Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sarkozy is pleased

It seems that Presidents Sarkozy and Medvedev have agreed on a six-point peace plan that the Georgians will be required to sign. As Sarkozy was supposed to have gone to Moscow with the European plan that President Saakashvili already signed yesterday, one can only assume that there had been some change or substitution of plans.

Moscow Times reports that the Russians want Georgia to agree to a cease-fire (which they requested two days ago), a return of their troops to their bases and the continuing presence of Russian troops peacekeepers in the two break-away regions. This cannot be all as these terms merely restore that famous status quo ante.

What are the other three points? If Russia is happy to restore matters to what they were at the beginning of last week the whole expedition becomes questionable. Did they get a bigger mauling than anybody had realized?

Sarkozy also emphasised that the South Ossetians and Abkhazians should be asked whether they want to be part of Georgia. The answer almost certainly will be no. On the other hand, will they be asked whether they want to be part of Russia, which seems to be their fate? I predict serious military problems in South Ossetia within a year.

The BBC Russian Service website reports that President Saakashvili has signed the document that Presidents Sarkozy and Medvedev had put together. (Where is former President, now Prime Minister Putin, we ask.)

The BBC World Service is cautious, remarking that some of the details, where the devil is, no doubt, are still up for discussion. Both sides are still accusing the other of ruthless murder of civilians though only the Russians have used the word "genocide", hoping, presumably, to remind their own people yet again of World War II. After all, much of Putin's foreign policy has been conducted with an eye on domestic population - win or lose, he had to appear tough.

The Russian Service lists the six items as read out by President Medvedev and fairly anodyne they are, too [my translation]:
eschew all use of force

final cessation of military activity (at this stage it was still temporary as there had been no Georgian signature)

free access to humanitarian aid (NGOs have not been allowed into Chechnya - will they be allowed into South Ossetia under its new status?)

Georgian armed forces return to their permanent bases

Russian forces return to their positions before the start of the military activity; Russian peacekeeping forces will remain and institute additional security measures until trust between Georgians and Ossetians is restored

there will be an international discussion of the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well of the two regions' security [something Russia has always shown herself to be against in the past]
So far, none of this seems worth the trouble the Russians have gone to. Although President Sarkozy seems certain that the Russian government will not demand a change of government in Georgia and Russian forces will not occupy any part of Georgia proper, President Medvedev's language about his opponent remains extreme and personally abusive.

Later on today, I expect, there will be some more twists.

UPDATE: According to Reuters, the reference to talks on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been removed. It probably was not all that important to Medvedev, anyway. Saakashvili is talking about international peacekeepers replacing Russian ones in South Ossetia. Medvedev is saying nothing about that.