Renewed hope for Russia's ties with West
Indeed, Mr. Medvedev's order appears to be a concession to demands from Western leaders, including a tough statement by President Bush. That has lifted hopes that Russia and the West may be able to salvage their deeply strained relationship, contrary to concerns in the past week about an imminent second cold war.
"Russia responded to Western appeals, so I think this shows that cooperation between Moscow and the West is alive and well," says Alexei Mukhin, director of the independent Center for Political Information in Moscow. "Maybe Russia went a little bit further than expected in bombing Georgian infrastructure, but that's over with now."
Georgian officials disputed that, however, saying that Russian forces were still shelling villages near South Ossetia, and there were reports of Russian planes bombing sites within Georgia proper, including Gori. An official of Georgia's other breakaway statelet, Abkhazia, said its Army would continue its offensive against Georgia in the disputed Kodori Gorge regardless of Medvedev's decision.
"We aim to eliminate the Georgian threat," said Maxim Gujia, Abkhazia's deputy foreign minister, reached by telephone in Sukhumi. "This is our operation, and it is not affected by Medvedev's words."
Few Russians appeared in any mood to criticize their government for what seemed an efficient operation that brought big geopolitical rewards.