THE CEASEFIRE….Peter Finn of the Washington Post seems to think that the ceasefire agreement announced earlier today in Georgia was something of a setback for the Russians:
[Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev appeared to be taking a significant step toward accommodating Western demands that Russia not translate its military superiority on the ground into annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway region, or the overthrow of the government of Georgia, which is a close U.S. ally. The injection of an international element into resolving the conflict, which carries the possibility of international peacekeepers in the two disputed regions, is a significant departure from previous Russian policy.
….In Georgia’s capital, which Monday night was rife with fears that Russian tanks would advance into the city, citizens celebrated what they took to be a major Russian step-down. Tens of thousands of people came together in the mood of a victory rally to hear President Mikheil Saakashvili, who spoke proudly of a David-against-Goliath confrontation.
However, this isn’t the consensus view. Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times suggests that Russia got everything it wanted:
One Western expert on the Caucasus said the proposal, backed by France and the European Union, “is just not in the Georgian interest at all.”….Medvedev proposed a six-part peace deal that called for Georgia to return its troops to their positions before the outbreak of hostilities over control of the breakaway pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia, sign a “legally binding document” vowing not to use force and to agree to talks about the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second secessionist region, in northwestern Georgia. Those moves essentially would mean that Georgia would give up claims to the two Russian-backed separatist regions within Georgia’s internationally recognized border, analysts said.
….One Georgian analyst called the conditions humiliating because, among other things, they did not mention maintaining the territorial integrity of the country.
The Guardian agrees, putting it this way: “The Kremlin last night dictated humiliating peace terms to Georgia as the price for halting the Russian invasion of the small Black Sea country and its four-day rout of Georgian forces.”
Hard to say who’s right here, especially since the BBC reports that the harshest clause of Russia’s ceasefire terms, the one that committed Georgia to talks about the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, was withdrawn before the announcement was made. Still, my guess stays about the same as before: Russia never had any intention of occupying Georgia itself, and the status of the two breakaway provinces, regardless of what the ceasefire terms do or don’t say, is that they’re now effectively under Russian control.
In other words, Russia basically got what it wanted: control of the two disputed provinces, a military humiliation for Georgia, and a successfully executed shot across the bow that proves they can still play in the big leagues. It wasn’t cost free — Europe has been pretty consistent in its condemnation of the invasion, and all the former Soviet satellites are now even more united in their loathing of Russia than before — but it was close. From Russia’s point of view, it was a nice, surgical operation that pretty much accomplished everything it was supposed to.