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U.S. limited in Georgia crisis

American effort to spread democracy wanes in post-Iraq era.

In Moscow: President Dmitry Medvedev (r.) of Russia met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy Aug. 12 to discuss fighting in Georgia.

Misha Japaridze/AP

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Russia's blitz into the former Soviet republic of Georgia has exposed starkly the limits of US military power and geopolitical influence in the era following the invasion of Iraq.

Georgia is one of the closest US allies in Eastern Europe. President Mikheil Saakashvili has visited the White House three times in the last four years. Yet this warm relationship did not stop the Kremlin from unleashing a ferocious military response after Georgian troops entered the separatist province of South Ossetia.

US efforts to expand Western influence and spread democracy along Russia's borders may now be threatened. US relations with Russia itself, at the least, are in flux.

"This gets at the stability of the framework the US thought was going to govern the post-cold-war world," says Stephen Sestanovich, senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Russian leaders on Tuesday said they had ordered a halt to military action in Georgia. The move followed five days of air and land attacks that had routed Georgia's Army and sent Russian troops deep into Georgian territory.


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