GEORGIA WAR WINDING DOWN?….The Russo-Georgian war appears to be pretty much over:

Russia’s president today said his country was ready to begin peace talks with Georgia to end a five-day conflict over pro-Russian separatist-minded enclaves along the two nations’ Caucasus region border.

….[Dmitri] Medvedev, speaking after a closed-door meeting in Moscow with French President Nicholas Sarkozy, said peace talks could commence provided Georgia return its troops to their original positions before the outbreak of hostilities five days ago over control of the breakaway pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia and sign a “legally binding document” vowing not to use force.

….Securing a lasting peace may prove difficult. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters today that Moscow rejects the U.S.-educated Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a partner in peace discussions.

This is an unsurprising end to the conflict. Russia doesn’t want to annex Georgia, which would be a festering sore forever, and certainly their conventional forces don’t have the wherewithal to “reassemble the Russian empire,” as some of the more breathless commentators on the right have suggested. Rather, this was a demonstration war. In the same way that Thomas Friedman suggested that the real reason for the Iraq war was to send a message (“Suck. On. This.”), that was pretty much the reason for this war too. Russia may not want to occupy Georgia or Ukraine or any of the rest of its Near Abroad, but Georgia is going to pay a heavy price for messing with Vladimir Putin — thousands dead, two provinces gone, their military smashed, all capped off by a humiliating peace agreement — and that’s mission accomplished as far as he’s concerned.

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