While a few foreign policy watchers were sounding the alarm about the Caucasus months in advance, Russia's invasion of Georgia sent most of the public and the commentariat running to their world maps. To avoid a repeat, we should probably keep an eye on the next likely flashpoint: Ukraine. The IHT has an update on developments there, which turn on the status of Russia's naval base in Crimea:
Ukraine, bigger than France and traditionally seen by Russians as integral to their heritage and dominion, has been conspicuously quiet over the past week. President Viktor Yushchenko flew to Tbilisi with the presidents of the three Baltic states and Poland to show support. But he later failed to join them at the side of President Mikheil Saakashvili. Both Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko have been measured. "They are very concerned about the Crimea and the energy situation ahead of the winter," said a spokesman who requested anonymity.
In the case of Crimea, Yushchenko signed a decree that would impose further controls over access to the port of Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is based. Russia has insisted it would keep the fleet there despite a 1997 agreement between Moscow and Kiev to end the lease in 2017.
Senior Ukrainian officials say that the weak EU response on Georgia will only embolden Russia to focus even more on Ukraine, where many inhabitants speak Russian and, particularly in the eastern half, look to Moscow, not Kiev, for leadership.