Russia says it is ending the fighting:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an end to military operations against Georgia, the Kremlin says.
He told officials he had taken the decision to end the campaign after restoring security for civilians and peacekeepers in South Ossetia. However, Russia has been highly critical of Georgia’s leadership, and there were no signs of imminent talks.
Before the announcement, there were fresh reports of Russian warplanes bombing the Georgian town of Gori. Witnesses told the BBC that several people were killed when a bomb hit a hospital in the town, which is 10 miles (15km) from the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.
I am wary of articulating the sort of strong solidarity with Georgia that Marko Attila Hoare has put forward, because Saakashvili’s government is not exactly a model of democracy. But my basic sympathy for their position is only strengthened by the disreputable red-brown alliance that has sprung up in defence of Putin’s invasion: alongside Clark, the semi-fascists Justin Raimondo and Lew Rockwell and his Ron Paulista supporters. And my sympathy is strengthened too by the decent advocacy of people like Dennis MacShane and Mark Kleiman. […] Anyone who defends either Beijing or Putin because their attackers are “neocons” is wrong.
I disagree, however, with Bob when he says this:
Distantly related: Thanks to Arieh for this article on Lithuania which hunts down octogenerian (Jewish) ex-Partisans, for alleged war crimes in the fight against Nazi occupation, while letting at least three real Holocaust war criminals go free.
The current war in South Ossetia is not an issue of black and white: both sides have their moral failings, and have are responsible for breaches of human rights. However, there are different shades of grey. And the Russians, in my opinion, are more in the wrong than the Georgians are. Similarly, World War II was also a metter of shades of grey, and the Lithuanians arguably suffered worse from the Soviet Union than they did from Germany. So if the modern Lithuanian government wants to be more harsh on people who committed war crimes on the Russian side than people who did the same on the German side, then while that’s unjust, I really cannot get too worked up about it.
Denis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, notes that South Ossetia is not the only example of Russia’s harmful influence:
Russia has never accepted the loss of the old Soviet empire. Like British Right-wingers who dream of the days when the Union flag fluttered over parts of the world where English was spoken, the Russians still feel the loss of status when the end of communism forced the Kremlin to disgorge the Baltic states, Ukraine and Georgia.
Russia under Putin has energy wealth and thus the money to spend on arms and aggressive foreign policy. Moscow continues to bluster and threaten the Baltic states, has cut off energy supplies to countries it wants to lean on and, as Britain knows, has bullied the British Council, interfered in BP and Shell’s commercial operations, and even harassed the British ambassador when he went out to buy food for the embassy cat. And then there is the Litvinenko murder, where the response of Putin was to put the man Scotland Yard wanted to question into the Duma with the immunity of an MP.
At the UN, Russia sabotages efforts to solve the Kosovo problem and lined up with Mugabe. In other international bodies, the Russians refuse to co-operate except on their own terms. The most bizarre example is the Council of Europe, which admitted Russia as a member even though Russia refuses to accept the authority of the European Court of Human Rights.
MacShane also correctly notes that Eurosceptics must face their share of the blame for Europe being weak:
The idea of a common foreign policy and the means to implement it in the Lisbon Treaty are anathema to Eurosceptics; but a disunited EU will be easy meat for Russia and leave America without a partner of weight to face down Russian bullying.
There are some people who want Europe to be weak. Two of them are called Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao. And British Eurosceptics are therefore either conscious or unconscious traitors, both to Britain and more importantly to Western Civilisation.
Liberal Conspiracy notes that Saakashvili is not without blame:
You can however hardly blame Russia’s initial response to what was a naive, foolhardy and apparently murderous gambit by Saakashvili. As korova notes, back at the end of last year Saakashvili’s approval ratings were hovering around the 16% mark. For all the talk of Georgia and its wonderful emerging liberal democracy, Saakashvili has presided over, like in Russia itself and China, a virulent rising of nationalism, promising in effect that both South Ossetia and Abkhazia would remain a part of Georgia, and even potentially be re-taken. If last Thursday/Friday’s events were him putting his plans into effect, then it has backfired in a way that he must have surely at least contemplated it might.
For all the overwhelming support that Saakashvili is now receiving from the West, they must privately be fuming that such an apparently suicidal mission was even contemplated, let alone attempted, although it would be hugely surprising if America or intelligence agencies didn’t have even an inkling of what was shortly going to happen. It will almost certainly kill Georgia’s chances of joining NATO for years, if not decades, and the West’s desire to encircle Russia through the alliance, for that is undoubtedly what it is, cannot yet be realised.
I doubt if any Western governments would be particularly saddened if Saakashvili is forced to resign as a result of this crisis. And I think it’s unlikely he’ll still be in charge at the end of this year.