Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Looking Deep into Putin's Eyes

AP, reporting from Georgia

In Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's provincial capital, the body of a Georgian soldier lay in the street along with debris. A poster hanging nearby showed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the slogan "Say yes to peace and stability" as South Ossetian separatist fighters launched rockets at a Georgian plane soaring overhead. Broken glass and other debris littered the ground.

Georgia borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia and was ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries preceding the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union. South Ossetia and Abkhazia have run their own affairs without international recognition since fighting to split from Georgia in the early 1990s.

Both separatist provinces are backed by Russia, which appears open to absorbing them.

Medvedev said Tuesday that Russian peacekeepers will stay in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and Saakashvili said his government will officially designate Russian peacekeepers in those breakaway provinces as occupying forces.

The Russian onslaught angered the West and drew tough words from President Bush, but some Georgians are disappointed that the U.S. did not intervene to protect its tiny ally.

"I'd like to think the words really do matter," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza said Tuesday in Tbilisi.

Bryza declined to say if the U.S. would provide military support in the event that Russia expands its operations saying only: "I hope we'll never come to the question of what we do if Russia refuses to observe international law."

Medvedev said that people in both breakaway provinces must be allowed to decide whether they want to remain part of Russia.

Bush and Putin press converence

PRESIDENT BUSH: I will answer the question. I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.

For myself, I like McCain's crack about looking into Putin's eyes and seeing the initials "KGB" inscribed there.