Russia is not the only bear

Georgia is on my mind. And not because of any parallels ingenious Slugger commenters may find between South Ossetia and NI, ( small, troublesome enclave frozen in time with an unruly paramiltary force laying waste etc, etc). Against the run of coverage, as the tension ratchets up, I’m with those who say the Russians are not the only ones to blame. Being small by itself doesn’t make Georgia right. The case is summed up by Washington post writer Michael Dobbs:

It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence..

Is Bush, with his last throw, talking us into another international crisis?This view is shared by Independent writer Mary Dejevsky, a former Moscow correspondent for the Times and Russia expert.

The American big blogs like Huffington and Drudge along with the establishment east coast press are covering events in detail of course, but in the main seem to be withholding judgment. This from the New York Times is the orthodox reporting line:
Extract:
CRAWFORD, Tex. — “The cold war is over,” President Bush declared Friday, but a new era of enmity between the United States and Russia has emerged nevertheless. It may not be as tense as the nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union, for now, but it could become as strained.

Huffington runs a rather cumbersome analysis that it is Iran and its supposed potential nuclear threat that is holding Bush back from taking a tougher line against Moscow.

Certainly, the timing of the announcement of the agreement to site a US missile tracking station in Poland as the Georgian crisis flared up, has yet to be fully analysed. Putin loudly complains that this station is targeted against Russia and not Iran as the US claims, and has long warned of dark consequences. But he is more affronted by than fearful of encirclement in the west. The best gambit to trump him would be to renew the offer of extending the developing new US nuclear shield however fallible to Russia, rather than threatening him with expulsion from the G8. In the present climate however, moves like this seem further away than ever.

The FT majored yesterday on the missile shield aspects of the crisis.

Today, as Russian forces linger inside Georgia in apparent breach of their own ceasefire deal, the UK papers before Washington wakes up, have sifted focus to the wider scene around Russia’s borders. Ukraine, a far more formidable entity than Georgia is now in Russia’s sights and a nuclear threat to Poland has been made to Poland. This analysis by Richard Beeston in the Times, has no doubt that the threat is serious.

A slightly over-heated view I’d presume to say, but still worrying. You can follow the escalation of the war of words between Washington and Moscow. We await the first words of cool-down but these are unlikely to be pronounced until the Russians quit Georgian territory proper.

Finally, the Guardian has a useful backgrounder on the PR battle between the agencies representing “motormouth Georgian President Saakashvilli and the more lumbering Russians.

With machismo the default position of both Bush and Putin, the outlook is far from encouraging.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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