As the presidential election heats up the debates between contesting candidates, President Bush has sought not only to justify the neo-con agenda he has pursued but also to safeguard the gains achieved in his two terms in the White House at the start of a new century. The reaction within the US to his policy of pre-emption and to the escalating costs in terms of casualties and financial liabilities had benefited the Democratic Party, which is fielding the first Afro-American candidate in Barack Hussein Obama. Despite having lost control of the Congress in the 2006 elections, Bush is seeking to rekindle a resolve to win the War On Terror, and to ensure global US pre-eminence in what neo-cons had christened the "New American Century". Following the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Union had disintegrated and its fortunes had sunk so low that by the end of the decade of the nineties, total Russian GDP barely equalled that of a small EU country, the Netherlands. However, in Vladimir Putin the former KGB official who was propelled by Yeltsin first as prime minister and succeeded him as president in 2000, Russia found a leader determined to revive Russia's position as a great power. Even though still preoccupied with the War On Terror, whose main theatre has shifted to the Pak-Afghan border, Bush has had to take cognisance of increasing assertiveness by Moscow in Georgia and Ukraine. Bush found is necessary to send Vice President Dick Cheney to both these countries that were being groomed to join the European Union and NATO. Earlier, he had recruited two former Russain, satellites, Poland and Czechoslovakia, into his plans for Ballistic Missile Defence, that both Moscow and Beijing perceive as aimed at them. As rising oil revenues and growing internal backing for his revivalist agenda strengthened his position, Putin has used both diplomacy and Russia's still formidable nuclear arsenal to counter the US onslaught. Even the 9/11 attack and the ensuing War On Terror were used to claim a free hand in crushing the Islamic movement for autonomy in Chechnya as "separatist". However, Moscow followed a different logic to back separatist movements in South Qssetia and Abkhazia that surfaced to challenge the territorial integrity of Georgia. Georgia had been a part of the Russian Empire for two centuries, and Stalin was actually born there, to become the autocrat of the communist state set-up by Lenin in 1917. From 1928 till his death in 1953, Stalin dominated the Soviet Union. The Nazi invasion in 1941 was resisted mainly on the basis of patriotic feeling, though the Soviet Union paid the highest price, with 20 million dead and widespread destruction. Then Stalin launched the Cold War in 1948 by his coup in Czechoslovakia. The contest between the communist and capitalist systems continued till 1989, and though Moscow's intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 led to the final proxy war in which Pakistan played a decisive role, Russia remains the largest state in terms of area, and is still viewed as a potential rival by the US on account of the size of its nuclear and missile forces. Georgia has assumed prominence in US strategic and economic plans for its region. An oil pipeline has been built, transporting oil from Azerbaijan through Georgia, and terminating at Ceyhan, on Turkey's Medibessranean coast. This bypasses Russian controlled territory. The US has encouraged and facilitated the rise of Mikhail Saakashvili as the president of Georgia. Bush visited Georgia, and favoured its joining the EU and NATO. However, with the populations of South Ossetia and Abkhazia seeking independence, and maintaining close links with their ethnic communities across the border in Russia, Saakashvili found his goal of establishing control over the rebellions provinces difficult to achieve. The current crisis was precipitated when he had sent a force to occupy Tskhinali, the capital of South Ossetia on August 7 preceded by aerial attacks. Apart from civilian casualties, and a large-scale migration of Ossetians to safer places, this led to a response from Russian forces present since the early 90's as "peace-makers" on the basis a UN mandate. Saakashvili's forces were no match for the Russians who bought into play the might of their Air Force and Navy, sinking many Georgian vessels in re-asserting their control. At this point, the official stand of the Russian government as expressed by Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister was that the Russian forces were performing their functions as "peace keepers" to counter violence, including attacks on unarmed civilians, and destruction of property. To assert their supremacy, Russian tanks and armoured units spread eastwards to within striking distance of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, though a ceasefire was agreed, and the UN Security Council reassured. Condoleezza Rice visited Europe and leaders of France and Germany supported Saakashivili, promising early consideration of membership of EU and NATO. President Bush called upon Russia to withdraw from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, that the UN recognised as legitimate parts of Georgia. The prompt response of Russian Foreign Minister, Lavrov is worth quoting, "Russia would not withdraw its forces until Moscow is satisfied that security measures agreed are effective." He had earlier said Georgia should forget about South Ossetia and Abkhazia which had broken from Georgia in the 90's. " A comparable situation has also emerged in the Ukraine. The situation in Georgia impacted the major Republic of the Ukraine, where pro-western and pro-Russian factions are equally strong. President Yushchenko, who has been advocating entry into the European Union and NATO has lost popularity. He accused Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of being an agent of the Kremlin. This appeared to presage a parliamentary re-election barely one year after the last one. According to the media, opinion in the Ukraine favoured Tbilisi in the West, but Moscow in the East. Overall, the public favours closer links with the West without spoiling relations with Russia. The Crimea, nominally a part of Ukraine, has historical links with Russia, notably the Crimean Tatars, who once ruled Crimea, and have returned after being deported by Stalin to Central Asia in the 1920's. Though any new administration in Washington may wish to maintain the pressure on Russia for strategic reasons, further balkanisation of Ukraine would precipitate a confrontation with a Russia already allied to China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. US attention since 9/11 has been focused on the Middle East and West Asia, where it has also got NATO involved. The Russian theatre, despite many hangovers from the Cold War, such as Kosovo and residual interests in Bulgaria and Romania was quiescent in comparison. The re-emergence of the Russian challenge may serve to bring home to the leadership that will emerge in Washington that there are wider global interests to attend to, and therefore the preoccupation with the War On Terror may be diluted. What the unleashing of the crisis over Georgia establishes is that Russia is not going to accept the ground rules the US and the West are trying to enforce in the post 9/11 world. The US has assumed rights to use force wherever it perceives a direct threat to its interests. With other major players emerging, including old ones like Europe, Russia and Japan and new ones like China and India, a global order based on force alone cannot be sustained. The UN charter provides the framework for a peaceful order that is essential to confront the globe's economic and environmental challenges. The writer is a former ambassador