From the Jamestown folks: Russia seems to be planning to “annex” South Ossetia, which is Georgian territory, while daring the Georgians to do anything about it.
This is a disturbingly overt escalation of Putin’s long, quiet war to force Georgia to knuckle under and return to being a powerless satellite of the Kremlin. But with world attention elsewhere, it looks like he may get away with it.
UPDATE: and this morning, they note that Russia has just cut off its nose to spite its face by banning Moldovan and Georgian wines and other agricultural products. Since the latter are WTO members, and Russia is a WTO applicant, Georgia and Moldova now have the right to retaliate to a politically-inspired “duh” move by blocking Russian WTO accession until such a time as the trade sanctions are done away with. Since both countries produce good products, the short-term hit is likely simply to hurt average Russians (about whom the Kremlin cares nothing), while spurring the latter two countries to go into high-gear cementing better EU economic ties.
Putin and his FSB cronies don’t seem to understand that petrodollars will not save Russia, if he insists on swapping moves that exchange blatant economic self-strangulation, in exchange for internationally damaging and domestically worthless expansionism in South Ossetia. Had Putin developed some actual strength in his country, rather than squashing his population and hitching himself to the “oil curse” in order to implement the traditionally zero-sum Russian foreign policy based on the complete xenophobic domination of all its neighbors, Russia would currently be in a position to be globally dominant. But since “the vampire” still thinks that natural resources are more potent and powerful economically than the development of human capital, we see the Bear playing 19th-century games in a 21st-century world.
Once again, Russian tyrants seem to be snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. It’d be hilarious if it didn’t involve suffering people by the million.