Toward a ‘new cold war’ in the South Caucasus ?

The US-Russian rivalry has often been presented as the main source of escalation of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict. Georgia would be one of the strategic theatres of a broader and « new Cold War » between the Kremlin and the White House. A « bloc-against-bloc » logic, opposing the Russian power to the American influence, is indeed under way in the South Caucasus. But this picture does not offer, in itself, a full explanation of the conflict. Above the global state of relations between Moscow and Washington, the analysis should integrate local realities too : those proceeding from a growing antagonism between a Georgian central power that is willing to restore its authority over the territory and a South Ossetian de facto State that is determined to preserve its independence toward Tbilisi. Moreover, the interpretation in terms of a bipolar confrontation overshadows, above the EU involvement in crisis management, the difference in power and interests between Russia and the US in the region. Western diplomatic mediation and economic assistance to Georgia do not match the military and political support that the Kremlin has been providing to South Ossetia. Despite declarations, Georgia has not, all things considered, fundamentally upset the overall balance of power between the United States and Russia in the South Caucasus.