WASHINGTON -- May 10 -- President Bush's schedule in Tbilisi on Tuesday includes meeting with Georgian government officials and speaking to a crowd in the city's Freedom Square. Why is Bush in Georgia?
RONALD GRIGOR SUNY, firstname.lastname@example.org
Suny, a professor of political science and history at the University of Chicago, is author of "The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States" and "The Making of the Georgian Nation." He said today: "Bush's trip to Georgia is more about U.S. policy toward Russia than about American interest in the South Caucasus. The timing, the choice of countries to be visited, and the president's public statements are all directed at lessening the impact of the 60th anniversary of the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany, a dampening of the Russian celebration of a victory that was largely the result of Soviet efforts and losses. Georgia makes sense as a place to visit because of the way it is seen in the West as a beacon of democracy, though in the region the Saakashvili government is not so universally praised. The alternative sites in the area -- Armenia and Azerbaijan -- are more facade democracies than real ones, and going to one or the other country would be seen as an affront to the other. America's interest in Georgia is primarily in keeping Russia out and limiting Russian influence south of the Caucasus, though the pipeline from Baku that runs through Georgia is also a real interest of Washington."
WILLIAM HARTUNG, email@example.com
Hartung, a senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York City, said today: "President Bush's stop in Georgia is about more than just democracy. From Special Forces in Georgia to growing military aid to the undemocratic regime in Uzbekistan, the Bush administration is seeking an expanded military presence in the Caucasus. The motivation driving that presence goes beyond terrorism to a strong interest in the region's oil and gas resources."