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Russia's gains in Georgia may leave it more isolated

In the coming weeks, the West will be shaping a long-term response to what many see as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid to change the post-cold-war world.

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Gauntlet on Georgia: In Moscow on Monday, Russia's lower house of parliament unanimously voted to recognize the independence of Georgia's two rebel territories.

Alexander Natruskin/Reuters

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Russia thirsts to once again be a great power – a lesson the West is learning in Georgia. On Monday, Russia's parliament voted unanimously to recognize the independence of Georgian rebel regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia – the flashpoints of recent fighting. Also, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired a warning shot about another frozen ethnic conflict in Moldova.

In the next few weeks, the West will be closely reading Russia's actions and intentions in the Caucasus, including energy-rich Azerbaijan – and will start to shape a long-term response to what many see as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's bid to change the post-cold-war world, and potentially dominate former Soviet states.

But Moscow should be careful what it asks for. It just might find real downsides to its pursuit of greatness, including deeper isolation from the very world Russia feels has ignored it since the Soviet empire collapsed, say Western diplomats and foreign policy specialists.

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