So is it war or peace in Georgia?

WHAT is really going on in Georgia? Do we finally have peace in the Caucasus after the endless negotiations for a ceasefire by the Europeans and the Americans? Or is it going to be more of the same twilight of the jaw-jaw and war-war for some more time to come?

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Published: Mon 18 Aug 2008, 10:26 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

Russia confirms it has accepted the ceasefire with Georgia. But, as Bush would put it, realities on the ground do not seem to have changed much. According to latest reports by CNN and Aljazeera — by the way some marvellous reporting there by the Qatar-owned television network — the Russians are still roaming around in Georgia proper. In fact, they are said to be moving further south, deep inside the Georgian territory, rather than withdraw to the north, to the Russian-Georgia border.

So what is going on? And what does Russia really want? Even though Russian army says it has orders from the Kremlin to withdraw, it appears in no particular hurry to leave. The Kremlin now says it will move its troops only after the Georgian troops return to their original place before all this business started, that is, to their barracks.

The increasingly worried Europeans and the Americans are accusing Moscow of not honouring the ceasefire that it signed on Saturday. Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who lost no time in rushing to Moscow to broker peace when the conflict first broke out, has warned Russia of confrontation with the whole of European Union if it does not immediately pull out of Georgia.

Frankly speaking, Moscow doesn't seem to give a damn either way. As Eric S Margolis in his lead article on this page argues, this is not about a geographical conflict between Russia and Georgia anymore. It is a bigger turf battle between America, the sole superpower, and Russia, the former superpower that is reasserting itself. There have been rumours in a section of Western Press about differences between the Russian leadership and the army as well as between President Medevedev and Putin, the former president and current prime minister, over Georgia.

There may be some difference of opinion in the Kremlin on nuances and timing of the pullout. However, the whole of Russia appears united behind Putin who has been resolutely pushing to restore the country's original pride of place and clout in the world. From its handling of Iran to its desire to play a more effective role in the Middle East and world affairs, it is apparent that the new Russia is not prepared to be thrown around like a lightweight any more as it was after the end of Soviet Union. Especially, it is not willing to be challenged in its own backyard in the Caucasus. As we wrap this up, Germany's Angela Merkel has announced that Georgia is joining Nato. So, dear readers, this conflict in the Caucasus is far from over.

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