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THINK-TANK OFFENSIVE

The crisis in the Republic of Georgia opened a new front in Washington, where foreign-policy analysts rattled the Internet with e-mail alerts on their solutions to stop Russian aggression against its tiny neighbor.

From the Atlantic Council to the Heritage Foundation, the think-tank offensive roared into action after Georgia confronted pro-Russian separatists in its breakaway region of South Ossetia last week, prompting Moscow to invade Georgia.

Some analysts said Georgia gave Russia the excuse it was looking for to crush Georgia's pro-western government from seeking NATO membership. Others suggested Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili deliberately provoked Moscow to try to internationalize the dispute and pressure the United States into a more forceful defense of its strongest ally in the Caucasus region of Europe.

The Atlantic Council urged a four-pronged diplomatic assault against Russia. It called for suspending Russia from the Group of Eight industrialized nations, discontinuing partnership and cooperation talks between Russia and the European Union and appealing to the International Olympic Committee to review Russia's qualifications to host the 2014 Winter Games. The council also called on other nations to reconsider participating in the Russian Olympics, which would be held in Sochi, about 35 miles from the Georgian border.

Ariel Cohen, an analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is pursuing a policy of "regime change" to remove Mr. Saakashvili and install a pro-Russian president in Georgia.

"Russia is engaged in a classic combined arms operation," he said in a e-mail memo Monday. "The [Russian] Black Sea Fleet is blockading Georgia from the sea and likely preparing a landing, while Russian ballistic missiles and its air force are attacking Georgian military bases and cities."

Mr. Cohen argued that Russia "has long-prepared its aggression" against Georgia's pro-western government to undermine Mr. Saakashvili and prevent Georgia from joining NATO.

"Aggression against Georgia also sends a strong signal to Ukraine and Europe," he said. "Russia is playing a chess game of offense and intimidation."

Brian Whitmore, in an analysis for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suspected Mr. Saakashvili's motives in attacking separatist forces last week.

"The Georgian leader's strategy is clear," he wrote on www.rferl.org. "[Georgia's] small army is no match for the Russian military machine.

"Saakashvili's only chance of success in his bid to regain control of the Moscow-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia, therefore, is to globalize the conflict and turn it into a central front of a new struggle between Moscow and the West."

OUT OF GEORGIA

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia is evacuating Americans from the war zone and warning those who chose to stay to keep their heads down.

The embassy Sunday organized a convoy from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, to the Armenian capital, Yerevan. Diplomats planned a second convoy on Monday. The State Department on Saturday authorized the departure of relatives of American diplomats.

"The [State] Department recommends that American citizens deter non-essential travel to Georgia and that American citizens remaining in Georgia review their security situation," the department said in a warning posted on http://georgia.usembassy.gov.

It urged Americans who chose to remain in Georgia to monitor the embassy's Web site for further information.

Meanwhile in Washington, the phone line to the Georgian Embassy transferred callers to a voice mailbox that was too full to take additional messages.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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