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Monday, January 19, 2004

Georgia and the Caucusus
No, nothing to do with "The Doctor went down to Georgia" to worship with a former president non-story. No, this is about the OTHER Georgia, the one where the cold war continues, strategically located between Caspian oil and the Black Sea or Mediterranean links to Western SUV's.

Richard Miles, the U.S. ambassador to Georgia, announced on Saturday that U.S. soldiers who arrived in the country in early 2002 to help train Georgian units in counterterrorism would stay indefinitely. The more than 200 troops, stationed at a former Red Army base near Tbilisi, were to leave in March.

"The Cold War is over and we will not give up our independence. Russia cannot treat us as their former colony," Mr. Saakashvili told the BBC. "We are friends with the Americans because they helped us."
-- Globe and Mail

Of course, by "we," Saakashvili means "I," just like the kings of yore. The questionable election of his Russia-connected predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, was overturned, apparently with American assistance, and Mr. S. "elected" to replace him, also apparently with American assistance.

Washington promised expanded aid to Georgia -- the country already receives the second-highest amount of U.S. aid per capita after Israel -- in the wake of Mr. Saakashvili's election, and highlighted Georgia's potential to become a member of NATO.

The latest step comes amid heightened tensions between Moscow and its former satellite over the two bases that Russia still maintains in the country from the Soviet era. After his election this month, Mr. Saakashvili made it clear that having Russia swiftly withdraw its units would be one of his priorities.