SWJ Blog has produced an encyclopedic roundup of the coverage of the situation in South Ossetia in Western newspapers so I won’t attempt to replicate that or even comment on the articles here. Just go over there and start reading the links.
I found the various editorials more interesting fare. Yesterday the Washington Post urged concerted action from the U. S. and NATO:
This is a grave challenge to the United States and Europe. Ideally, the U.N. Security Council would step in, authorizing a genuine peacekeeping force to replace the Russian one that has turned into a de facto occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But a Russian veto rules that out. Thus, the United States and its NATO allies must together impose a price on Russia if it does not promptly change course.
The Wall Street Journal takes a similar position:
Now it’s up to NATO and especially the U.S. to persuade both sides to stand down. President Bush discussed the hostilities with Mr. Putin yesterday in Beijing, where they are attending the Olympics. The prime minister needs to hear that using Ossetia as a pretext for imperialism will have consequences for Russia’s relationship with the West.
My own views appear to be most closely reflected by The Economist:
On its own, South Ossetia is unlikely to last long. It is a tiny territory run by Russiaâ€™s security forces and a small and nasty clique of local thugs who live off smuggling goods and pocketing Russian aid money. According to a Georgian television channel, some 70% of Tskhinvali had been taken by government forces by the end of Friday morning.
The row has given Russia a chance to step up pressure on Georgia, portrayed in the Russian media as a tiresome and aggressive Western stooge. The South Ossetian leader, Eduard Kokoity, said that he would force Georgian troops out of his self-declared republic (which is a patchwork of villages and small towns, some controlled by Georgian authorities and others by separatists).
Russiaâ€™s broader aim may be to try to roll back the advance of pro-Western forces in its â€œnear abroadâ€ by highlighting the Westâ€™s inability to help Georgia. The hotting up of Georgiaâ€™s conflicts coincided with Kosovoâ€™s declaration of independence, recognised by much of the West, and American pressure for the expansion of NATO to Georgia and Ukraine. That move has been stymied, mainly by Germany; Georgia was promised eventual NATO membership but no firm plan.
The blogosphere has reacted predictably with the Left Blogosphere using the ongoing situation as a club to beat over the head of the Bush Administration and John McCain and the Right Blogosphere using it as as an illustration of Barack Obama’s fecklessness. I’ve read, linked to, and quoted the statements from the two candidates. I don’t see as much difference between them as their partisans do but I guess where you sit depends on where you stand.
Russia will look after its own interests; it would be unreasonable to think that they’d do otherwise and we should look after our own. As I see it our tangible interests in Georgia are mostly limited to how Georgia’s fate affects Europe and, if Europe isn’t interested in antagonizing Russia and taking the likely economic pain that would result, I see no reason that we should be willing to do so on Europe’s behalf. During both the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations we’ve gone out of our way to alienate the Russians
I think it’s quite unlikely that Russia will advance to occupy greater areas of Georgia. Why should they? They can accomplish their objectives which include neutralizing Georgia and discrediting the U. S. and Western European efforts in the area without doing so.