Gone are the days when Russia had sucked it up and resigned itself to a second fiddle role at the international front. Now, quite the contrary. Russia has started throwing its weight around and it has, in no small measure, come out to put a kibosh on the Bush Administration's idee fixe to actualise US global hegemony. To all intents and purposes, Russia has telegraphed a calculated and patent message to the US that Moscow will henceforth feel free to mount guard over its interests and further them in precisely the same way that Washington does. Russia's recent onslaught against Georgia is a case in point. By mounting military swoop on Georgia, Russia has lent colour to the fact that it retains the initiative. On the night of August 7, Russian troops and tanks poured into Georgia and lobbed missiles on it after the Georgian army rolled out an offensive to regain control of South Ossetia, the Moscow-backed region which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990's. Georgia, a supposed Western ally and applicant to NATO, is a fully-fledged US satellite. Its forces are armed and trained by the US and Israel. Georgian leader Saakashvili's links with the neo-conservatives in Washington are suspiciously close and intimate. Above all, it is Georgia that controls the oil and gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey that offers Europe a degree of independence from the operation of Russia's energy muscle. One million barrels of oil are delivered through this pipeline per day. If we delve, the low-down on the war against Georgia is that it is constitutive of Russia's grand strategy to assert itself and send shivers down America's spine. Ever since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has watched with growing alarm, how the successive US administration have failed to keep faith with the covenant made by President George W Bush not to trifle with the status quo existing at the time when the Cold War was at its buzzer in 1990. The eastward expansion of NATO, which started during the Bill Clinton presidency, has covered not only the Baltic States, but also all of the east European members of the now-defunct Moscow-led Warsaw Pact. As if this were not enough, plans are on the stocks to expand NATO to admit Ukraine, a former European constituent of the Soviet Union and Georgia, a former Caucasian constituent of the Soviet Union. Already the Pentagon has established its presence in Georgia and Azerbaijan. It posted its officers in Caucasian Republic to train Georgian and Azeri forces to guard the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan (BTC ) oil pipeline - connecting Baku, the source of oil, with the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey. Moreover, under the smokescreen of waging War on Terror, the Azeri government. allowed the Pentagon to upgrade the Nasosnaya military airfield north of Baku. All this has conferred greater flexibility to the US in transporting troops and deploying its air power in the region. The Pentagon's continuing intrusion into Russia's backyard has made the military leaders hacked off in Moscow. They see it as a link of Washington's over-arching policy of hemming Russia in. Now Georgian leader Saakashvili's dunderheaded move has provided them with a rationale to flex their muscles and claw back some of the influence the Kremlin has been wont to exercise in the Caucasus over the past two centuries. Russia seeks not only to prevent Georgia and Ukraine from joining NATO but also to bring them under Russian control. Russia dubs its rampage through Georgia as a peace-keeping operation to end the Tbilisi government's genocide and ethnic cleansing of South Ossetia, where many people hold Russian passports. These were the words which were pressed into service by the US and NATO during their 1999 bombing campaign against Serbia which has culminated in the breaking away of Kosovo. America has regarded Russia's attack on Georgia as "disproportionate and unacceptable." American president George W Bush has inveighed against Russia for invading a sovereign and independent state. He has insisted that such actions are not acceptable in the 21st century. Was US not living in 21st century when in 2003, it invaded and occupied the sovereign state of Iraq on a false pretext at the expense of hundreds and thousands of lives and in 2006 aided and abetted Israel to pulverise Lebanon's infrastructure and bump off upwards of a thousand civilians in retaliation for the capture or killing of five soldiers. Russia's mood, at the moment, is reminiscent of Germany after World War I. It has now squarely challenged US pre-eminence in world affairs and sent a shot across its bows by serving notice that the days of automatic deference to Washington's decrees are over. Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a peerless leader having unrivalled capabilities, who had once lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the 20th century" is pulling out all the stops to catapult the country to its once-dominant role in the world. Armed with wealth from oil and gas; holding a near-monopoly over the energy supply to Europe; with a million soldiers, thousands of nuclear warheads, the world's third largest military budget and above all the leader of a lifetime in the shape of Mr Putin, Russia thinks that it is time to strike. The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: irfanasghar99@yahoo.com