Further sign of its American allegiances came on Friday, when Georgia announced that 50 of its specialized mountain infantry soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan, following two weeks of training in Germany.

These developments seem all the more mystifying in that they have been provoked almost entirely by the Georgian side. If Saakashvili intends to realize his national greatness scheme through taking on Russia, things might not turn out as he had planned. It is true that Georgia’s civil wars of the 90’s – which led to the current mess – were a sort of proxy war with Russia. However, they were also complicated by the disunity of various Georgian factions, militia groups which fought one another as well as the separatist Abkhaz or Ossetians. And they did not involve open confrontation with Russian troops, who still retain two military bases on Georgian soil. In an additional threat this weekend, Saakashvili ordered Moscow to leave the bases by spring, “or we will make them leave.”

The war of words continued Friday when the Ossetians claimed Georgia has sent 50 of its Special Forces soldiers into the area, in violation of a pullout agreement reached on 19 August. For its part, Georgia continued to urge Russian maritime captains – whose vessels it warned last month would be sunk – to avoid Abkhazian waters.~ Christopher Deliso, Balkanalysis.com

It is gratifying to see the good folks at Balkanalysis.com are also keeping an eye on this worsening and troubling situation in the Caucasus. As Mr. Deliso explains so well, and as I have been arguing for the past several weeks, Georgian President Saakashvili has been playing a very dangerous game with the future of Georgia. Perhaps he believes that the Russian government will not further enmesh itself in Caucasian conflicts while still plagued by its Chechen problems, which were only worsened with the apparent Chechen terrorist downing of two Russian commercial airliners this past week.

However, as the rest of Mr. Deliso’s article makes clear, relations between the two neighbours are only getting worse. The Bush Administration’s tacit encouragement of Saakashvili’s irresponsible course, aided by pro-Saakashvili coverage in the Western media, will only deepen the troubles of the region. President Putin has the domestic standing, democratic mandate and personal popularity to seek a peaceful solution to these problems, while the incipient dictatorship of Saakashvili seems to require constant fearmongering to retain its old hold on the unfortunate Georgian people. The escalation of conflict in the Caucasus will ultimately be mostly to the detriment of the people of Georgia and Ossetia, though further Caucasian quagmires can only harm Russia’s development as well.

It is in the interest of all responsible and decent people in the region to seek a peaceful end to this conflict. So far, Mr. Saakashvili has given every indication through his aggressive tactics that he does not want to be regarded as such a person. The question Americans should be asking themselves is this: why does our government support such a belligerent and increasingly oppressive ruler in a region that is, in truth, of relatively little strategic value to the United States?