August 14, 2008
In a major escalation of the conflict with Russia over Georgia,
President George W. Bush on Wednesday announced a "vigorous
and ongoing" deployment of US military forces to its key
ally in the Caucasus. Bush appeared in the White House Rose Garden
for the second time in three days, this time flanked by Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates,
and announced the military buildup, casting it as a humanitarian
Even as he spoke of a humanitarian mission, Bush made clear
the military dimensions of the measures he was announcing. He
said he was directing Pentagon chief Gates to lead the mission,
which would be "headed by the United States military."
He announced that a C-17 military aircraft was already on its
way to Georgia and that "in the days ahead we will use US
aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and
This is a formula for an injection of US military and naval
forces into Georgia of indeterminate scope and duration. It will
certainly involve the presence of hundreds if not thousands of
uniformed US military personnel on the ground, and a substantial
number of warships in the region. The US is introducing this military
force into a situation that remains highly unstable and combustible,
raising the possibility of a direct military clash between the
United States and Russia.
Bush spoke less than a day after Russia and Georgia had agreed
provisionally to a cease-fire in their five-day war. The agreement
had been brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting
on behalf of the European Union.
Even as Bush spoke, Russia and Georgia were trading accusations
of truce violations, and Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili
was objecting to provisions of the agreement which, he claimed,
failed to prevent the pro-Russian break-away republics of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia from seceding from Georgia.
In his remarks, Bush issued an implicit threat against any
attempt by Russia to interfere with Washington’s "humanitarian"
operation. "We expect Russia to honor its commitment,"
he said, "to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance.
We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communications and
transport, including seaports, airports, roads and airspace, remain
open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian
The US will pour military resources into Georgia to strengthen
its hand against Russia, and denounce any objections by Moscow
as an attack on humanitarian aid and a violation of the cease-fire
Within minutes of Bush’s Rose Garden statement, Saakashvili
spelled out its essential meaning in a televised address from
Tbilisi. "You have heard the statement by the US president
that the United States is starting a military-humanitarian operation
in Georgia," he said. "It means that Georgian ports
and airports will be taken under the control of the US defense
He went on to call Bush’s "relief" mission a
"turning point," and characterized its import as "definitely
an American military presence."
Bush also announced that Rice would immediately travel to France
to meet with Sarkozy and then go to Georgia. Employing the rhetoric
of the Cold War, he said Rice would meet with Saakashvili and
"continue our efforts to rally the free world in defense
of a free Georgia."
He further threatened Russia with diplomatic and political
sanctions, suggesting it might be excluded from the G-8 group
of industrialized nations and prevented from joining the World
Bush’s remarks were drenched with hypocrisy. He reiterated
Washington’s support for Georgian control of the disputed
territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, invoking once again
the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia."
Neither he nor any other American spokesperson has explained why
Georgia’s use of murderous violence against South Ossetia
in its indiscriminate shelling of the region’s capital city
was a legitimate defense of "territorial integrity,"
while Serbia’s use of force against Kosovan secessionists
was a war crime.
The US seized on Serbia’s moves against CIA-backed separatists
in Kosovo to carry out a ten-week air war, under the auspices
of NATO, in 1999. While Washington decries Russia’s "disproportionate"
use of force against Georgian troops which attacked South Ossetia
and condemns Moscow for military action beyond the borders of
the breakaway republic, the US and NATO rained bombs and missiles
on virtually all parts of Serbia, demolishing bridges, water pumping
stations, electricity grids, government buildings, housing developments,
schools and hospitals in the capital city of Belgrade. The US
and NATO killed far more civilians in its campaign to crush Serbia,
a traditional ally of Russia, than have been killed by both sides
in the current fighting in the Caucasus.
The US has absolutely no political or moral standing to denounce
Russia or anyone else for deploying military force. Washington
asserts an unlimited and unilateral right to mobilize its massive
apparatus of military violence wherever and whenever it wishes,
spreading death and destruction from the Persian Gulf to Central
Asia and threatening even more bloody conflagrations.
In the current conflict, the US government and media have cast
Russia as the aggressor. There is no progressive content to Moscow’s
actions in Georgia. They are motivated by the predatory aims of
the Russian ruling elite, which is intent on reasserting Russian
control over territories on its border that it dominated for centuries.
However, the eruption of war in the Caucasus is the outcome of
a policy pursued by US imperialism since the breakup of the Soviet
Union whose ultimate aim is the reduction of Russia to a semi-colonial
It is inconceivable that Washington was not intimately involved
in the preparations for Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia.
US military advisers virtually run the military of what Washington
considers its key ally in the Cacausus, a strategically critical
bridgehead between the oil-rich Caspian Basin and Western Europe.
Just one month ago Secretary of State Rice visited Tbilisi
and reaffirmed US support for Georgia’s admission to NATO,
a development which Russia considers an intolerable threat to
its security. Rice’s visit was followed by a massive three-week
military training exercise, in which 1,000 US troops participated.
The incendiary measures announced by Bush on Wednesday represent
the response of American imperialism to the major setback it has
suffered as a result of Russia’s military intervention in
Georgia. There is great concern within the US ruling elite that
Russia’s routing of Georgia will undermine Washington’s
drive to displace Russia from Moscow’s former spheres of
influence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and establish American
hegemony over the Eurasian land mass.
US policy makers worry that the example of Georgia will weaken
US control over right-wing client regimes it has established in
a whole number of countries that were either part of the Soviet
Union, such as Georgia and Ukraine, or allied to the Soviet Union
through the Warsaw Pact.
A pattern of provocation
From the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 to the present, the
United States has carried out a policy of militarily encircling
Russia and surrounding it with hostile states dependent upon and
subservient to Washington.
As the USSR was disintegrating, the United States launched
its first war against Iraq, a key ally of the Soviet Union in
the Middle East. During the 1990s, the US and Western Europe sponsored
the dismemberment of Yugoslavia in order to isolate and weaken
the Russian ally Serbia.
In 1998, the US spearheaded the incorporation into NATO, the
US-dominated military alliance, of a whole number of newly independent
states that had been either part of the Soviet Union or allied
to it through the Warsaw Pact, including Estonia, Latvia, Poland,
the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria.
In 1999 the US launched the air war against Serbia. At the
same time, the US organized the construction of a new pipeline
to transport oil from the Caspian Basin, via Baku, through Georgia
to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, bypassing Russian territory.
In 2002, the US set up military bases in the former Central
Asian Soviet republics of Uzbekistan (since then closed at the
insistence of the Uzbek government) and Kyrgyzstan. At the end
of 2003, the US engineered the "Rose Revolution" that
brought Saakashvili to power in Georgia. In 2004, NATO admitted
a new group of states formerly aligned with Russia—Lithuania,
Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. One year later Washington orchestrated
the "Orange Revolution" that toppled a pro-Russian government
in Ukraine and replaced it with a pro-American regime.
The final chapter in this assault on the strategic position
of Russia was the recognition last February of Kosova’s bid
for independence from Serbia.
Until now, the US has encountered no serious resistance. The
events of the past week represent a major shift. For the first
time, Russia, flush with oil money and able to exploit the overextended
state of the US military, with its massive commitments in Iraq
and Afghanistan, pushed back.
This has evoked an apoplectic response in the American ruling
elite, which has no intention of accepting a diminution of its
influence in the regions formerly dominated by the Soviet Union.
US imperialism will react by immensely escalating its confrontation
with Russia, no matter what the cost.
There is also a domestic component to the US escalation of
tensions with Russia. The Bush administration is consciously seeking
to create an atmosphere of international crisis in the run-up
to the November presidential election. It calculates that an election
held in an environment of fear and insecurity will boost the electoral
chances of the Republican candidate John McCain.
McCain has based his campaign on his military background and
his supposed foreign policy experience. From early on, he has
called for a more combative stance toward Russia, and has responded
to the Georgia crisis by demanding Russia’s ejection from
the G-8 and other punitive measures.
The Wall Street Journal in an editorial on Wednesday
summed up the demand of sections of the ruling elite and elements
within the Bush administration for a major and permanent shift
to something like a new Cold War against Russia. The newspaper
wrote: "Reshaping US policy toward Russia will take longer
than the months between now and January 20, when a new president
takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier
misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction
that his successor would have to deal with."
There are, in fact, only relatively minor tactical differences
between McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama on US policy
toward Russia. Both continue to demand the admission of Georgia
and Ukraine into NATO, which would put the US-led military alliance
on the very doorstep of Russia. Had Georgia already been a member
of NATO, the alliance would have been legally bound to intervene
militarily in its defense following Russia’s incursion into
The trajectory of the imperialist drive to carve up the world,
spearheaded by US imperialism’s mad drive for global hegemony,
is ominously clear. The American ruling elite will drag American
workers and all of humanity into a catastrophe unless it is stopped.
The only social force capable of achieving this is the international
working class, united in the struggle to put an end to capitalism,
the source of imperialist war, on the basis of a revolutionary