Georgian conflict leaves west reeling and Russia walking tall
The Guardian, 12.08.2008
The Kremlin’s decision today to call a halt to its five-day assault on Georgia leaves Russia calling the shots in the energy-rich Black Sea littoral and Caspian basin. In the tussle for supremacy in a vital strategic region, the balance has tilted. Russia has successfully deployed its firepower in another country with impunity for the first time since communism’s collapse.
The quick and easy victory exposes the west’s lack of leverage over a resurgent Russia despite years of heavy American political investment in Georgia. “This is not the Russia of 93 or 94, a terribly weakened Russia,” said a European official. “The Russians are now negotiating from a position of strength.”
“We don’t look very good,” said a former Pentagon official long involved in Georgia. “We’ve been working on [Georgia] for four years and we’ve failed. Everyone’s guilty. But Putin is playing his cards brilliantly. He knows exactly what he’s doing and the consequences are all negative.”
“This was a proxy war, not about South Ossetia, but about Moscow drawing a red line for the west,” said Alexander Rahr, Russia expert at Germany’s Council on Foreign Relations and a biographer of Putin. “They marched into Georgia to challenge the west. And the west was powerless. We’re dealing with a new Russia.”