President Bush, after reeling from the events of the last few days in Georgia, has finally rallied himself into some kind of response. All too predictably, however, it is one that simply adds more fuel to what could become a rapidly accelerating fire.
Bush has reacted with two responses that could lead to direct confrontation between American and Russian regular troops. First, he has demanded that all Russian troops leave Georgia and, second, he has sent American troops to Georgia to ‘aid the humanitarian effort’. Bush didn’t make clear if ‘all Russian troops leave Georgia’ included South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the regions the Russians and the Georgians are in dispute over and which was the initial cause of the present conflict, or if Bush would be satisfied if they simply withdrew to their bases of which some are in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and which part of the peace deal brokered by French President Sarkozy allowed for, also is unclear.
Either way, the end result is that armed American troops will be in Georgia – and so will Russian troops.
The Bush response has been slow in coming which clearly indicates that they did not see this crisis developing in the way it did. However, it is highly unlikely that the Georgia government would have taken it upon themselves to aggressively attempt to assert their authority in the disputed regions without he support or go-ahead from the US who have many military advisors in the Georgian military and who would have been in constant communication with the Defence Department at the Pentagon as the Georgians developed their plans to reach into South Ossetia. The US, as I have previously said, has completely misjudged the Russian reaction to Georgia’s moves.
In an effort to recover the political ground Bush lost as the world realised that Bush hadn’t got a backup plan in the event of Georgia’s misadventures going pear-shaped, Bush has gone overboard in ensuring that he is being seen to be the strongman in this crisis. Bush has promised not just humanitarian aid to cater for the immediate crisis but also massive ongoing aid to ensure that Georgia is fully supported by the US in the future. In short, there is likely to be a massive US military presence in Georgia for some time to come.
How Russia will view this development right on their doorstep is another matter.
It seems that in the rush to get a peace deal going, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has left a loop hole open in the agreement whereby Russian troops can enter Georgia as part of any additional security measures Russia sees fit. This puts the ball firmly back in President Bush’s court who has insisted that Russia live up to their part of the agreement – the Russians will no doubt insist upon it.