Author`s name Alex Naumov

War in South Ossetia may trigger new outburst of US-Russian rivalry

Russian troops began pulling out Thursday from this hub on Georgia's main east-west highway, Georgia's Interior Ministry said, where the soldiers' presence raised fears that Russia would challenge a shaky cease-fire agreement.

The truce allows Russian forces to take unspecified "security measures," raising the possibility they could try to stay in Georgia proper under the justification of protecting their troops in South Ossetia, the AP reports.

Pravda.Ru has asked Russian affairs expert Marshall Goldman to comment on the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia

(Marshall Goldman, Ph.D. Harvard University, Kathryn Wasserman Davis Professor of Russian Economics (Emeritus), Wellesley CollegeSenior Scholar, Davis Center.)

“The conflict is a very dangerous one - not so much because Georgia and South Ossetia can inflict enormous damage on each other but because they serve as surrogates for the renewed rivalry between the US and Russia.

Let me begin with Russia. Because of its new oil wealth Russia is now economically a strong country - in many ways - more so than it has ever been in its history. Because of its natural gas exports Russia has gained enormous political power – i.e. Germany gets over 40% of its natural gas from Russia - which gives Russia a very powerful political weapon.

Combined, this makes it possible for Russia to stand up again as a superpower and put an end to the humiliation that so many Russians felt for their country during the Yeltsin years. Equally important - Georgia has built an oil and soon a gas pipeline which will carry oil and gas from Central Asia - this will end Russia's monopoly control over access to energy in Central Asia. This in itself makes Georgia a target for Russia. Russia, as the controller and protector of both Gazprom and Transneft could not tolerate this challenge.

As for Georgia, it has always had an independent streak and the Georgians have never been happy to take Russian dictate. The US has been quite willing to take advantage of this attitude to do what it can to make sure that Georgia does not find itself bullied by Russia. That is necessary to ensure that Russia is unable to reconstitute the USSR. If Georgia becomes intimidated by Russia, the fear is that soon Ukraine, the Baltics and even Central Asia will be next.”

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik