WASHINGTON President Bush is dispatching Vice President Dick Cheney to Georgia, setting up a high-ranking diplomatic mission to an ally reeling from a short, intense war.
The White House announced Monday that Cheney will head abroad on Sept. 2 for stops in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Italy.
The vice president's office described Cheney's trip only in the broadest terms, saying Bush wants his No. 2 to consult with key partners on matters of mutual interest.
The dominant attention will likely fall on Georgia, where conflict with Russia has reignited Cold War tensions. Cheney will hold talks in Georgia with President Mikhail Saakashvili, as he will meet with presidents and senior officials in the other countries.
The news comes as Russia's parliament voted unanimously Monday to urge the country's president to recognize the independence of Georgia's two breakaway regions, a move likely to stoke further tensions between Moscow and the small Caucasus nation's Western allies.
The vote follows fighting earlier this month between Russia and Georgia over the separatist territory of South Ossetia.
Bush has been adamant that South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region, are part of Georgia.
The war erupted Aug. 7 as Georgia launched a massive artillery barrage targeting the separatist province of South Ossetia. Russian forces repelled the offensive and drove deep into Georgia, taking crucial positions across the small former Soviet republic.
Russia pulled the bulk of its troops and tanks out Friday under a cease-fire brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, but built up its forces in and around South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They also left other military posts at locations inside Georgia proper.
Russia's attack and the manner in which it has responded to the cease-fire have caused serious strains in relations with the West and heightened fears in the young democracies of Eastern Europe. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also made a quick trip to Georgia earlier this month.
Ukraine, like Georgia, is a former Soviet republic government that has angered Moscow by seeking closer ties with the West and membership in the NATO military alliance. While siding with Georgia, Ukrainian officials have acknowledged that Moscow's quick military victory exposed their nation's own vulnerability.
Bush ratcheted up his rhetoric against Moscow as Rice made her stop in Tbilisi, Georgia to pursue a diplomatic solution to the week-old crisis. Standing alongside Rice, Saakashvili said he had signed a cease-fire agreement with Russia that protects Georgia's interests despite concessions to Moscow.