Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The war is over

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a halt to military operations against Georgia. The war is over. I'm sure civilians in Georgia and South Ossetia will be breathing a sigh of relief.

The cost of Saakashvili's mad gamble has been around 200 soldiers and 100 civilians on the Georgian side, about 50 Russians, and around 2,000 Ossetian civilians, mostly killed when Georgian forces levelled the capital Tskhinvali with artillery. The latter amounts to around 3% of South Ossetia's population.

Russia has established the facts on the ground, and will be able to dictate the terms of any peace. There is unlikely to be a return to the status quo ante. Instead, Georgia will likely have to accept autonomy for Ossetia, and likely Abkhazia as well - exactly the opposite of what they were trying to achieve. Given how predictable Russian intervention was, you have to wonder why Georgia started the war in the first place. Did they think they could have it over and done with in a day, and present the world with a fait accompli? Or did they seriously think the world (and particularly the US) would come to their defence if they started a war, and that this prospect would deter the Russians? Historians will have fun arguing over that. But whatever the answer, 2,500 people are dead because some nationalistic blowhard decided to play with his war toys. And that's not something the world should forgive him for.