The Ossetian war has entirely transformed the situation in Georgia. In the short term, the six-point agreement negotiated by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and French President Nicholas Sarkozy, and accepted by Tbilisi, forms the basis for the cease-fire. The old peacekeeping formula cannot be revived. For the time being, Russian forces are creating security belts around both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The only neutral presence in the region recognized by all sides can be that of European monitors.

There lies a chance for Europe, and above all, the European Union, to move forward with facilitating conflict resolution. The hardest issue will be that of the final status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It is crystal clear that they will not revert to Georgia. It is also clear that no political leader in Georgia is ready to admit that. A long process of negotiations and agonizing reflection lies ahead, and it will only be completed when borders are finally recognized by all parties, and confirmed by the international community.

At present, European countries are divided in their assessment of the war and Russia’s reaction. Moscow will seek to reach out to those which, like France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, take a more moderate line, and hopes to work with them on a broad security agenda for the continent. Beyond conflict resolution in Georgia, it includes such issues as the Ukrainian leadership’s bid to join NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the U.S. plans to deploy elements of the ballistic missile defense system in Central Europe. With the Georgian conflict finally erupted, the two issues are looming even more prominently on the horizon.

Russia’s relations with the United States have been deteriorating. Moscow blames Washington for having trained and equipped the Georgian military that has been responsible for killing about two thousand Russian citizens in the nighttime shelling of the South Ossetian capital. That, they point out, amounts to half the casualties the United States suffered on 9/11.

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