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Cheney starts four-nation tour in support of Georgia, Ukraine

DEBKAfile
September 2, 2008

Vice president Dick Cheney’s trip starting Sept. 2 was first announced by the White House Aug. 25 as the Georgian conflict spiraled into a contest over control of the Black Sea. Cheney, the highest-ranking official to visit Tbilisi since the crisis erupted in South Ossetia on Aug. 7, will also visit the Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy. His talks will center on energy and how to offset Russian oil and Black Sea dominance.

The European Union, which held an emergency summit in Brussels Monday, failed to agree on sanctions, only a freeze on closer ties with Moscow.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke for the majority of the 27 leaders when he warned that Europe would only hurt itself if it were to “get emotional and slam doors.”

DEBKAfile reported earlier that, after getting away with recognizing the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia – which Russian president Dmitiry Medvedev said was “irrevocable” - Moscow began pressing for regime change in Georgia.

Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned Monday that for the West to support Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili would be a historic mistake. He called for an arms embargo “while a different government turns Georgia into a normal state”.

Medvedev declared, Moscow would no longer accept a situation whereby a single country, like the US, “sought global domination.”

Since the Cheney trip was announced, the chill in US-Russian relations has deepened.

As DEBKAfile disclosed earlier this month, Russian warships have set out establish bases in Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus under the command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol. At the same time, the American aircraft carrier, the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group set sail for the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf, with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard the six-vessel contingent,

Russia supplies the union with a third of its oil and 40 percent of its natural gas.

Germany relies on Russia for 34 percent of its oil imports and 36 percent of its natural gas consumption. Slovakia, Finland and Bulgaria depend on Russia for more than 90 percent of their gas. This dependency will increase as winter approaches.