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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Swinging Hammer

Some thoughts on Georgia as both sides declare a cease fire...

For all the talk about the Russians occupying the entirety of Georgia, stopping at the border of South Ossetia and Abkhazia makes too much sense. The lead elements in South Ossetia, a motor rife division, have been fighting for about 4 days and are probably blown and in need of rest and resupply. Futhermore, the division's logistics trail is probably limited to a single road back through the Roki Tunnel into Russia making resupply and future extended operations toward Tbilisi difficult.

I fear that Georgia will be changed all out of recognition. Barring some unforseen diplomatic maneuverings, I just cannot see Russian combat forces leaving either South Ossetia or Abkhazia. Richard Fernandez called Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, the "cork in the bottle" given its control of the road network leading out of the Caucasus and into the Georgia plain. Even if Russia doesn't annex the two regions in question, its control of both that cork and the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia will give it a predominant military position.

Also there are signs that the Russians plan to bring war crimes charges against Georgia President Saakashivili in both international and Russian courts. While a formal cease-fire would supposedly mean a withdrawal of Russian forces to pre-war positions (or not depending on how you interepret which Russian official says what), the Russians have indicated that they wouldn't sign such an agreement with a war criminal as the other party. Draw your own conclusions.

Finally, a domestic political angle....

With less than 2 weeks before the national conventions start, we now have a major foreign policy issue injected right into the campaign. What should be done? Leave aside the chatter of the blogs and the punditocracy about resurgent Russian bears, neo-cons, and Georgia had it coming. Focus on the key issue. To bring back an image of Dean Acheson and Korea in 1950, McCain and Obama should be asked where the security perimeter of the US lies in relation to both the Russia's "near abroad" and the eastern part of the European Union. With threats toward the Czech Republic over the installation of AMB radars, the attack on Georgia combined with revious emddling in Ukraine and Estonia, and Russia's energy leverage I cannot think of a better time to have this debate.