While Lord Vader ... errrr ... VP Cheney visits...
A US navy flagship has steamed into a Georgian port where Russian troops are still stationed, stoking tensions once again in the tinderbox Caucasus region.Old School.
A previous trip by American warships was cancelled at the last minute a week ago amid fears that an armed stand off could erupt in the Black Sea port of Poti.
The arrival of the USS Mount Whitney came as Moscow accused Dick Cheney, the hawkish US vice-president, of stoking tensions during a visit to Tbilisi yesterday, in which he vowed to bring Georgia into the Nato alliance. Russia sees any such move as a blatant Western encroachment on its traditional sphere of influence.
Militarily, the small Russian garrison in Poti would pose almost no threat to a vessel like the Mount Whitney, but the proximity of two hostile forces in such a fraught setting set the political temperature rising again in the Caucasus, a month after Russia’s five day war with Georgia.
The American warship is too large to actually enter the port, where Russia sunk several Georgian navy vessels in its offensive last month. Instead, it is expected anchor offshore and unload its cargo of blankets, hygiene kits, baby food and infant care supplies on to smaller boats.
"I can confirm it has arrived in Poti. Anchoring procedures are still ongoing but it has arrived," said a US naval official.