By SHARON K. GILBERT
August 8, 2008
CABLE NEWS viewers woke this morning to startling news out of Georgia (the country, not the state). Apparently, overnight, and out of the clear blue sky, war had broken out between Georgia and Russia over a region called South Ossetia. What I find most startling isn’t that fighting broke out (primarily because fighting has been ongoing for years, though on a smaller scale), but that cable news ‘talking heads’ appear to have just now noticed.
Following the break-up of the former Soviet Union, satellite countries scrambled to declare borders and pick sides. In the case of Georgia, the northernmost region borders Russia. North Ossetia is not in dispute, as Russia annexed it some time ago. However, the southern half of Ossetia is claimed by Georgia (supported by NATO and the UN), despite the fact that South Ossetians consider themselves independent.
South Ossetia (formerly the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast — say that ten times fast), is an ethnic region where the locals speak Ossetian not Georgian, and are predominantly Christian. Ossetians tried to declare themselves an independent nation in 1990, but Georgia would have none of it, leading to a violent clash in 1991 that ended with 1,000 dead and school buildings smoldering. Apparently, Georgia had backed down fearing Russian involvement. South Ossetia considered this a victory, but most of the world yawned and declared Georgia owner and still champion of the ‘breakaway republic’.
Fast forward to 2003, when upstart Mikhail Saakashvili unseated hard-nosed incumbent Eduard Shevardnadze. Early election results showed a decided victory for Shevardnadze, but the spontaneous (dare we call it ‘miraculous’) appearance of thousands of demonstrators brandishing fresh flowers (courtesy of George Soros’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ tactics and lots of western cash) changed all that. The Rose Revolution blipped across our television screens, and western folk assumed the coup to be a victory for the common people Saakashvili was ultimately declared the winner and new champion of western ideals, and big business (read gas and oil) had a major foothold in the key Caucasus region.
Did Putin like the smell of roses on his doorstep? You can bet, he did not. Rhetorical ramparts sprang up between Moscow and Washington over the affair, and Georgia’s new and very grateful president naturally turned to his handlers for aid and comfort.
The South Ossetians are caught in the middle — as are most Georgians. Both Russia and Washington want access to the prime real estate for business and military purposes. The Trans-Black Sea Pipeline is a huge project that would pipe the precious commodity “from Azerbaijan in the first stage and Turkmenistan in the second — through a pipeline that would branch off in Georgia from the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas export pipeline”.
In addition to Georgia’s importance in pipeline strategies, the US would love to place missiles in Georgia as part of the growing ‘missile defense shield’. So far, Georgia hasn’t complied, which may be why that country’s application to join NATO has been put on hold.
So, as you watch your favorite cable news station over the weekend, read between the ‘lies’. This isn’t just about a ‘breakaway region’ or about Russia versus Georgia. It’s about Western Big Business and Washington’s Military Might versus Russian Big Business and Putin’s Big Fist. Oh, and did anyone else notice that Russia’s puppet leader, Medvedev, has decided to take this week off while the real muscle, Vlad Putin, rubs shoulders with Western Leaders, including George Bush, in China?
My, what a curious world.
Recommended Reading: White Stream Pipeline Project (PDF)