London, August 14, : As the world watches who will win the medal contest in the Beijing Olympics, an editorial in the Washington Times has opined that even more gripping and significant showdown is taking place between Russia and America, a showdown in which the fate of Europe hangs in the balance.
According to the editorial, what the United States and its EU allies need to do on a priority is to build up their resolve and strength to get Russia to back off from possibly annexing Georgia.
Simultaneously, the paper claims that the conflict in Georgia is raising troubling questions about American foreign policy in the region.
It says that President George W. Bush has gone further than any of his predecessors in seeking to overturn the long-held "spheres of influence" that had been established during the Cold War.
The Bush administration, it says, has supported the integration of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO and has promoted the establishment of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland.
These measures have been rightly championed as a means of establishing a new world order in which the nations that have been historically subjugated by Russia could embark on a path of self-determination and could enter the Western orbit.
Bush, the editorial claims, is now facing the supreme test of his policy, as Russia throws down the gauntlet.
Russian leaders have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the West's attempt to encroach on their sphere. The Kremlin has worked to undermine NATO expansion - and won a victory during the Bucharest summit in April when both Georgia's and Ukraine's efforts to begin the process of entry into NATO were rejected.
Russian ire was fueled in July when the Bush administration signed an agreement with the Czech Republic to implement a missile defense system against rogue states.
In retaliation, gas exports to the Czech Republic from Russia declined by 40 percent. Russia warned that this was a "big mistake."
Moscow has also long been threatening Ukrainian leaders not to forge closer links to the West.
The pro-Western Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko accused Moscow of attempting to poison him with dioxin while he was in opposition in 2004; he now has a badly disfigured face.
By launching the recent military campaign in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and beyond, the Russians are sending their most forceful message to date: This is our backyard; stay out or else.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has confirmed that Russia has yet to uphold its end of the agreement, and warned that not doing so, could lead to "severe international consequences" for Moscow.
The editorial concludes by saying that the US can insist on diplomatic repercussions and can threaten to throw Russia out of the Group of Eight (G8) and other international bodies.
It also calls for NATO to be bolstered in order to prepare for future military challenges to American and EU policy.