American Proscenium

Stumbling Into (Another) War

On August 26, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Washington has sharply criticized Moscow for this, while the European Union has threatened sanctions.  Russia and Georgia have signed a cease-fire agreement stipulating that Georgian forces must move back to their bases, while Russian troops are supposed to withdraw to pre-conflict positions.  The agreement, however, leaves the Russians some room to take additional “security measures,” and reports continue to come in of Russian troops moving closer to Tbilisi.

The Bush administration has called for the withdrawal of Russian forces and has used the crisis to clinch a deal with Poland on deploying anti-missile-defense systems there.  Moscow has responded by warning that this could make Poland a target.  According to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the deal includes a clause about a “mutual commitment” between the two countries to come to each other’s assistance “in case of trouble.”  Thus Poland, like other Eastern European states and former Soviet republics, especially Ukraine (along with the United States and Israel, Kiev has armed the Georgian army), is nervously watching events in Georgia.

“NATO’s decision to withhold a Membership Action Plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia,...

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