Russia is not frightened of another Cold War. That is the word from its President Dmitry Medvedev, who is standing firm on his decision to recognise the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions.
What is more, he says he will defend them against any future attacks.
“The ball is in the Europeans’ court,” Medvedev said in an interview on French television. “If they want a worsening of relations, they will get it. But if they want to maintain strategic relations, which is absolutely in the interests of Russia and Europe, then in my view, everything will be fine.”
Moscow’s decision was greeted with an explosion of joy in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The governments of the two regions have assured Russia of their military cooperation, providing Moscow with a de-facto buffer zone against Georgia and NATO territory, if they keep their promise.
It is a vision of the future sending political chills through Tbilisi. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has made no secret of his desire to join NATO and the European Union.
Recent events have made that option all the more attractive, promising Tbilisi some leverage against its former Soviet overlord.
There is also concern about the fate of Georgians who fled South Ossetia as Russian tanks moved in. It is feared that now the Kremlin has recognised the independence of the breakaway republics, the refugees will never be able to return home.