” what’s left for the them to exploit?

Turkish Caspian Oil Pipeline
Turkish Caspian oil pipeline

Gosh, who could of seen THAT coming?

Georgia doesn’t have oil, but neighboring Turkey is building an enormous pipeline stretching from the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Mediterranean Sea, all but cutting Russia out of the lucrative $100+/barrel oil market the Bush energy policy has produced. Why should Russia benefit from the catastrophe in Iraq when they didn’t sacrifice a red cent to create it?

Here is another map that might help explain things a bit better:

Ossetia

That pipeline runs just 100 miles South of the Separatist “autonomous region” of South Ossetia between Russia and Georgia, making it a ripe target for anyone looking to disrupt the flow of oil cutting into Russia’s market.

A week ago Friday, opening day of the Beijing Olympics, Georgia suddenly decided that was the perfect time to invade Ossetia & Abkhazia (ob-KAZ-ia) and re/claim it as their own (I mentioned last week about how Bush and Putin exchanged smiles and chatted in the stands later that same evening while cameras looked on? I could kick myself for not capturing the video, but former US Ambassador Richard Holbrook described the scene during CSPAN’s “National Journal” last Wednesday). Despite claiming Ossetia to be part of his own nation, Saakashvilli ordered the shelling and outright attack of the region, killing scores of people (Russia is now investigating the possibility of a “war crimes” trial for Saakashvili). Russia, who had been expecting something like this following all the recent saber-rattling by Saakashvili, had troops on the Georgian border at the ready, who then swooped into Ossetia and pushed the Georgian Army back into Georgia.

Unfortunately, Russia didn’t stop there. To further secure the former Russian province, they pushed on into Georgia, even commandeering a main highway that splits the country in two, effectively cutting one side of Georgia off from the other. Had Russia of stopped at the Ossetia border, they might have won The P.R. War as well, but instead, pushing further on into Georgia gave the Bushites justification to scream bloody murder. Without a hint of irony or a shred of self-awareness, President Bush denounced Russia:

“Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such action is unacceptable in the 21st century.”

(…)

“Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.”

Excuse me… barf.

But as I said before, this conflict didn’t start two weeks ago:

In February of 2006, Georgian police arrested “a Russian” they accused of trying to sell weapons-grade uranium inside Georgia for $1million U.S. dollars. Russia called it “a public relations ploy to discredit Moscow”. The amount of uranium in question: 100g (3.5oz), enough to fuel “part” of a bomb, but not all on its own. The uranium was smuggled into Georgia through Ossetia (where the uranium originated from was never determined).

As the U.S. became involved, things got worse:

Tension Between Russia, Georgia Heats Up
Washington Post, October 1, 2006

TBILISI, Georgia — The Cold War is long over, but the tension between Georgia and Russia revisits many of its issues… allegations of spying by Moscow, suspicions of interference by the United States and concerns that a hot war will start without some sort of compromise.

Last week’s arrest of four Russian soldiers on charges of spying pushed a decade of animosity between Russia and Georgia to new heights. Russia recalled its ambassador, called Georgia a “bandit state” and stopped issuing visas to Georgians.

The reactions were far stronger than the tit-for-tat expulsions that usually accompany espionage scandals.

(…)

Georgia’s West-leaning government resents Russia for its close contacts with two separatist Georgian regions, for its reluctance to pulling out thousands of troops based in the country as a Soviet-era holdover and for economic pressure including sharply increasing the price of natural gas to banning Georgian wine, one of the country’s major exports.

Russia in turn resists Georgia’s drive to join NATO, its demands for the withdrawal of Russian forces and President Mikhail Saakashvili’s determination to re-exert control over the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which seek possible annexation into Russia and have Russian forces present as peacekeepers.

It was also annoyed that a major oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea to Turkey runs through Georgia, bypassing Russia, and bristled when Georgia arrested a dozen opposition figures that Tbilisi claimed were plotting a coup with Russian backing.

(…)

So now you can see why the Bushies got involved. And after nearly two years of negotiations between Russia and Georgia, the war Russia feared might happen, did. Another diplomatic coup for Condi Rice and the Bush Administration. Bravo!

I’m going to make some intuitive leaps here, so stay with me. Remember when the Bush Administration wanted to put a “nuclear missile shield in Poland” last year? (ignore for now the fact it doesn’t even work) They claimed the purpose of putting it there was “to protect our European allies and our friends” from a possible missile strike from Iran. The fact Iran doesn’t even have an ICBM missile system is apparently irrelevant.

The point of putting interceptor missiles (ie: a “missile shield”) so close to Russia has nothing to do with “defending Europe”, but instead has everything to do with intimidating Russia should we decide to invade their ally Iran. Russia’s ability to threaten the U.S. diminishes considerably if we can not only shoot down any Russian missiles fired in response to an attack on Iran, but possibly even fire missiles into Russia from Poland. Bush wasn’t fooling anyone with his “missile shield”. Russia made a reasonable counter-offer of putting the “missile shield” in the Russian territory of Azerbaijan (over 1,500 miles to the South-East and ON the Iranian border). The Bush Administration rejected the offer. But you know who’s right next door, NOT under Russian control, but within striking distance of both Russia and Iran? C’mon, guess! Did you guess Georgia? Give yourself a cookie.

So we’ve got a Georgian President, close ally of the U.S., despises Russia, has provided the third largest troop commitment in Iraq, is sitting on the nuclear doorstep of both Russia and Iran, is allowing a massive oil pipeline to be built through their country that could have serious economic repercussions for Russia, and wants entry into NATO. Sounds like a match made in NeoCon heaven.

Which takes us back to politics in the U.S….

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the media couldn’t stop talking about Obama’s trip to Europe? They called it “presumptuous“. John McCain himself lambasted Obama for “acting like he’s already President”.

Flash forward two weeks to the Russia/Georgia conflict. Senator McCain, clearly siding with Georgia… the instigators of the deadly conflict… was on TV denouncing Russia and pledging U.S. support for Georgia. McCain blanketed the airwaves:

McCain told the crowd in Pennsylvania that he had just been on the phone with the Georgian leader.

“And he wanted me to say thank you to you,” McCain said. “To give you his heartfelt thanks for the support of the American people for this tiny little democracy, far away from the United States of America.”

On Tuesday, McCain announced at a rally, “Today, we are all Georgians.”

“Presumptuous”? “Acting like he’s already President”? Of course not! Speaking out on the Ossetia conflict shows us that “he’s comfortable with these issues”, shows off “his foreign policy credentials”, “allows him to talk tough on foreign policy” and “good, politically, for John McCain”. Pardon me while I barf again. Oh, and did I mention that McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, was until recently, a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government? And what was Randy lobbying for? If you guessed “NATO Membership for Georgia“, give yourself another cookie! (Note: The Jed Report finds that after lambasting Russia all last week, McCain is suddenly not sure just who’s at fault here.)

Saakashvilli decided that the day Senator Obama went on vacation was the perfect day to invade Ossetia. Coincidence?

And where was Obama while all this spotlight-hogging is going on? Despite being on vacation, Senator Obama was also quick to respond to the conflict in Georgia:

For months, I have warned that there needs to be active international engagement to peacefully address the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including a high-level and international intermediator and a genuine peace keeping force, not simply Russian troops. No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia.

So while McCain has clearly taken sides, siding with Georgia over Russia and threatens to restart the Cold War, Senator Obama has called for International peace-keepers and acknowledged the likelihood that Russia did not instigate the conflict. But according to the Media, this conflict “is good for McCain” (just not anyone else).

Another facet of this conflict: it has given Secretary of State Condi Rice an opportunity to bask in the spotlight day-after-day denouncing Russia for invading Georgia (my minds eye keeps picturing thousands of Rednecks, shotguns in hand, amassing around Atlanta City Hall in a tizzy because “the Ruskies have invaded Georgia!“)

Condi hit just about every Sunday political talkshow there is yesterday (sans ABC’s “This Week“) to denounce Russia and defend Georgia (the instigators of the conflict). On NBC’s “Meet the Press”, fill-in host David Gregory asked her point blank, “Did Georgia provoke this crisis?

SEC’Y RICE: This crisis has been going on for, as I said, more than a decade. It has been a hot zone and a volatile zone where there have been skirmishes over a significant period of time. It is absolutely the case that we have cautioned all parties against the use of force. In fact, I also talked to the Russians repeatedly in this period about the railway troops that they were bringing in, about reinforcing their peacekeepers, about overflying Georgian territory. So this had been a zone of conflict. We were trying to resolve it peacefully.

Does it sound to you like she was addressing Georgia’s role in instigating this conflict, or more interested in making the Russians look like the aggressors? And if you follow the McCain campaign, that’s the route they’ve decided to take as well:

“I don’t think this is the start of another Cold War with the Russians.” (…) “For anyone who thought that stark international aggression was a thing of the past, the last week must have come as a startling wake-up call.”

Apparently, the only one who got a “wake up call” is Grampa-John, who must of been asleep himself for the past five years if he thinks anyone believes “stark international aggression was a thing of the past”. Not once has he mentioned Georgia’s siege of Ossetia and Abkhazia as acts of aggression. The Republicans want you to believe that the tiny country allied with the U.S. and supplied the third largest troop commitment in Iraq is within its rights to try and take back the separatist regions, while the ever-troublesome Ruskies, who opposed the Iraq war, are behaving like “bullies” and are alone to blame for the ongoing conflict in Georgia.

French President Sarkozy may have derailed the GOP’s grand scheme to turn the war in Georgia into a pressing “national security issue” in the run up to the November election by brokering a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia. And he did it in the worst way possible: HE TALKED TO THEM. He didn’t threaten them with military force or restraint of trade. On August 13th, the U.S. announced it was canceling this years joint military exercises with Russia (which we have participated in, along with France and Great Brittan, every year since 1988, even when Russia was still “The Soviet Union” and the Berlin Wall had yet to fall). The very next day, France made a deal with Russia to hold the exercises by themselves, without the U.S. or Great Brittan.

“Fringe” benefits

So what exactly is going on here? Is this a simple matter of Georgia suddenly… out of the blue… deciding that now, after two years of U.S. arbitrated negotiations with Russia, was the perfect time to try and reclaim the breakaway provinces of Ossetia and Abkhazia? Or is there more to it?

A reasonable argument can be made that the U.S., either deliberately or through sheer incompetency (neither of which would be new), “encouraged” Georgia’s assault. Former Russian President (and 1990 Nobel Peace Price winner) Mikhail Gorbachev wrote in an Op/Ed Sunday:

Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia.

So who on Earth would want to restart the Cold War? To quote Bob Woodward’s infamous source on the Watergate break in: “follow the money”. There was BIG money to be made in the defense industry during the Cold War, which nearly came to an end with the fall of the Soviet Union. But after eight years of a Democratic Presidency that didn’t turn the U.S. Treasury into the Pentagon’s personal bottomless piggy bank, in comes Bush/Cheney and their policy of “Leave No Contractor Behind”. From day one, the Bush Administration was already planning to invade Iraq, which would become a bonanza for defense contractors greater than their wildest dreams. “Terrorism” wasn’t even on their radar. And how do I know this FOR A FACT? Because George Bush picked a Professor of Russian Studies fluent in Russian, Condoleezza Rice, to be his National Security Advisor, despite the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a string of U.S. embassy bombings, an unwieldy number of terrorist threats to disrupt the New Years Millennium celebrations (including an arrest at the Washington/Canada border), and an attack on the USS Cole just four weeks before the November election. To George W. Bush, the greatest threat facing the U.S. as he entered office wasn’t “terrorism”, it was “the Russians”.

The Cold War might be over, but the “War on Terrorâ„¢” has been very kind to Contractors indeed. And now, in the waning days of the Bush Administration, with the very real likelihood that Barack Obama will become the next President and start pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq his first day in office, the Bush Administration looks as if it wants to restart the Cold War, assuring defense contractors that the gravy train will go on for at least another four years.

And suddenly, Bush’s Russian expert, Condi Rice, who must have been hiding in Dick Cheney’s “undisclosed location” for the entire year after 9/11, suddenly is anywhere and everywhere “talking tough” about Russian aggression in Georgia and of how hard she’s working to end the conflict between the two countries (if Sarkozy doesn’t get there first).
 
 
So I’m watching Condi hit the airwaves day after day, after eight years of keeping a relatively low profile (compared to other Bush Administration officials), and I’m thinking, “this conflict seems to be tailor made for her“. I didn’t mean it “literally”, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder. “WAS this conflict concocted as a way to elevate Condi’s profile in the closing days of the Bush Administration? And if so, why?

Only one answer comes to mind: “They’re prep’ing her for the VP slot with McCain.”

Condi repeated nine ways to Sunday that she had “no interest in running for President” prior to the Primaries in 2007. But less has been said about the possibility of her accepting the VP slot. She has said she is not interested, yet the possibility remains open.

I still doubt that John McCain will announce Condi Rice as his running mate, but where I once put the odds at 20:1, with this recent conflict in Georgia, I’d now put those odds at 3:1, along with Mitt Romney and Tom Ridge.

One week from today, the Democrats will hold their convention in Denver, which means the Obama campaign will be announcing their choice for VP sometime this week. Typically, out of political courtesy, the opposing Party doesn’t try to “upstage” the others’ campaign by pulling any political stunts during the others’ convention.

I loath making predictions that will be proved/disproved in a matter of days, but let me make one here:

On the fourth night, Barack Obama will give his historic acceptance speech as the nominee for the Democratic Party. If John McCain has picked Condi to be his running mate, he will pick that night to announce it, in an attempt to upstage Obama’s big night.

I’ve noted before that if Condi were ever chosen to be VP, it would clearly be because she was simply both black and female, not because of any particular qualification for the job. But this conflict in Georgia might be just the ticket for the Russian-speaking Russian-history expert to show off her political skills.

And if McCain DOES pick Rice to be his running mate, that means… absolutely, without a doubt… that the U.S. is behind this conflict in Georgia. I guarantee it.
 


 

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