August 9, 2009

VICTORY?:

Guessing Game: What we still don't know about the Russian-Georgian War. (Joshua A. Tucker, August 8, 2009, New Republic)

Despite the war (or maybe because of it), Saakashvili is still in power. He continues to face frequent calls for his resignation but will probably survive until the end of his term. We are no closer than we were a year ago to understanding where power really lies between Putin and Medvedev, despite claims that the war demonstrated that Putin pulls all the strings. Russian-Georgian relations are extremely tense, with rumors surfacing in recent days of new between Georgia and its breakaway republics. (Tensions have apparently increased sufficiently that Obama and Medvedev spoke about the matter by phone last Tuesday.) And, while the overall tone of Russian-U.S. relations has improved somewhat since Obama took office--the issues of missile defense and new NATO members are being addressed with a bit more tact now--the two countries essentially remain what Daniel Korski, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, called "frienemies," cooperating on some issues and conflicting on others.

So what has changed in the past year? Most seriously, the price of oil, which was skyrocketing up toward $147 per barrel at this time last summer, has only recently returned to about half that level. Not coincidentally, the Russian economy has suffered mightily from the global economic crisis. (Georgia's economy has also suffered, both from the war and international economic developments.) Only Russia and Nicaragua have recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent. (Noticeably missing from this list is China, which one can only assume was not pleased to see Russia stoking the aspirations of separatist regions). Russian troops are still in the republics--despite complaints from Georgia about both their actions and locations, their number is fairly low--along with some EU monitors. Georgia has asked for U.S. monitors as well, but Russia has resisted the move.

In short, little related to this war has changed; despite the Russian military victory, neither side can really claim to have gained much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2009 12:55 PM
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