Russian actions put Bush and “Puty” at odds

In June 2001, President George W. Bush told the world that he had looked then Russian Vladimir Putin in the eye and “was able to get a sense of his soul.” So then shouldn’t Mr. Bush have sensed Prime Minister Putin’s incursion into Georgia this past week?

This conflict between Georgia and Russia is much more involved that on the surface. It would take a Russia/Soviet Union expert to give a real sense of things, but here are a few key points.

  1. Part of the conflict between Russia and Georgia centers on a small region called South Ossetia. South Ossetia is a break-away region of Georgia, which separated from Georgia in a 1991-92 war.
  2. The South Ossetia region has a population of around 70,000 (yes 7-0 thousand), 2/3 of which are ethnic Ossetians and 1/3 who are ethnic Georgians. The major religion there is Christianity.
  3. Ossetians have maintained good relations with Russians, both during the first Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. North Ossetia is already part of Russia.
  4. Russia’s anger at Georgia intensified in 2003 after Georgia’s so-called Rose Revolution, when protests against a rigged election toppled the government and set the current Georgian government on a westward course (New York Times). Russia has opposed the warming of relations between former Soviet Republics and Western Countries.

south-ossetia-map.gifPrime Minister Putin’s goal has always been to assert Russia on equal footing with the United States. Economic challenges after the collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia vulnerable, and the U.S. was immediately seen as the lone remaining “superpower.”As China continues to emerge, Russia does not want to lose its world standing or influence, especially in its own backyard.
Yesterday President Bush made threats at the man who he has nicknamed “Puty,” encouraging them to halt their military action in Georgia. One has to wonder what may have happened if Georgia had not been turned down by NATO. An attack on one NATO member is an attack on all. Maybe this military effort is why Russia was against Georgia’s hopes of formalizing their alliance with the West.

This morning, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev ordered a cease fire, even as Russian forces push further into Georgia. How the U.S. and its allies respond is still up in the air. Any UN resolution can be blocked by Russia as one of five permanent member of the body’s Security Council (China, U.S., U.K., France).

President Bush hopes of bringing Russia into the West can now be abandoned. Putin has never shown a propensity to seek U.S. approval and has always been quick to oppose American plans to expand their missile presence in Europe. While America has become deeply mired in the affairs of the Middle East, a true superpower and nuclear threat his reasserted itself on the world’s military stage.

Information from the BBC, New York Times, and Wikipedia as used in this post.

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