I caught on our PBS a story from ITN last night that focused on Ossetian militia chasing Georgians out of their homes, a story that did not identify the victims as ethnic Georgians, and didn't mention the bombing raids by Saakashvili to commence this conflict. All you need to know is that the Ossetians are the bad guys and they and the Russians need to be stopped.
In analyzing this as a phenomenon of 'crisis of NATO,' 'crisis of US-Russian relations,' one has to look at what makes this conflict different from the larger wars that took place in these regions (Ossetia and Abkhasia) in the early 90s. At that time, Scheverdnadze was in power rather than a US puppet, although Shevardnadze was pro-Western, initiating ties to the US, declaring an intention to join NATO, and making the deal for the pipeline that was built several years ago. In the Abkasian war, Shevardnadze asked for Russian help in protecting the 250,000 Georgians in the region that were being displaced, and Russia provided some help, prompting Georgia to join the post-Soviet bloc CIS. Russia has been covertly helping the breakaway majorities in these regions and Georgia has no military means or functional government to keep this from happening. Saakashvili's corruption, which has included suppression of free press, alleged assassination of major political opponents, violence against protesters, state sponsored blackmail and vote buying, before he decided to bomb Tskhinvali to rubble, has easily eclipsed the magnitude of the charges that brought an end to Shevardnadze's administration.
But the wars in these regions in the early 90s were of greater consequence than those in 2008, so why is this suddenly an American crisis? The pipeline is built, but that's not being threatened. The leadership is more anti-Moscow, but that's not going to change. What's different is that the Bush Administration and the stenographers in the media are blowing this up into a crisis in an election year after the mainstream media is well past the point when it can get away with promoting 'weapons of mass destruction.'
Update Sept 2, Putin agrees with that last sentence: "We have serious reasons to believe that there were U.S. citizens right in the combat zone. If that is the case, if that is confirmed, it is very bad. It is very dangerous; it is misguided policy
"But, if that is so, these events could also have a U.S. domestic politics dimension.
"If my suppositions are confirmed, then there are grounds to suspect that some people in the United States created this conflict deliberately in order to aggravate the situation and create a competitive advantage for one of the candidates for the U.S. presidency. And if that is the case, this is nothing but the use of the called administrative resource in domestic politics, in the worst possible way, one that leads to bloodshed."