I generally pay attention to what's going on internationally, but this one caught me by surprise. It also apparently caught the U.S. administration by surprise. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was a professor at Stanford University and a recognized expert in the Soviet Union, but she was on vacation when Russia moved into Georgia.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised. Russia has been seething at U.S. support of Georgia for years. Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek, "The seeds of Russia's aggression lie in the sense of humiliation that Moscow's proud power elites have felt at the hands of the West going back to the Clinton administration's unceasing efforts to bring what used to be the Soviet bloc—and post-Soviet Russia itself—into the West's sphere of influence."
In the meantime, Georgia president Mikheil Saakashvili apparently thought U.S. approval of his politics meant he had a free hand to reign in the breakaway South Ossetia. This attack by Georgia, which has a large ethnically Russian population and many residents that Russia claims as citizens, gave Russia exactly the justification it wanted to move in on Georgian soil. It's a way for Russia to strike at the United States and Western Europe.
Some, though, believe Russia's invasion is yet another oil war. Until 2006, Russia had exclusive control over oil flowing from the Caspian region to the West. President Clinton sponsored the construction of a new pipeline across Georgia specifically to reduce Russia's influence on regional oil supplies. Georgian President Saakashvili and his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, both saw this BTC Pipeline as crucial to the survival of Georgia as an independent state. The South Caucasus, previously seen as Russia's backyard, is now a region of great strategic significance to other great powers because of the flow of oil through this region. The U.S. and other Western nations have consequently become much more closely involved in the affairs of the three nations through which oil will flow.
The BTC pipeline, which opened in 2006, passes near politically volatile regions such as South Ossetia. Presidents Clinton and Bush provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to help Georgia protect this pipeline. Western Europe is also working to develop more pipelines across Georgia, though this war is calling those plans into question.
Russia, for their part, has gone past securing South Ossetia and invaded into uncontested Georgian territory, seizing the port city of Poti, an oil terminal and headquarters of the Georgia Navy.
What are your thoughts on Russia's invasion of Georgia? Is this yet another oil war?
Oh, and to get on topic for a cycling blog, apparently the BTC pipeline easement is apparently an excellent mountain biking trail. The photo below are members of the Baku Bicycle Club in Azerbaijan riding along the BTC pipeline, which is buried along most of its length. See Robert Thomson's Azerbaijan photos for more. Published here with his permission.