President Bush may have terribly misjudged former KGB chief and Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two met in 2001 and Bush declared "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul."
Putin ostensibly stepped down as the President of Russia, but he still appears to be the country's leader. President Dmitry Medvedev may be doing the talking about "punishing" Georgia, but many believe that it is Putin still pulling the strings from his position as Prime Minister.
Daniel Henniger frets about the resurgence of Russian militarism and contrasts it with the pro-Western reforms undertaken by Georgia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union on The Wall Street Journal's opinion page.
"The New Russians now in Georgia are shaping a new world with rules based on the old Russian brutalisms. Their political instruments include the eternal silence of murder, routine energy-supply blackmail, and this week a revival of the massed-tank strategies of 1956 and 1968."
Ralph Peters calls Putin a political genius in the New York Post and "the most effective leader in the world today." Not that's necessarily a good thing, even for Russia. Putin's machinations are dissected and Peters wonders at how the Prime Minister managed to dupe the West and leave them politically impotent to oppose him.
And no less than Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili pleads his country's case in The Washington Post, alleging that Putin and Russia cannot be trusted. "For too long, we all underestimated the ruthlessness of the regime in Moscow. Yesterday brought further evidence of its duplicity: Within 24 hours of Russia agreeing to a cease-fire, its forces were rampaging through Gori; blocking the port of Poti; sinking Georgian vessels; and -- worst of all -- brutally purging Georgian villages in South Ossetia, raping women and executing men."
Saakashvili asserts that only Western peacekeepers, not the Russian ones so closely allied with that country's military, can bring the conflict to a close.