MOSCOW -- A ranking Russian military official today said Moscow plans to establish 18 long-term checkpoints inside Georgian territory, including at least eight within undisputed Georgian territory outside the pro-Russian enclave of South Ossetia.The Russians are delivering a message to all the nations of the old USSR, those they call the "Near Abroad." Putin is also delivering a message to the People of Russia that in spite of the last two decades, a period during which Russia has reached low points they previously achieved only during WW II (The Great Patriotic War) they are now coming back and Russia will again become a significant player on the world stage.
The checkpoints will be staffed by hundreds of Russian troops, with those in Georgia proper needing supplies that would be ferried to them from South Ossetia. [Snip]
"This is the essence of it," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the army general staff, told reporters at a briefing. He showed maps detailing the proposed Russian positions, one just outside the key city of Gori.
"The president ordered us to stop where we were," he said. "We are not pulling out and pulling back troops behind this administrative border into the territory of South Ossetia." [Snip]
Russian officials insist they may keep troops along the South Ossetian-Georgian border as well as within Georgia proper as part of a peacekeeping mission begun in the 1990s. Russians say their peacekeeping mandate gives them access to a "security zone" along the border.
Bush was talking about bringing Georgia and the Ukraine into NATO. What if Russia still ran the Warsaw Pact and was discussing membership with Cuba and Venezuela? How would the US react?
Putin is a politician. He is reacting to his constituencies. That is more important to the Russians than any threats the US or Europe can make. Besides, the Russians have recently gone through a period since the collapse of the USSR that is a great deal worse than anything Europe or the US can threaten them with.
Bluster and threats are not going to sway the Russians. The message they are delivering is a lot more important to them than anything that Europe (dependent on Russia for gas that provides electricity and heat in the coming Winter) or the US (totally tied militarily tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan) can threaten them with.
Saakashvili and Bush are both experts in bluster and threats. Both have a history of collapsing with faced with real resistance. When Bush collapses he accepts the demands of his opponent and declares victory. Saakashvili is not known to follow the same pattern of behavior. The Russians are in a position to easily present real resistance, and it is greatly approved of at home in Russia.
The Russians are not leaving Georgia. They have no need to and no one can make them.