After six days of intensive fighting that left homes in ruins, over 1000 dead and uprooted 100,000 people, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared mission accomplished and agreed to a ceasefire proposal tabled in Moscow by the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy overnight. Or as The Independent puts it, “…a resurgent Russia has crushed an unruly neighbour, humbled the US and Europe, and demonstrated once again that it is a force to be feared.”

But picking through the war of words and soundbites from the warring countries hasn’t got any easier — Georgia accused Russia of continuing military operations and Moscow retailated by denouncing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a liar, while questioning his sanity.

“The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized,” Medvedev said. Still, the president ordered his defense minister at a televised Kremlin meeting: “If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them.”

So who’s come up trumps out of all of this? The consensus is the Kremlin. Putin has redrawn the geopolitical map. As a European official told The Guardian, “This is not the Russia of 93 or 94, a terribly weakened Russia…The Russians are now negotiating from a position of strength.” And put the US back in their box to boot.

A monumental blunder? As Georgians begin to analyse what went wrong, Saakashvili’s future appears bleak. The consequences of his adventure are little short of catastrophic. The president has been humiliated, his demoralised army is in disarray. Even more seriously, Georgia’s dream of joining Nato and securing international protection against Russia is far further from realisation than it was a week ago. Yet Saakashvili’s gamble – while it has undoubtedly backfired – was not quite as foolhardy as might appear. The president, after all, is not a stupid man, even if he can come across as naïve, even foolish on occasion. — Adrian Blomfield, The Telegraph

Kremlin counts its gains All told, the Kremlin may be content to take its gains—the humiliation of Mr Saakashvili, the exposure of the limits of western support for Georgia and the demonstration of Russia’s military power—without incurring further risk. Better, perhaps, to let Mr Saakashvili take the blame for rashly starting a failed war by trying to retake South Ossetia, than to portray him as a martyr for democracy and force western countries to do more to support him.The Economist

Putin’s power In the end, Saakashvili clearly underestimated Putin’s personal hatred for him — an enmity that became intense after an aide told Putin that Saakashvili described him as “Lilliputian.” But when Russian officials announced that “we established control over Tskhinvali” 2 1/2 days ago, they actually meant that for two days both sides have been demolishing the city. The second Chechen war, in which Grozny was wiped off the face of the earth, brought Putin to power. Russia’s first peacekeeping mission, in which Tskhinvali was demolished in a similar fashion, has locked Putin’s undisputed hold on power for many years to come. — Yulia Latynina, The Moscow Times

Pipe down George President Bush, Why don’t you shut up? In your statement on Monday regarding the legitimate actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia, you failed to mention once the war crimes perpetrated by Georgian military forces, which American advisors support, against Russian and Ossetian civilians. Kinda embarrassing, eh? President Bush, Why don’t you shut up? Your faithful ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, was announcing a ceasefire deal while his troops, with your advisors, were massing on Ossetia’s border, which they crossed under cover of night and destroyed Tskhinvali, targeting civilian structures just like your forces did in Iraq. Kinda humanitarian, eh? — Pravda

Russian readers respond On Monday, readers of the Moscow Bureau’s Russian-language Web Site were invited to answer these five questions about the long-simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia over two separatist enclaves — South Ossetia and Abkhazia — which flared into open warfare when Georgian entered South Ossetia on Friday: 1) What should Russia’s aims be in Georgia? 2) Did Russia overreact? 3) How much is America to blame? 4) Who is in charge: Putin or Medvedev? 5) What international leaders can Russia trust? Here are a few of the reader responses… — The Lede, The New York Times

Redrawing the map The Kremlin’s decision today to call a halt to its five-day assault on Georgia leaves Russia calling the shots in the energy-rich Black Sea littoral and Caspian basin. The quick and easy victory exposes the west’s lack of leverage over a resurgent Russia despite years of heavy American political investment in Georgia. In the tussle for supremacy in a vital strategic region, the balance has tilted. Russia has successfully deployed its firepower in another country with impunity for the first time since communism’s collapse. — Ian Traynor and Ian Black The Guardian

Peter Fray

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