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It will not be easy for Obama to let go of Georgia, which is the US beachhead in the pursuit of its war in Afghanistan, according to analyst Rick Rozoff. The momentum for this plan began long before Obama pledged his allegiance, long before the ill-fated war against Ossetia last summer, and continues apace. It is a plan laid down by Zbegniew Brzezinski in his 1997 Foreign Affairs article, pursued enthusiastically by Bush/Cheney, and Obama is unlikely to disagree, considering Brzezinski is his close patron and adviser.
Recent evidence of the continued importance attached to Georgia includes the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership signed in the fading days of the Bush regime in January. In February, the Georgian Defence Ministry released Vision 2009, outlining the plan to make Georgia’s military compliant with NATO standards. In early March, Georgian Defense Minister David Sikharulidze said Georgia’s military was now being rapidly rebuilt with US aid and that “our capabilities and tactics will be designed to meet a considerably superior force ... As NATO seeks alternative routes to Afghanistan, we understand our strategic responsibility as gateway to the East-West corridor. Georgia will provide logistical support to NATO, opening its territory, ports, airfields, roads and railroads to the alliance.”
Former Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar says the US plans to move materiel to Afghanistan via the Black Sea port of Poti in Georgia through Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. “The project, if it materialises, will be a geopolitical coup – the biggest ever that Washington would have swung in post-Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus. At one stroke, the US will be tying up military cooperation at the bilateral level with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan,” drawing these countries closer into NATO’s partnership programmes.
While very clever, this plan must overcome the Bush/Cheney legacy of intrigue and chaos. Attempts to sneak Georgia and Ukraine in NATO’s back door have backfired. Continuing on this path so clearly anathema to Russia will only make access to Afghanistan more and more unpredictable. Trying to juggle all the “stans” is a perilous act. Georgia is already a weak link, soon to be weaker. When the inevitable happens and “Grechka” or someone else with a modicum of common sense takes over, they will rush to make up with Russia and try to salvage something from the morass Saakashvili bequeaths them.
Obama has vowed to improve relations with Russia. With the arrival of the Klakring, Russia decided it officially had had enough, and sent a strong warning 2 April to the US about its plans to rebuild Georgia’s military following last year’s war. The Foreign Ministry said helping arm Georgia would be “extremely dangerous” and would amount to “nothing but the encouragement of the aggressor”.
The US needs Russia, but could lose it along with Georgia as its grab for control over Central Asia and the Muslim world lurches forward, forcing it instead into a humiliating retreat from this cauldron. With Americans increasingly focussed on their domestic crises – the other Bush/Cheney legacy – such a retreat, if done without provoking WWIII, could be Obama’s greatest legacy, be it one that will be remembered as another Vietnam for the US.
Nobody (except a few Saakashvilis) wants the US as the world’s leader anymore. The EU and the BRICs are going their own way, and the Georgias are dangerous toys best left alone. Obama should be intelligent enough to realise this and acquiesce to the inevitable. By continuing to support, however unenthusiastically, failed Bush policies such as the Caucasus gambit, he merely makes any accommodation of America with the other major powers all the more difficult, weakening his hand in the long run.
Apr 16, 2009
The recent visit of United States President Barack Obama to Turkey was far more significant than the president's speech would suggest. For Washington, Turkey today has become a geopolitical "pivot state" that is in a position to tilt the Eurasian power equation towards Washington or significantly away from it, depending on how Turkey develops its ties with Moscow and its role regarding key energy pipelines.
If Ankara decides to collaborate more closely with Russia, Georgia's position is precarious and Azerbaijan's natural gas pipeline route to Europe, the so-called Nabucco Pipeline, is blocked. If it cooperates with the United States and manages to reach a stable treaty with Armenia under US auspices, the Russian position in the Caucasus is weakened and an alternative route for natural gas to Europe opens up, decreasing Russian leverage against Europe.
For Washington, the key to bringing Germany into closer cooperation with the US is to weaken German dependence on Russian energy flows. Twice in the past three winters, Washington has covertly incited its hand-picked president in Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, to arrange an arbitrary cut off of Russian gas flows to Germany and other European Union (EU) destinations. The only purpose of the actions was to convince EU governments that Russia was not a reliable energy partner. Now, with the Obama visit to Ankara, Washington is attempting to win Turkish support for its alternative and troubled Nabucco gas pipeline through Turkey from Azerbaijan, which would theoretically at least lessen EU dependence on Russian gas.
The Turkish-EU problem
However willing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might be to accommodate Obama, the question of Turkish relations with the EU is inextricably linked with the troublesome issue of Turkish membership of the EU, a move vehemently opposed by France and less openly by Germany.
Turkey is one of few routes by which energy from new sources can cross to Europe from the Middle East, Central Asia or the Caucasus. If Turkey - which has considerable influence in the Caucasus, Central Asia, Ukraine, the Middle East and the Balkans - is prepared to ally with the United States, Russia is on the defensive and German ties to Russia weaken considerably. If Turkey decides to cooperate with Russia instead, Russia retains the initiative and Germany is dependent on Russian energy.