Randy Scheunemann, McCain's main foreign policy advisor, was the chief lobbyist for Georgia's government under Saakashvili until late last year, which is why any Cheney influence in the Georgian imbroglio is probably also McCain influence.
McCain has been much more anti-Russian than Bush, who, until recently always referred to Putin as a close friend, and who supposedly bonded recently with Medvedev. McCain is the one who proposed driving Russia out of the Group of 8, and keeping it out of the WTO. He's been consistently more confrontational than Bush, Rice or Gates.
I'd argue that McCain's campaign has a central interest in the Great Game, as well, the strategic contest to control Central Asi. Further, McCain thinks he can win the election if we begin to have major tensions with Russia. And, look who's advising him on foreign policy: Georgia's primary lobbyist in Washington, who's earned over a million dollars in contracts with Saakashvili's government.
It's a natural for McCain; it's wag the dog time. If Americans can be scared by a confrontation with Moscow, then the former POW, darling of the defense industry, will have a major advantage over Obama. Obama has no military background, and reason--as in let's talk this over; let's calm down--comes across to many Americans as weakness. Bill Clinton famously said "When people are insecure, they'd rather have somebody who is strong and wrong than someone who's weak and right."
McCain really has nothing else going for him except the chance that enough people are too racist to vote for a black man, no matter how attractive and right, and they will either stay home, or vote for McCain. His campaign ads, with their coded racism, are designed to encourage this.
But, if McCain and Cheney can engineer a cold war with Russia that begins to get intense around October, why we have something much more effective than an "October Surprise." We will have the re-emergence of fear of the Russian Bear, the ten-foot tall bogeyman who was so effective in his earlier Soviet incarnation. We can go right back to 1949, and many old people would feel right at home--and vote the right way. Even younger people in the US are likely to respond to a Cheney-McCain revival of the Cold War with the Russians: vote for the guy who's a military man.
Bush foreign policy towards Eastern Europe has been traveling towards something like this for some time. The push to sign up allies among former Soviet states, while excluding Russia from NATO was one thrust; it was supplemented by the push to set up an anti-missile system (breaking the ABM treaty with the USSR) and building radar and missile batteries in former East Bloc states like Poland and the Czech Republic. The administration claimed that the system could be set up with Russian participation, and would not target Russia. Russians don't buy that: a Russian general just warned Poland that it was making itself a prime Russian target by signing up for the US anti-missile system. Critics of Bush's Eastern Europe policy have warned for years that a hostile Russia would be the result. It may have been the intended result on the part of people like Cheney and the people behind McCain.
Of course, it's not just McCain and Cheney who are promoting the new Cold War. The media are willing collaborators as Allen Roland pointed out in "Cheney's Dark Hand..." Their depiction of the Georgian conflict pits Evil, Greedy and Violent Russia against Suffering, Attacked, Democratic Georgia: the story is a lot more complicated.
Why do powerful interests promote a new cold war? Think of the amount of money the Pentagon spends: over $650 billion. If the Iraq war is winding down, that's a lot of business that will be lost--unless there is a new justification for even more "defense" spending (why go for the same when you can go for more?).
Georgia may not be Cheney's (or McCain's) pawn, but there really is no satisfactory explanation for the President of a state the size of Georgia attacking Russian troops unless someone encouraged him. The troops weren't in Russia, but still! They were in South Ossetia as "peacekeepers," where they had been for years. South Ossetia is territory Georgia may claim, but it hasn't controlled it since independence, because its majority people (Ossetians) rebelled against Georgia's rule and Russia "protected" them. Talk of democracy! These people (Ossetians and Abkhazians) dislike Georgians as much as the latter dislike Russians; they don't want to be controlled by them, or by Moscow; they want independent states--not that the poor bastards will get them if Russia controls the region.
In any case, you have the leader of a small, militarily weak country attacking the troops of a huge neighbor who is many times its size and has a large and revitalized military. It makes no sense, unless somebody (I nominate both Cheney and McCain) reassured Saakashvili that the US and/or NATO would support him.
What I wish Obama could do is to make public just how damaging all this international meddling has been--to US interests at home, to US interests abroad, and to countries like Georgia and Iraq, and how in this case it is the Republicans controlling the US government who are playing Russia for electoral advantage--and possibly for oil, the pipeline crossing Georgia, built to bring oil from the Caspian to the Mediterranean without crossing either Russia or Iran.
Obama should point out that the Republicans have been doing this for electoral gain over and over again, at least since Reagan made a deal with the Ayatollah, prior to his election, to settle the hostage crisis with Reagan and not with President Carter. That was treason, and this is worse, since it is backing us into a new major confrontation with an emerging super-power for pretexts invented by the US. People need to begin to talk about it.
Instigating war for political advantage is just another step down the road of Imperial adventure, so like the Roman Empire. But modern adventure costs the invader and profits international corporations, instead of the nobility and generals, as it did in Roman times. Further, the corporations are global; their profits don't accrue to the US (especially since only a minority of corporations pay any taxes), but enriches their owners and creditors, the international super-wealthy, an increasing proportion of whom are not American. So, unlike the Roman conquests, further American adventures will only bankrupt the US more.
In any case, that's the story Obama should tell, when he has maximum press exposure. I can tell it, you can tell it, and if we repeat it enough, in enough venues, perhaps sufficient people will hear it and begin to pass it on, too: people will begin to realize what's really going on. We can hope that Obama's advisors will hear it, too, and look into it and realize: It's true!
The truth could set us free.