The Duck of Minerva

I leave my office and come home to a signed ceasefire….

16 August 2008

Earlier today, I wrote:

Before I leave the office, I just wanted to note that the dynamics between Georgia, Russia, and the United States are very bad right now. A small Russian force has apparently deployed fifteen miles outside of Tblisi, Rice is calling the Russians all sorts of names, and Moscow’s pissed about the US-Poland deal.

… oh, and on the analytic front: Rob Farley and Dan Drezner both have interesting things to say about NATO and the crisis. Needless to say, I agree with them on some points and disagree with them on others.

But anyway, let’s all keep our fingers crossed for an acceptable resolution soon.

And now…..

… Saakashvili, under pressure from Rice, signed the ceasefire agreement limiting Russian forces to the breakaway republics and their immediate vicinity–in Georgia proper. Rice is demanding that the Russians leave Georgia; they say they’ll comply with the ceasefire.

Damien McElroy of the Telegraph sums up the drama:

merica’s chief diplomat arrived in the Georgian capital Tblisi for talks with a deeply suspicious President Mikheil Saakashvili, who sought to strengthen guarantees of a complete Russian pullback. In the end, the pro-Western Georgian leader had little option but to accept the accord on a day that Russia threatened to target Poland with its full arsenal.

Before the arrival of international monitors, Russia troops retain the scope to take defensive forward positions in Georgian territory. Even as Miss Rice and President Saakashvili emerged from almost five hours of talks, Russian armoured personnel carriers had moved from the city of Gori to within 25 miles of the capital.

The French-drafted document left ambiguity over the sequencing of a Russian return to its battle lines before fighting broke out on August 8. America demanded that Russian pullback into South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where it has formal peacekeeping role, as soon as the Kremlin signs the document.

“Our most urgent task today is the immediate and orderly withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the return of those forces to Russia,” said Miss Rice. “With this signature by Georgia, this must take place – and take place now.”

As the Tbilisi talks began, President George W Bush called on Russia to back down and condemned Moscow’s expansionism. “Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century,” he said. “Moscow must honour its commitment to withdraw its invading forces from all Georgian territory,” The Russian leadership remained defiant, declaring it would back a drive for independence by the two enclaves in the aftermath of the conflict.

“Russia, as guarantor of security in the Caucasus and the region, will make a decision that unambiguously supports the will of these two Caucasus peoples,” said President Dimitri Medvedev after a meeting with German Chancellor Ankela Merkel in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. “Unfortunately after what has happened it is unlikely Ossetians and Abkhaz can live in one state with Georgians.

A clearly emotional President Saakashivili, who accused Russia of barbarism in its assault on Georgian troops, said the ceasefire terms would only bind Tbilisi to the terms of an armistice. He said Georgia would never recognise the division of its territory.

“Never, ever will Georgia reconcile itself with the occupation of even one square kilometre of its territory,” he said.

Which leaves me wondering:

What will it take for the Georgians to figure out that South Ossetia and Abkhazia…

Are gone.


They weren’t before the war. If it weren’t a mathematical impossibility, I would say that the events of the last week reduced the chances of Georgia regaining the two territories from zero to an even smaller value of zero.