Russians hail Georgia deal as big win
This week's deal to end the Russia-Georgia war may drive wedge between US and EU.
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Under the deal, hammered out between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Medvedev, and later affirmed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Russian forces will decamp from their "observation posts" inside Georgia within a month, to be replaced by up to 200 observers from the European Union, who are due to arrive by Oct. 1.
Mr. Sarkozy, who holds the EU's revolving presidency, brought Medvedev a Georgian pledge not to use force against its two breakaway republics – a key Russian demand – and Medvedev promised to begin dismantling Russian military checkpoints around the Georgian towns of Poti and Senaki within a week. Georgian officials confirmed Tuesday that Russia had already started withdrawing troops.
"Moscow is playing on the contradictions between Europe and the US, aiming to show that Sarkozy's pragmatic and respectful approach, rather than Washington's hard-line rhetoric, is the way to achieve concrete results with Russia," says Sergei Strokan, a foreign-policy expert with the liberal Moscow daily Kommersant. "You can't help but notice that the harsher the Kremlin's tone toward the US becomes, the gentler and more subtle becomes its approach to Europe."
If Moscow fulfills the agreement, Sarkozy said, the EU may lift its main punitive measure taken against Russia during the war, which was to suspend ongoing talks on a new strategic partnership deal. "There is no reason why meetings between Russia and Europe ... cannot be resumed in October," he said. "We want partnership and peace, and hardly anyone wants a confrontation between Europe and Russia."
Russian analysts insist that the commitment of EU observers to hold the security zones between Georgia and the rebel statelets of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is exactly what the Kremlin wanted all along.
"It's no problem for Russia to withdraw its military forces from Georgia, because that decision was taken weeks ago," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. "Now the responsibility for what happens there, and Saakashvili's behavior, will rest on the Europeans and not on us."