From Cold War to Oil War? U.S. & Georgia

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TBILISI, Georgia -- The Russian invasion of Georgia this summer sparked an international uproar and led many to predict a new Cold War with Russia.

America stood by Georgia and even after the Russian invasion, the U.S. is asking NATO members to put Georgia on track for membership.

A Large Part of World's Oil Supply

Why is the U.S. willing to risk a war with Russia over control of this tiny nation? One reason is that whoever controls Georgia can put a choke hold on a large part of the world's oil and gas supply.

"You control energy transportation and energy reserves from Caspian Sea basin and you remain monopolist in controlling oil pipelines," said Ambassador Alexander Rondeli of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies.

Georgia is strategically located between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. By 2020, central Asia and the Caspian area is expected to supply about 5 million barrels of oil every day.

Most of the region's gas and oil is shipped through Russia. But some pipelines run from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey to markets in western Europe. Those pipelines deprive Russia of a powerful tool to impose its will on Europe.

Dr. Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation is an expert on the former Soviet Union.

"The Russians are supplying now about 40 percent of European gas and one-third of European oil," he said. "These countries know that if they are doing something against Russian interests that energy supply will come under pressure."

Last year, Russia cut off natural gas to the Ukraine with winter approaching over a pricing dispute.

Click the player to watch CBN News Correspondent Gary Lane's report followed by Pat Robertson's analysis of Russian interests in the region.

If Europe is forced to seek oil and gas from Middle East markets, that could drive up the prices in the U.S. U.S. foreign policy goals are also at stake, because Russia's oil leverage could force Europe to favor their interests.

Countering Russia's new aggressive foreign policy is another reason the U.S. is standing up for Georgia.

The Russian Bully

Rondeli says this summer's invasion proves that the Russian bully is back.

"Russia is new imperial state not post-imperial," he told CBN News. "If they were post imperial state, they would not behave like that in their neighborhood."

Rondeli says the Russians will try to convince the world that the invasion of Georgia was a one-time event, and that Russia is not a threat to its other neighbors, like Ukraine.

"Europe is partly ready to accept it," he explained. "It will be a disaster if America accepts it too. They are like predators. If you stand up to them they'll stop. If you let them get away with it they'll continue."

Europe isn't anxious to poke the Russian bear. Germany has already said it won't support NATO membership for Georgia.

Most of the Georgians CBN News spoke with said they want to join NATO.

"We need NATO, because then Russia won't feel able to invade our borders and bomb us," one pedestrian said.

"NATO is what we need for protection," another man said.

"I think we should join NATO," another Georgian explained. "Without collective security, small states cannot survive. Even big states cannot survive without it."

Georgia and NATO

Some critics say Georgia doesn't belong in NATO, because it's not a mature democracy.

It was in Tbilisi's Freedom Square that democracy was birthed in the Rose Revolution in November 2003. People still come to the square to talk politics and to talk about life. They say they're still committed to democracy. Yet they admit, they have a long way to go.

"We live in the basement of democracy," one woman told CBN News. "But we are getting there step by step."

Georgians say they still don't have full political freedom. President Mikeheil Saakashvili has been criticized for trying to control the media and harshly putting down protests.

Last November, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse peaceful protests. Actions like those remind some Georgians of their communist past.

"We came from Soviet Union and we still have the DNA of the Soviet Union and we still have that mentality," Rondeli said. "We had 74 years under brutal Soviet dictatorship; to a certain extent Stalin and Lenin within us."

Shedding the old Soviet mentality may be a bigger threat to Georgia's democracy than the Russian military.

Georgians are hoping NATO and the U.S. will give them the support they need to try.

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Stephen Little and Gary Lane

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