Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Has Apparently Called A Halt To The War In Georgia, But Has Not Ordered A Russian Withdrawal
CNN is reporting that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has just called a halt to Russian combat operations in Georgia on August 12th, 2008, according to the official Russian news agency Interfax. "I have reached a decision to halt the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace," President Dmitry Medvedev said. The report also quoted Medvedev as saying that the "aggressor in South Ossetia has been punished and has incurred very significant losses." Note that Medvedev merely called a halt to any further Russian advances; this does not mean he has ordered Russian troops to leave Georgia yet. Additional stories published by the Wall Street Journal and by the Turkish news agency Hurriyet.com, which also disclosed that Georgia had requested military assistance from Turkey.
Shortly before the announcement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference in Moscow Tuesday that it would only accept a cease-fire if Georgia withdrew from the disputed region of South Ossetia and agreed to renounce the use of force. Lavrov said Moscow did not trust the country's leadership, saying that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's "barbaric and brutal action" had undermined trust in Georgia. Lavrov also had harsh words for the West, saying he was "deeply disappointed" Western powers had not talked Georgia out of attacking South Ossetia last Thursday.
On Monday Saakashvili signed the cease-fire proposal after meeting the Finnish and French foreign ministers. French President and EU leader Nicolas Sarkozy was due in Moscow Tuesday morning to talk with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, before flying to Tbilisi to met with Saakashvili.
President George W. Bush said Russia's attacks against Georgia had "substantially damaged Russia's standing in the world." Bush also warned Russia against trying to depose Georgia's government, saying evidence suggests Russia may be preparing to do so.
Meanwhile, the Russian military advanced further into Georgia overnight, heading toward cities outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia. From the flashpoint South Ossetia, the Russian military moved south toward the central Georgia city of Gori, Georgia said. Russia said its troops were on the outskirts of the city. A CNN crew in Gori saw Georgian forces piling into trucks and leaving the city at high speed.
Russian troops were also in Senaki, in western Georgia, having advanced from the breakaway area of Abkhazia. Georgia's security chief Alexander Lomaia said Tuesday that Russian troops had left Senaki but remained on the outskirst of Zugdidi and around Gori
McClatchyDC publishes good summations of the latest situation in Georgia. Read this article entitled "Russian troops dominate Georgia, seize key cities, port". Another article entitled "Russian jets, unchallenged, sow terror among Georgian troops" describes the experiences of Georgian troops hiding from marauding Russian aircraft facing no opposition. And finally, another story entitled "U.S. knew Georgia trouble was coming, but couldn't stop it" chronicled the efforts of the Bush Administration to warn the Georgian government of Russia's efforts to sucker them into an over-reaction.
It appears as if Russian troops, for the most part, conducted themselves in accordance with the international laws of war. The Anchorage Daily News reports that a 2004 West High School graduate, Winston Featherly-Bean, was wounded when fired upon by Ossetian secessionists in South Ossetia. Russian medics promptly rendered first aid, then transported him to a hospital in southern Russia. Featherly-Bean is the editor of a Tbilisi newspaper called The Messenger.
RIA Novosti provides a complete historical chronicle of the Georgia situation since 1991 HERE
Commentary: It is unknown if Georgia's request for Turkish military assistance had any bearing on Russia's sudden volte-face. Most likely, the Russians simply decided it was not enough merely to grab South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but also wanted to "punish" Georgia.
However, until the Russians actually withdraw from Georgia proper, it's difficult to believe that this war really is over. The Russians certainly are in a position to resume hostilities if they want to force the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili from office. And some Russian officials are already hinting that Saakashvili would not be a suitable negotiating partner.
The fact is that while Saakashvili, egged on by Israeli influence, may have overplayed his hand, the Russians goaded him into overreacting as well by moving far beyond a peacekeeping role and becoming a mentor, issuing passports to the residents of the disputed territories, which, regardless of what happens, are probably lost to Georgia forever.
In the final analysis, any possibility of American friendship with Russia is permanently out the window, as long as Vladimir Putin remains in the government. Putin has been the eminence grise ever since he was brought into the government by Boris Yeltsin last decade. Being a former KGB officer, Putin's role has been questionable the whole time. Russia can not be trusted.
I wonder what George W. Bush sees now when he looks into Putin's "soul".