Russia's big Caucasus win
Moscow has gained leverage, threatened Georgia's pro-West leader, and bolstered national pride.
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Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs in Moscow, agrees Russia's position has changed. But he finds a different meaning: "A Russia that has the means of force and is ready to use it spells a whole new situation," he says. "All neighboring countries will have to take this into account.... Much depends on how Russia behaves.... If it tries to dictate terms, that will have a very negative effect. But my impression is that Russia was quite restrained, and carefully calculated each move.... It seems likely that NATO will be paralyzed...."Skip to next paragraph
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Moscow will face downsides, to be sure. Europe and the US are refocusing on ways to censure or isolate Russia.
On Wednesday, President Bush, who is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and then to Tbilisi, stated that the US would begin a "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian mission to Georgia. He said he expected Russia to "meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia," as well as to withdraw all forces that entered the country in recent days.
Economic sanctions are not being considered seriously; the UN will not act, given Russia's veto on the Security Council. But eastern Europe – the leaders of the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine visited Tbilisi this week in support – are searching for punitive measures.
Western states concerned about the thwarting of democratic reforms in Eurasia are discussing methods to isolate Moscow. One idea is to cancel or ban the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. Another, mentioned by diplomats and by Svante Cornell, a Caucusus expert, in the New York Times, is to drop or suspend Russia's membership in the Group of Eight (G-8) nations. G-8 status is based on ideals of international norms like transparency, consensus, negotiation, diplomats say. Other ideas include quickly granting NATO status to Macedonia – as a strong signal to Moscow.
A quick tabulation: impact of Georgia conflict
Georgia's NATO bid: With secure borders and political stability as membership requirements, NATO is unlikely to admit Georgia soon.
Saakashvili's position: Georgians have publicly rallied behind him, but grumbled about his failed bid to reclaim S. Ossetia.
Oil and gas: Developers from Central Asia and the Caspian will likely face pressure from Moscow to use Russia instead of the South Caucasus bypass route.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Tbilisi wants to reclaim the ethnic breakaway regions, but a Russia-backed referendum based on the Kosovo precedent could make this impossible.
Ukraine: Russia's push into Georgia sends a message of "who's in charge" to those in this key state who wish to integrate with the West.
Russia is "back": Natalya Narochnitskaya of the Russian Institute of Democracy and Cooperation says that Russia "has a renewed national and state will.