This afternoon I met with an independent journalist who has been working here since the Soviet period. I heard from him the news about the ceasefire announced by the Russians. This journalist is an optimist – and perhaps also a realist. He maintains that the Russians had certain limited objectives, and it achieved those objectives. He called the conflict not so much a real war as a war of publicity. Russia was able to visibly flex its military muscles, demonstrating for neighbors the perils of NATO membership. The Russians were able to effectively punish Georgian President Mikheil Saakashviili.
But to actually occupy the country would be very expensive in every way. The Russian budget is rich from energy wealth, but Russia still needs Western expertise to develop its economy. Also, enough Russians have traveled in the West to have some taste of how the rest of the world works. They do not want to turn the clock back to the isolated days of the Soviet Union.
According to this journalist’s interpretation, the course of this conflict was scripted at the highest levels – even to the point of a tacit agreement between Bush and Putin – about how far the Russian incursions would go. I don’t know. I wasn’t present at that conversation.
Anyway, these were the journalist’s points. They have some validity. I just read the articles in the Washington Post and the New York Times about the ceasefire. Let’s pray it holds. War is a tragedy for all involved.