Analysts Call Russia-Georgia Conflict a ″Litmus Test″ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 16.09.2008
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Analysts Call Russia-Georgia Conflict a "Litmus Test"

The recent war between Russia and Georgia would have "profound consequences" on international relations, according to the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

A placard shows a vampiric Russian taking a huge bite out of a map of Georgia

The conflict has already changed attitudes in the Caucasus and realigned regional allegiances

"The Russian actions were the result of deliberate and premeditated choices," researcher Robert Larsson said, noting Russia's decision to enter the conflict, and to use a "relatively large portion of violence" and then to recognize breakaway regions in Georgia.

Larsson made his remarks at the launch of a 153-page study titled "The Caucasian Litmus Test: Consequences and Lessons of the Russian-Georgian War in August 2008."

Larsson, editor and one of 14 contributors to the study, said that while the study did not cast blame, the conflict could be compared to a "litmus test," referring to how Russia likely used its intervention to "test reactions" from the international community to its actions.

"The Russian lesson was that the international community was not prepared, willing or able to add any costs to the Russian actions," Larsson said. Moscow was likely to have felt it "achieved success."

EU faced with "great challenge"

Russian President dmitry Medvedev, left, listens to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the presidential residence, outside Moscow, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008.

The atmosphere between Russia and the EU is still tense

Another contributor, Eva Hagstrom Frisell, said the conflict also posed a "great challenge" to the European Union that needed to find agreement on its future dealings with Russia, noting divides within the 27-nation bloc.

One possible effect could be to boost efforts to adopt the Lisbon Treaty that would "reduce the vulnerability of a rotating (EU) presidency" by choosing a president of the European Council and creating a unified foreign policy portfolio, she said.

The conflict could also have implications on the Russian economy if more resources were channeled to defense spending and Moscow geared towards more "state capitalism," researcher Johannes Malminen said.

Malminen also underlined that the Georgian government had tried to stem the flight of capital and investments from the country in the wake of the conflict.

The researchers believed the defense think-tank study would likely form part of a pending defense review, Larsson said.

Swedish Defense Minister Sten Tolgfors recently announced the government would postpone its decision, initially due in December, on the future of the Swedish military over the current unrest in the Caucasus.

Swedish military review to incorporate report

Tolgfors said he wanted more analysis of the conflict in Georgia and a review of how Sweden could mobilize its forces faster.

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt

Prime Minister Reinfeldt could drop reduction plans

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and the three other leaders in his four-party coalition said they planned to cancel earlier envisaged spending cuts in the military.

In May, Hakan Syren, Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, warned that requested spending cuts would seriously impair the country's ability to defend itself and also carry out international peacekeeping missions.

Opposition leader Mona Sahlin of the Social Democrats has said her party favored a discussion between all party leaders on defense and security issues, citing the need for long-term solutions but also criticized the government for flip-flopping on defense.

A year ago, Mikael Odenberg resigned as defense minister over differences concerning defense spending and although events appear to have proved him right he has declined to be drawn on the matter.

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