Ordinary Americans pay Georgian price

In the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign, the fortunes of Georgia have become unexpectedly prominent. As candidates use the conflict to display their foreign policy credentials, voters may not realise that these appeals to be the next commander-in-c

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says he needs $US 2.3 billion to reconstruct his country. Much of the damage was done in the disputed region of South Ossetia, which has already been promised reparations from Russia.

Amidst the credit crunch, mortgage crisis, and the spiraling cost of gas, many Americans are doing all they can to save a buck these days, with the national debt rising on average by over a billion a day.

Saakashvili could address a joint session of Congress – a request has been made by the Congressional Georgia Caucus which helps the Caucasian republic – a place few Americans paid much attention to before it began making headlines and campaign speeches.

Clifford Gaddy, Senior Fellow from the Brookings Institution, said: “This is all part of trying to get votes”.

John McCain, for instance, needed to add foreign policy experience to his ticket. And indeed, his poll numbers shot up after his tough talk on the conflict.

In the opposite camp, just days before Barack Obama named Joe Biden as his pick for Vice President, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was in Georgia to lend a helping hand.

So as tension in the Caucasus continues, back home presidential hopefuls can keep using little known Georgia to make well-known policy points and up their scores.