The Russian parliament is set to gather on Monday to decide whether to officially recognise the breakaway Georgian states, which risks deepening an already serious diplomatic crisis between Russia and the west – perhaps the worst since the fall of the Soviet Union.
On Tuesday, Nato suspended formal contacts with Russia, pending the withdrawal of troops from Georgian territory. It was a move that Moscow reciprocated today, recalling its permanent envoy in Brussels, and publically stating that it was “reviewing” its relationship with the western military bloc.
Russia still has military checkpoints set up deep in Georgian territory, despite pledging to pull all forces out of Georgian territory in a ceasefire signed at the weekend. Russian President Dimitri Medvedev said earlier this week that all Russian troops would be out of Georgia by Friday, but that he would be keeping forces in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
“Between Russian military and political leaders, there are differences in approach,” analyst Boris Kagarlitsky told RFI. “It is very clear that Medvedev and his team in the Kremlin, they would want this whole thing to be over as soon as possible… the longer they stay in Georgia, the less they actually get politically out of this crisis.”
But the military don’t share this desire to hurry the withdrawal, Kagarlitsky said from Moscow. The Russian military, “are now very much in control and they think that they will be able to decide when, how and which way the troops are going to be pulled out.”
“Sooner or later the political pressure from the Kremlin will affect the behavior of the military and they will start pulling troops out,” he said.
The incursion into Georgia remains very popular in Russia, Kagarlitsky said. Popular sentiment is that “given the situation in Southern Ossetia, Russian troops had to react.”
“Many people now criticize the government for reacting too late,” he added.
Russia was reacting to a recent trend amongst its neighbours to ally themselves with Nato and the West, Kagarlitsky said, and they’ve shown that the US won’t always defend its allies like Georgia to whom they’ve publically pledged their support.
“America’s client state failed, and the United States didn’t do anything to support their client state.”