Things are better for Georgia than I would have expected. Truth be told, I was somewhat surprised that Russia didn’t press their advantage and overrun the capital. I would have. They had already forfeited any international goodwill, but there would be no real response from the West in terms of shooting. But for whatever reasons, the Russians held off from invading all of Georgia proper, and while they hoped to topple the government, decided to let that slide.
Now, the EU is doing a surprisingly good job of pushing the Russians back. Since Russia has recognized the independence of South Ossettia and Abkahzia they will balk at leaving them. We’ll see how that goes. I’m just surprised they haven’t kept outposts in Georgia proper.
UPDATE: I tend to agree with MikeD’s analysis below in the comments:
My personal belief is that they stopped at the bridges to Tbilisi because they would have taken much heavier casualties than they were prepared to. Sure they WOULD have taken the city, but they would have paid heavily for it in blood, and Putin would not have wanted the loss of face involved in that. Kicking over an anthill should not cost you a foot. Yeah, you won, but you look stupid now.
Furthermore, holding Tbilisi is great… but the government would have just moved into the southern mountains, and suddenly the Russians are fighting Afghanistan all over again. Plus, at that point, there’s no “peacekeeping” pretense anymore, you’re a conquerer.
Once we had US troops on the ground with “humanitarian aid”, Putin was sunk. He COULD have pushed on at that point, but if he hurt one hair on the chinny-chin-chin of one of our airmen, that’s pretty much an act of war. And contrary to what a lot of folks were saying, Putin’s not really crazy. Evil? Sure. But not crazy.
But the point here is the strategic importance of time. If the Russians had pressed as far and as fast as possible with the intention of deposing the government, I think they could have taken Tiblisi before the Georgian government could evacuate and set up a guerrilla war in the south. But while the Russians were prepped to go into Ossettia and Abkazia, they had no real operational plan past that. It is kind of nice to see that the US isn’t the only ones who have trouble planning past the first push…