Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

War in the Caucasus

Vladimir Putin, TIME'S 2007 Person of the Year, may no longer be President of Russia, but his vision of a resurgent empire was given steel in August when Russian tanks rolled into South Ossetia — a breakaway province of the NATO-aspirant former Soviet republic of Georgia. The confrontation began when Georgian forces launched attacks on South Ossetia, but the Russian forces pushed deep into Georgia, sending a brutal message that Moscow would brook no interference in its backyard from an expansive NATO or tolerate challenges by Georgia's nationalist President Mikheil Saakashvili. Neither the U.S. nor Europe was able to muster an effective response: neither had the wherewithal or appetite for a military confrontation with Russia, and the Europeans are mindful of the fact that much of their oil and natural-gas supply is controlled by Moscow. The Europeans eventually brokered a peace agreement, largely on Moscow's terms. (Aug. 7)