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The Morning's Can't-miss Georgia Reading

Two stories from the New York Times (whose reportage of this conflict--at times I think they've had seven or eight journalists on the ground there--has lived up to the promise of the paper's motto): Sabrina Tavernise's evocative portrayal of the mood of the Russian soldiers moving through Georgia (one long-serving officer: "We got some of our old strength back. People started to respect us again"), and Andrew Kramer's reconstruction of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's mediation efforts in Tblisi, grimly titled "A French-Brokered Peace Offers Russia a Rationale to Advance": 

It was nearly 2 a.m. on Wednesday when President Nicolas Sarkozy of France announced he had accomplished what seemed virtually impossible: Persuading the leaders of Georgia and Russia to agree to a set of principles that would stop the war. Handshakes and congratulations were offered all around. But by the time the sun was up, Russian tanks were advancing again, this time taking positions around the strategically important city of Gori, in central Georgia.

The vague language of the fifth point [of the cease-fire] allows Russian peacekeepers to “implement additional security measures” while awaiting an international monitoring mechanism. The Georgians asked that a timeline be included in the language for these loosely defined Russian peacekeeping operations, but the Georgian official said Mr. Sarkozy’s response was that without an agreement, a Russian tank assault on the capital could ensue: “He was saying it’s a difficult situation." ...

Mr. Sarkozy then tried to call Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president, to amend the point with a timeline. The adviser, who was present, said the Russians did not take the call for two hours. When the French president got through, the proposal was rejected.

I see in that in the online edition, "A French-Brokered Peace" has been changed to the less-incriminatory "Peace Plan." After complaints from the French, perhaps? The whole tale really doesn't make Sarkozy look too good, does it? He looks like a hyperactive limelight-hog who hurtled into an agreement that not only failed to cease the fire, but that actually ratified further Russian incursions.

--Eve Fairbanks