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Opinion: Everyone's a Loser in the Caucasus Conflict

After nearly four days of violent conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetian, Georgia called for a cease-fire. As fighting continues, it's clear that no one is going to win this war -- not even Russia.

Opinion

Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili has lost. In the shadow of the Olympic Games, he wanted to regain control of the separatist region of South Ossetia after more than 15 years.

Ingo Mannteufel

Ingo Mannteufel

He didn't just fail miserably, rather he's suffered a major defeat because he wasn't able to keep his election campaign promise to reestablish Georgia's territorial integrity. This will give his political opponents impetus.

Russian troops have secured the separatist regimes in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia and it is highly unlikely that Georgia will be able to negotiate the return of these regions in the near future.

In addition, Saakashvili has emerged as a military gambler, pushing Georgia further away from the possibility of NATO membership.

Brussels , Washington caught by surprise

The US and the EU have also lost. Saakashvili's military adventures caught the governments in Washington and Europe fully unprepared. It could be that they didn't really understand at first what Georgia was doing in the South Ossetian region.

In any case, the western governments took a long time to recognize the seriousness of the situation. It's not enough to make naive calls for peace. They didn't instigate an intervention mission or call for emergency talks in time.

The crisis in South Ossetian revealed the European Union's internal conflict over its dealings with its eastern neighbors, particularly with Russia. It lacks a real strategy for the European East.

Russia reveals its weaknesses

But Russia has also lost in this conflict. It demonstrated the weaknesses of the Medvedev-Putin co-democracy. While President Dmitry Medvedev clearly had a hard time filling the shoes of the Russian commander-in-chief, his predecessor Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, virtually took over the leadership role in the country.

What's more, the improvements Medvedev had achieved in relations with the West during his nearly 100 days in office have all but vanished. Russia's harsh and relentless military reaction in the South Ossetian conflict will only heighten the West's concerns.

The West doesn't share the self-righteousness with which Moscow defended its invasion in Georgia as humanitarian intervention. It may be viewed differently in Russia, but from the European perspective Moscow has shown itself as aggressive and uncooperative.

The alienation of the West and the deterioration of relations are pre-programmed. And while Georgia's NATO membership has become more unlikely, Ukraine moved a step closer to the alliance over the weekend. For Moscow, that's not a good sign.

Finally, the biggest losers in this bloody conflict cannot be forgotten: the victims of the war on both sides, those who have been killed, their relatives, the refugees and the survivors who are now standing before the ruins of what used to be their homes.

Ingo Mannteufel heads Deutsche Welle's radio and online Russian departments. (kjb)

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