In light of Russian President Medvedev's order to halt combat operations and an apparent ceasefire agreement settling into place, the combat phase of Russias interventionist adventure in Georgia appears to be coming to an end. While the fog of war still lingers over Georgia, a few things are becoming crystal clear. -With Russia's emasculation of the Georgian military, look for Russian forces to retrench in the separatist South Ossetian and Abkhazian regions and consolidate their territorial gains. They have de facto successfully dismembered Georgia and demonstrated their willingness to use force to whip their former republics back into line in the process. In the aftermath, they will retain significant forces in the separatist regions as "peacekeepers" to insure the protection of the locals from Georgian retribution. However, under the watchful eye of the Bear, be prepared for reports of ethnic cleansing perpetrated by those the Russian military are protecting from retribution. Don't look for Russian forces to withdraw or give up territory any time soon; if ever. In the process, Georgia will effectively loose control over roughly a fifth to of its territory. -Not only has Prime Minister Vladimir Putin clearly demonstrated it is his hand that fills the iron gauntlet of Russian state power, but he also has nothing but disdain for the West and what he perceives as its weak and petulant leaders. In particular, Putin is contemptuous of what he believes to be Bush's naïveté after the whole "I looked into his soul" comment. Bush made the mistake of believing his personal relationship would lay the foundation for a pro-western resolution when conflicts arose between Russia and the West. Putin, on the other hand, to paraphrase the Godfather, believes nothing is personal; everything is business. -If you follow Russian behavior under Putin, they have a tendency to push the boundaries up to the tipping or flaring point and then backtrack about half way; retaining a significant advantage or objective in the end. Two steps forward, one step back. And lest anyone think otherwise, Putin is a master at identifying and taking full advantage of moments of critical opportunity. Dzerzhinsky and Andropov smile proudly from their spots in the Kremlin wall. -Effectively crushing the Georgian military in short order, the Kremlin believes it has reestablished its military credibility and respect. In doing so, there is the belief that they have exorcised the ghosts of their humiliations in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Putin went hunting for Russian glory in Georgia and walks away with a significant political trophy to display domestically. The fact that it came at the expense of a fledgling ally of the United States makes the victory even sweeter. Add to this that many Russians feel the US and the West took advantage of her in the 90's and treated her like a drunken whore and you've got some powerful emotional and psychological undercurrents at play here. Even beyond the issue of respect, at the end of the day the Russians would rather be feared than anything else by their neighbors and the international community. Fear equals respect in the Russian strategic lexicon. -Russian President Dmitry Medvedev plays the role of good cop to Putins bad cop and it is nothing more than that; a role. Medvedev has no power beyond his ceremonial and purely symbolic title. Putin will use him to distract the West while he rules Russia with an iron fist and works tirelessly to resurrect the Russian empire and restore the Rodina to its rightful position on the world stage. -French President Nicolas Sarkozy is increasingly stepping to the forefront of Western leadership and dragging France back onto the world stage with him. His mission to Moscow to negotiate a ceasefire with Medvedev though meeting with the face and not the power of the Russian state is an example of an increasingly confident France moving forward to engage in active burden sharing in the Western alliance. While the French have long thought of themselves as the height of Western culture, they have played no significant role in its political leadership since the end of World War II; until now. Sarkozy is quickly moving to take Tony Blairs position as Americas most ardent ally. He fully acknowledges and respects the debt the West owes America for its leadership during World War II and in the post-War world. Similarly, he realizes that the French and Europe must step forward and do their fair share to make the trans-Atlantic alliance a true partnership. -Though some dismiss the episode and believe the end result is a return to the pre-invasion status quo, Georgian villages have been ravaged and burnt, the military mauled and its capital and major airport bombed. Furthermore, where there was once concern and unease about the intentions and willingness of the Bear to exercise force among its former republics, there is now very real and justified fear. As the Reagan commercial of 1984 so astutely pointed out, there is a Bear in the woods, faithful readers. And clearly it is again on the prowl. Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the Bear looks about to expand its territory.