New Cold War Could’ve Gone Hot

Remember that little war between Russia and Georgia last year?  You know the one that sparked the endless playground debate of who started it?  Which ramped the rhetoric of a New Cold War to an all time high?  Well, that little war could have become a very big one according to Ronald D. Asmus in A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West. In his review of the book for Bloomberg, James Neuger reports:

“Several senior White House staffers” urged “at least some consideration of limited military options,” such as bombing the mountain tunnel that served as Russia’s main supply line.

Luckily, cooler heads in the Oval Office prevailed. Namely, George W. Bush, of all people, who put the kibosh on the idea.

Four days after the war started on Aug. 7, 2008, Bush cut off the discussion. A top-level White House meeting produced “a clear sense around the table that almost any military steps could lead to a confrontation with Moscow,” Asmus writes.

“Confrontation with Moscow”?  They wish. How about a WAR with Moscow.  I can’t believe that anyone in the White House actually thought the Russians would accept American bombing like so many other countries around the world.  That is to say, complain but do nothing because there isn’t really much you can do.  Given that the Russian’s already see Saakashvili as an American puppet, military interference in Russia’s “near abroad” would have caused Putin, not to say the Russian people, to pop a gasket.

The fact that there was some consideration to bomb the Gori Tunnel gives further proof to what many have speculated: Saakashvili received some kind of “green light” from inside the White House to provoke Moscow, possibly with a promise of military support.  In the end,  Putin’s warning to Saakashvili was more to the point.  Putin told Saak: “You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you? Nobody can be trusted! Except me.”  Well, I don’t know about the “except me” part, but even Sarkozy was with Putin on the first part.  To pressure Saak into signing a cease fire, the French President barked at the tie-eater, who many European officials considered “an American-backed hothead who spelled trouble,”:

“Where is Bush? Where are the Americans?” Sarkozy is quoted as snarling at the Georgians. “They are not coming to save you. No Europeans are coming, either. You are alone. If you don’t sign, the Russian tanks will be here soon.”

Realizing he was the loneliest number, Saak reluctantly signed.  Sarkozy was hailed in the streets of Tbilisi.  And the Americans? So much for all of us being Georgians. Thank God for empty gestures.