Column: Aid To Georgia Is Really Self-centered

This story was written by Allan Acevedo, The Daily Aztec


The Bush administration has announced that $1 billion in aid has been allocated to the country of Georgia in order to rebuild the former Soviet republic. The U.S. also sent two additional Navy ships carrying aid. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated that the money would go toward rebuilding houses and infrastructure - not military services, training or supplies. Along with this aid, Georgia will also receive $750 million for economic recovery from the International Monetary Fund, citing a concern that Georgia's development would be severely hamstrung by the recent war.

Armed conflict began in Georgia on Aug. 7 when Georgian forces moved into breakaway province South Ossetia in an attempt to reestablish control, igniting tensions tracing back to the fall of the USSR. Russian forces responded with an offensive strike, forcing deep into the heart of Georgia and taking back South Ossetia, as well as another breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Though both sides signed a cease-fire in mid-August, Russia has still not complied with the requirement to return all forces to pre-war positions.

Russia and Nicaragua, staunch opponents of the U.S., acknowledged the independence of these two regions.

This massive display of aid illustrates the strategic importance the Bush administration places on supporting the Western-leaning government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. A top Russian security official accused the Bush administration of sending Vice President Dick Cheney on a tour of three former Soviet republics as part of a deliberate strategy to secure oil and energy supplies in the South Caucasus mountains. The Bush administration put forth this multi-year proposal of aid, which calls for the use of roughly half of the money in the administration's budget for its remaining five months in office, and also recommends that the new president continue funding when he takes office in January.

This may sound like a huge unnecessary expense at a time of economic unrest, but it really is a good idea. The U.S. is not the superpower it used to be. We need to look out for our allies and provide them support when needed, and Georgia is a very strategic site for the U.S. Sad as it may sound, not all humanitarian aid is altruistic.

Our presence and investment in Georgia will counter the aspirations of the newly resurgent and energy-rich Moscow from continuing its ambition to expand. It sends a strong message to Russia: The U.S. will not support the reemergence of a neo-Soviet Union. As a staple of new international policy, Georgia serves as a strategic site for important resources, specifically oil and natural gas pipelines. The Iron Curtain's getting rusty.

The U.S. has been investing in Georgia since 2002 through the Georgia Train and Equip Program, which was established to counter alleged Al-Qaeda influence in the Pankisi Gorge. Georgia has already taken steps to repay the favor by committing thousands of troops to the multi-national coalition in Iraq. They are currently the third largest contributor to the coalition, despite having a population of only 4.6 million.

While it is important to continue providing aid to our ally, the U.S. really should avoid sending military aid. Russia has already accused the U.S. of delivering arms to Georgia on ships that have docked with humanitarian supplies.

This is important because Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared military forces would respond to any defense installations in Eastern Europe, and that any military help for Georgia would constitute a declaration of war on Russia.

The level of tension in the air means that one wrong misstep by the U.S. or NATO could start another costly war. The U.S. must be careful about therole it takes in Georgia, both directly and indirectly. While the Bush administration has already stated the importance of protecting the freedoms and democracy of Georgia, it may not be worth our continued investment if it leads to war.
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