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U.S.-NATO’s war in Georgia: Who wins,who loses?

Published Aug 20, 2008 10:47 PM

The Georgian army’s assault on the small nation of South Ossetia this August, backed and armed by the U.S., will have widespread repercussions, including here in the U.S. The attack immediately caused great suffering to tens of thousands of people in South Ossetia and Georgia. It was the topic of a top-level meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels and will impact on the struggle against placing U.S. missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Anti-war forces from the International Action Center gathered in New York’s Times Square Aug. 18 to protest the expansion of NATO and the U.S.-backed Georgian regime’s provocation that led to the war in the Caucasus. The IAC is also circulating a petition protesting U.S.-NATO aggression. See iacenter.org.
WW photo: Sue Harris

While there were many losers, the war has boosted the expected profits of the giant U.S. military corporations. The long-term cost for the war and for the expansion of NATO—if it is allowed to happen—will contribute to the further deterioration of cities across the U.S. and will diminish the lives of working people here.

The war in the Caucasus was “a bell-ringer for defense stocks.” (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 16) Big U.S weapons programs costing billions of dollars, like the F-22 Raptor fighter jet and high-tech destroyers, will have an easier time getting ensured long-term funding if the news media focus on alleged threats from Russia or China.

The Georgian war comes at a time of record profits and sales in the military industries, wrote the Journal. “Now the Russia situation makes the debate over the equipping of the U.S. military a front-burner issue. ‘The threat always drives procurement,’ said a defense industry official. ‘It doesn’t matter what party is in office.’”

The U.S. stake in Georgia

Georgia’s attack was a devastating blow to the Ossetian people, who maintained their national identity and culture as a distinct autonomous region for 70 years when they were part of the Soviet Union and have resisted Georgia’s attempt to grab the autonomous enclave since 1991.

Georgia’s Aug. 7 attack destroyed Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, with bombs hitting the university, parliament, hospital and many other buildings. More than 1,400 people died and thousands were wounded and traumatized. Tens of thousands were left homeless.

Russian troops responded to the devastating attack that destroyed much of South Ossetia, driving back the attackers. Under this counterattack, the Georgian army, trained and equipped by U.S. and Israeli advisers, totally collapsed and abandoned its new high-tech weapons, tanks and missiles on the roads.

“Israelis were stationed at bases throughout [Georgia] to carry out battalion-level infantry and reconnaissance training,” reported the Israeli daily Ha’aretz on Aug. 10.

“The United States, Britain, France, Israel, the Czech Republic, Poland and a number of other countries have been supplying Georgia with the latest in offensive weapons, including tanks, planes, strike helicopters and armored personnel carriers.”

The collapse humiliated the Georgian military, whose U.S.-supplied defense budget has grown by 60 percent annually since 2004 and is currently at $1 billion. (Stockholm International Peace Research Report) U.S. Marines had just finished three weeks of military exercises with the Georgian military before the attack.

The U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy and multibillionaire George Soros had funded the 2003 project, called the Rose Revolution, that installed Georgia’s current regime. The U.S. also instigated a similar regime change called the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004-2005, installing a government compliant with U.S. wishes.

Escalation and setback to U.S. plans

Following Georgia’s frantic retreat and appeals for NATO intervention, Washington escalated tensions by pushing the Polish government to agree to station U.S. missiles in Poland. Earlier, the pro-U.S. Polish government had hesitated to agree to this base. Poland’s population had expressed, in polls, overwhelming opposition to this aggressive and dangerous military escalation.

NATO members Germany, France and Italy had also publicly opposed this U.S. anti-missile base, which could make a U.S. nuclear first strike against Russia feasible. The base could escalate tension between NATO and Russia and begin a new Cold War-type arms race.

Washington had called the Aug. 19 emergency NATO meeting to press for united anti-Russian action. The Bush administration used the week’s heavy anti-Russian propaganda to try to push through Georgia and Ukraine’s NATO membership. Instead, European NATO members said, as they had at the Bucharest meeting in April, that the two countries’ memberships would be discussed in December.

Following the Georgian army collapse, the Bush administration claimed it had told the Georgians that they must not use force in Ossetia or in Abkhazia, another autonomous region bordering Georgia. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had visited Georgia less than a month before the attack, at which time she made clear that the Bush administration fully supported Georgian claims to the two regions.

Georgia would hardly have dared to move hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S.-supplied equipment without Washington’s backing. Nor could they move such equipment secretly.

South Ossetian officials publicly warned, two days before the Georgian offensive, that such a Georgian attack would occur before September. (RIA Novosti News, Aug. 6)

Problems for NATO expansion

NATO has expanded from a U.S.-commanded military alliance of Western imperialist powers active in Europe. It has more than doubled its original 12-country membership and has intervened from Afghanistan to the countries surrounding China as part of the drive to ensure U.S. corporate domination of the globe.

Each new member of NATO must go into debt and dependency to equip its military with U.S.-supplied weapons. Like the anti-Russia drive, this is great for a handful of U.S. corporations and bad for everyone else.

From Iraq to Afghanistan and now in Georgia, the Pentagon’s plans are creating problems and meeting resistance.

Major demonstrations in Ukraine last spring opposed NATO membership, while polls show 70 percent in Poland and the Czech Republic oppose the U.S. bases, which the parliaments in both countries must pass. Putting any of the agreements to a popular vote could set back these right-wing, pro-U.S. regimes.

In Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s humiliating defeat following his adventurous aggression may lead to his downfall. This New York-trained lawyer, who had worked at the well-connected top law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler, is Washington’s best friend in the region.

Economic crisis and militarism

While the Pentagon is the largest military machine on the planet, paying to maintain this global war machine is worsening the economic meltdown in the U.S.

The U.S military budget is now larger than all other national states’ military budgets combined. Just the supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China. According to the Friends Committee on National Legislation, U.S. military spending has doubled in the last decade, with the Pentagon budget alone set for over $600 billion in 2009.

This budget is a giant subsidy to the largest and most powerful corporations in the U.S. today, which pay top dollar to their executives and multibillion-dollar profits to their shareholders. Meanwhile more than 2 million people are losing their homes in foreclosures.

It is the responsibility of the anti-war, progressive and working-class movements in the U.S. to expose and mobilize against these dangerous and aggressive war plans that threaten life on the entire planet. And it is equally essential to connect the exorbitant costs of militarism and the fantastic profits for a handful of the super-rich to the cuts in social programs, health care and education for the rest of the population.