Friday, August 08, 2008

Caucasian Endgames?

Escalation continues. The Russian Defense Ministry has now apparently confirmed that it will send in "regular" forces to protect Russian citizens in South Ossetia.

So what are the endgames here?

If the Georgian army can take and hold South Ossetia, does this solve that separatist problem once and for all, or does it continue to spiral? Can the Georgians stop operations or are they now committed to finishing the job no matter the cost?

Does a direct clash between Russian and Georgian forces bolster Georgia's argument that it needs NATO membership to protect it from Russia, or will it cause skeptics in Europe to decide that the alliance doesn't need further complications?

Does Russian president Dimitri Medvedev has to worry about "looking strong" in his first crisis as chief executive, or can he de-escalate things from the Russian side?

So far, the messages I decode from Western capitals--including Washington--is a lot of regret, some finger pointing and a clear undercurrent of "we don't want to actually have to get involved." I certainly don't see the current round of hostilities increasing the likelihood that, per Georgia's repeated requests, Western forces become part of any new peacekeeping/stabilization operations.

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