The Emerging Ghost of the Cold War

The ghost of the Cold War is back after Georgia launched a massive barrage in an effort to take control of the separatist province of South Ossetia. The Russian Army reacted and quickly overwhelmed Georgia’s military forces. It immediately penetrated deep into the country raising fears of a long term Russian occupation. Big brother came in to rescue his younger brother who had been bullied.

Georgia’s President, Mikheil Saakashvili, sent his U.S.-trained army to reclaim control of the breakaway province on August 7th. Georgia’s sudden attack sent 30,000 people—about half the province’s Ossetian population—fleeing north into Russia, according to United Nations estimates. Russia responded the next day with a major military offensive, saying it was protecting its peace keepers and Ossetians who carry Russian passports. Russian troops, tanks and bombers quickly routed the Georgian army.

It’s important to remember that a bloody civil war between Georgia and Ossetian separatists ended in 1992 with South Ossetia operating largely independent of Georgia backed by Russian peacekeeping forces.

Shortly after the official cease fire, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said separately in a radio interview that Georgia “can forget about” its territorial integrity, because the Georgian government under President Mikheil Saakashvili had committed so many atrocities that the two breakaway regions could never live under Georgian rule. He was referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the two breakaway regions. Rather, he said, it was to send a message to Georgia and other former Soviet states that they should think twice before “daring to try to integrate with the West.”

At a Kremlin meeting with leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Mr. Medvedev said Russia would back their aspirations as long they complied with the United Nations charter and other principles of international law. It is unclear whether the two regions want full independence, a formal alliance with Russia or full integration with Russia.

Georgia straddles a vital westward route for oil from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and other Caspian Sea nations, giving it added strategic importance as the United States and the European Union seek to decrease Russia’s dominance of oil and gas exports from the former Soviet Union.

Currently, neither Russia nor any other member of the United Nations recognizes the two provinces’ independence claims—except Nicaragua. Both won de-facto independence in the 1990s after wars with the Georgia, and have survived ever since with Russia’s financial, political and military support.

The fighting has brought relations between Russia and the West to a post-Cold War low, as Western nations accuse Russia of falling short of its commitment to withdraw forces from its smaller neighbor. After Russia’s military forces left Georgia’s territory, it immediately cemented its ties with Georgia’s two breakaway provinces signing friendship treaties envisaging close economic and military cooperation.

On a wider scale, Russia recently moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American nations amid increasingly strained relations with Washington after last month’s war between Russia and Georgia. During the Cold War, Latin America became an ideological battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States.

At this very moment, a Russian naval squadron is sailing to Venezuelan territorial waters for naval maneuvers in the Caribbean. This is the first Russian naval deployment in the Caribbean since the Cold War. Russia has increased its cooperation with Venezuela following the military events in Georgia which has badly damaged Moscow’s ties with the West and the United States.

Russia’s deployment of warships to Venezuela for naval maneuvers came after the U.S. used naval ships to bring aid to Georgia after the war, a gesture Russia’s officials harshly criticized.

Russia has signed weapons contracts worth more than $4 billion with Venezuela since 2005 to supply fighter jets, helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles. Chavez’s government is in talks to buy Russian submarines, air defense systems, armored vehicles and more Sukhoi fighter jets.

Russia is deeply interested in building a multi-polar world in an effort to undermine the global supremacy of the United States. As the future unfolds, we’ll see more cooperation between Russia, China, Venezuela, Iran, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, and Nicaragua. I’m afraid the Cold War has started and will get a lot colder. The writing is on the wall. Good Day!

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