The outbreak of war in the Caucasus over the past week has stunned the world. More fighting, more bombing, thousands dead and tens of thousands of refugees are the daily scenes on our television screens.
This is not just a “little local difficulty” between Russia and Georgia. It is part of a drive to war across the globe that has characterised the eight years of George Bush’s US presidency.
And it is intricately connected to the US-led “war on terror” which is raging in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia – and which now threatens Iran.
The hypocrisy involved in statements from George Bush and Dick Cheney beggars belief. “Russia has invaded a sovereign neighbouring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people,” says Bush. “Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century.”
Yet Bush and Cheney are the architects of a series of disastrous wars being waged around the world today. The US ignored the wishes of millions around the world in its drive to war across the Middle East.
Russia has its own imperialist ambitions. And it is still effectively run by its prime minister, Vladimir Putin, the former KGB colonel and the butcher of Chechnya. But Putin can teach the US little when it comes to invasion and war.
The US has waged its “war on terror”, not to bring peace and democracy, but to impose its power and control over increasing parts of the world.
The break up of the former Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago led to an era of new imperialism. The US intervened against Iraq in 1991, then in the Balkans in the late 1990s, and since 2001 through the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
In the process, it has aimed to win new allies from among the former Eastern Bloc states as a means of putting pressure on its weaker rival Russia. It has used Nato to extend its influence. The Kosovo war of 1999 took place under a Nato umbrella, as does the imperialist occupation of Afghanistan today.
This military alliance lost its original role at the end of the Cold War – but it has reinvented itself as an instrument of US policy in lands distant from its original remit of the North Atlantic.
Georgia is ruled by one of the most pro-Western regimes among the former Soviet states. It has feverishly been trying to join Nato, which has already extended to a number of eastern European countries.
Georgia has been encouraged in its ambitions by the US and its allies. It is likely to have been given the green light from the US for its attack on South Ossetia.
This strategic realignment is underpinned by concern over the region’s resources. Oil and gas pipelines are routed through Georgia to Turkey, another key Western ally.
So the war between Georgia and Russia – supposedly about the future of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – is the latest development in the rivalry between imperial powers.
Gordon Brown has backed the US and its policies.
The anti-war movement in Britain needs to campaign against this escalation of a war in which those who suffer are the peoples of the region.