Bush, Georgia and Russia

Foreign editor Greg Sheridan wrote an insightful piece on 16 August, which begins

YOU have to hand it to the Bush administration. It is very ballsy. Even in its dying days, with its military stretched in the Middle East, it managed, after an initial few days of dithering and hoping the Russians would come to their senses, to find a remarkably effective response to the Russian invasion of Georgia. The US sent its military to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia. It did this after the Russians had committed to a ceasefire. The Georgians immediately and deliberately misinterpreted the move as meaning that the US would be guarding Georgia’s seaports and airports.

No, that’s not right, US spokesmen said. We’re not doing that. But we do expect that the Russians will not interfere with humanitarian aid. And we will be protecting our assets.

This was a brave and dangerous move by the Americans. But it was calibrated. It was tough. And it might just do enough to keep the pro-Western Government of Georgia’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili, in power.

The American move raises the stakes for everyone. It has its share of risks. But it puts the onus back on the Russians. Surely even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his most reckless would hesitate before killing US troops. It’s one thing to attack Georgian soldiers and to murder Georgian civilians. It’s another thing altogether to do that to the US Army or Marine Corps.