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Europe

European Press Review: Cold War Lines Redrawn

The Cold War lines between Russia and the West are being re-drawn according to European newspapers -- this time over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abhazia in Georgia.

golden stars of the EU flag with a piece of the georgian flag in upper right corner

Georgia's bid to join the Western alliance NATO has antagonized Moscow

According to a commentary by Britain's Independent newspaper on Wednesday, Aug. 13, the six-day war in the Caucasus was a clear victory for Russia and its strategic aims in the region. “Moscow has demonstrated that it is prepared to use military might to further its strategic goals, while the democracies of the West are not….The West has no stomach for a war with Russia to save Georgian democracy.”

The Independent added that Moscow wanted to get rid of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili who is too independently minded and Western-oriented for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's liking. “Saakashvili had attracted the personal enmity of Mr Putin, who now wants the Georgian President hauled before a war crimes tribunal like Saddam Hussein.”

Berlin's tageszeitung characterized Moscow's military intervention as “absolutely disproportionate” to the conflict at hand and slammed the European Union for being too weak in its response. “It is a glaring violation of the rights of a sovereign state…justice must be done. What is decisive is how the world community, and above all how the European Union positions itself. Nothing can be done with cowardly, wimpy peace appeals.” Pointing out the need for a common European position, the tageszeitung added that a divided EU, with individual states protecting their own strategic interests would be “another victory for Moscow.”

The Financial Times Deutschland characterized the conflict in terms of net economic gains and losses. “The lost of (breakaway) provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia could be viewed as an advantage for Georgia. In recent years both regions were a huge financial drain for the nation's leadership. As (Georgian President) Saakashvili was pushing ahead with rapid economic reforms and tried to keep official corruption in check, the problems of territorial conflicts kept escalating and became unsolvable. If Georgia extricates itself from the two provinces, the nation might be able to gain some perspective. The status of both regions, however, will play an important role.”

France's left-leaning Le Monde commented on the impact of the war in the Caucasus for US President George Bush. “Five months before the end of his presidency, President Bush has been called to action… Georgia, his best friend in the former Soviet bloc, has been crushed by the Russians. This Georgia, which Bush in Tbilisi called the “Light of Freedom,” without contemplating the deep offense of his remarks to Moscow. The American president will be haunted by his words, which have left Georgia at the mercy of Russia's revisionist mood. The war in the Caucasus is another blow (to Georgia's democratic reforms), which had been at the cornerstone of Bush's foreign policy in his second term in office. The “freedom agenda” that Bush envisioned after his re-election in 2004 is perhaps only a grand illusion.”

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