Two days after Russia and Georgia agreed to a cease-fire, the truce has
yet to be fully implemented and Russian forces have yet to leave
Georgian territory. Added to that has been a raging war of words and
thinly veiled threats. In this report from London, VOA's Sonja Pace
looks at the potential long-term implications for Russia's relations
with the West.
When U.S. President George Bush threw
America's full support behind Georgia on Wednesday, Russia's Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov was dismissive and is reported to have said that
Washington needs to choose between its "virtual project" in Georgia and
real partnership, referring to Russia.
Russia's actions in
Georgia have raised concern throughout Europe and have drawn warnings
from London. Speaking on British radio, Foreign Secretary David
Miliband said Russia's actions amounted to blatant aggression.
sight of Russian tanks rolling into parts of a sovereign country on its
neighboring border will have brought a chill down the spine of many
people - rightly, because that is a reversion to - it's not just Cold
War politics, it's 19th Century ways of doing politics," he said.
said there was never a doubt that Russia could easily defeat the small
Georgian army. But, he warned Russia needs to let go of the old Soviet
"The Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore. There is no
such thing as ex-Soviet space," he said. "There is a new map of eastern
Europe and the border area of Russia and I believe it's actually in
Russia's interest to come to terms with that. It's not in Russia's
interest to continue to hanker for a Soviet past because frankly, it's
gone and it's good that it's gone."
And, the British foreign
secretary said, Russia should think about the longer-term implications
for its relations with the West.
response in Georgia and the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia is
widely seen as symptomatic of Russian grievances over western actions.
These include the expansion eastward of NATO and the European Union
into what was once the Soviet sphere of influence, American plans for a
missile defense system in eastern Europe and western support for the
independence of Kosovo from Russian ally Serbia.
to join both the EU and NATO and some argue that had Georgia been
accepted into NATO, this conflict would not have occurred. Former
British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind rejects that notion.
United States, Britain, France, Germany are not going to go to war with
Russia over South Ossetia, no matter how sympathetic we might be to the
people of Georgia. We're sympathetic to Tibet, we're sympathetic to
Zimbabwe. We don't contemplate military solutions to these problems
and so NATO membership is not the answer," said Rifkind.
Georgian conflict has shown a resurgent Russia ready to use harsh power
politics to advance its aims says international security analyst
Michael Denison of London's Chatham House research center. And, he says
there is no unified vision of what do about it, especially given
western Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas.
look at the U.K. and the U.S., not directly dependent on Russian energy
- willing and able to take a sharper line with Russia. And, if you
look at the east of Europe, they also are fearful of Russia and want to
take a sharper line," he said. "The crucial issue is what about the
central belt of core European states - Germany, Italy, France, all of
whom have look to cut bilateral deals, looked to accommodate Russia -
how will they react."
Denison says the question is whether
Europe will be able to forge a unified, combined response to Russia and
a common energy security plan to get out from under its dependence on
"The chances are pretty slim of that in the short to medium term," he said.
the West's leverage is limited. But many say what is likely to be the
first fallout from the Georgian crisis will be a definite cooling of
relations with Russia - maybe not to old Cold War levels, but a cooling
all the same.