At a meeting in Moscow, the Russian and French presidents called for the sides to sign up to the following principles:
1) Non-use of force.
2) Stop all military action.
3) Free access to humanitarian aid.
4) Georgian troops return to their previous positions before the conflict.
5) Russian troops return to the lines they held before the start of the military operation. Before an international solution is worked out Russian peacekeepers are taking up an additional security role.
6) The start of an international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
According to BBC, the following is the deal that President Saakashvili accepted, six hours later:
1) No more use of force
2) Stop all military actions for good
3) Free access to humanitarian aid
4) Georgian troops return to their places of permanent deployment
5) Russian troops return to pre-conflict positions
6) International talks about future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia… This was later dropped from the BBC online report.
Note the difference between the two versions in the wording for points 4) and 5) (assuming that it is not merely the result of using different translators). The initial version appears to allow both sides to maintain positions taken up in the pre-conflict build-up but allows Russia to take up further positions in the name of an “additional security role”. The final agreement requires Georgia to give up any positions taken up in the pre-conflict build-up but allows Russia to maintain positions taken up in the pre-conflict build-up. Both versions confirm the Russia victory in the war, and the practical on-the-ground consequences may be more or less the same, though both sides will be haggling (and perhaps sometimes even shooting at each other) over individual situations. However, the wording of the final agreement does reduce the level of ambiguity exploitable by the Russian side. That must have been portrayed as a concession by Mr. Sarkozy in bringing Mr. Saakashvili around.
I am somewhat surprised that Russia agreed to drop point 6). From the Russian point of view, an “international discussion over the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazi” would have been a delightfully ironic counterpart to the UN-Sponsored talks over the future status of Kosovo. And everyone knows how that ended up. And where everybody was as the talks unfolded. The Russians must have wanted to issue a reminder so that no one would forget and that everyone would act accordingly. That would not have meant that Russia would be annexing the two territories any time soon. In fact, it would have been yet another piece of circumstantial evidence that it would not press such claims. Russian authorities must be confident that it has made its point, so that at least a breakaway, or two, is always looming, in case Georgia does not behave itself. And that the West makes sure that he does so.
Media reports tell us that many Georgians are talking up the brokered ceasefire agreement as a victory. Incredible, but I guess they need something to salvage their self-esteem with, and the Georgian authorities are not going to discourage such talk. To be fair, we’ve seen much, much worse in WW-II Japan; in fact, so bad that Daihonei Happyo, or Supreme Headquarters Announcement, passed into the post-WW II lexicon as the favored term to express disbelief at self-serving, blatantly untruthful statements. In any case, President Saakashvili is between a rock and a hard place. To escape blame for his disastrous decision-making, he must keep faulting Russia for the outbreak of hostilities and not be seen “caving” to Russia; yet to salvage what he can for Georgia out of the mess, he must make peace with the Russian leadership. He can’t blame the United States for not coming to the rescue either, because at the end of the day there’s no one else to turn to.
Has the fact that Russia has given South Ossetians Russian passports struck you as odd? I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t a big deal until just a couple of days ago. It may seem quite natural to Europeans, but in case anyone else is also wondering, here’s a hint: North Ossetia. Need another? Chris Kaman.