Vladimir Putin came to power, the sadness of the wounds humiliated Russia, this week presented evidence of its revival. Until now, the West can not contain offensive into Georgia Putin. Putin makes decisions that could result in redrawing the map of the Caucasus for the sake of Russia - or the destruction of relations with the Western powers in the face of Russia which once wanted to find strategic partners.
If anyone had doubts, and then the last week confirmed that Russia controls Putin this spring after eight years in office made by the Prime Minister, not his successor, President Dmitry Medvedev. And Putin has finally found a means of harassment, which was subjected to Russia after the Soviet collapse.
'In a sense, Georgia is answerable for what happened to Russia in the past 20 years & quot ;, - said Alexander Rahr, a leading German scholar of international relations and author of a biography of Putin.
In a situation where in Georgia on two fronts are Russian troops, made a lot of assumptions about the true intentions of Putin. The choice is wide in front of him.
Russia may be content with the annexation of enclaves - Abkhazia and South Ossetia; actually, Russian forces have largely achieved this. Kremlin leadership also mentioned that to give Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili a tribunal as a war criminal, saying last week that it strikes on civilians in Tskhinvali.
Further onslaught could permanently cripple the Georgian armed forces. The most extreme scenario - the occupation of Georgia, a country with 4, 4 million people, which for many centuries nourishes distrust of Russia. It is for the territory of Georgia for a long time the Western powers are planning to build an important oil pipeline.
But while the West seems that Russia is aggressive, Putin believes that Russia were pressing her to take the ring, says Sergei Markov, director of Moscow's Institute of Political Studies, closely associated with the Kremlin administration.
"Russia is in an extremely dangerous situation" - it is in the grip between the obligation to protect Russian citizens and the risk of escalation of events in the "new cold war" with the United States, said Dr. Mark.
'Washington (US) administration is playing an extremely dirty game, - he said. - They will depict Putin as an occupier even if Putin is sitting idly & quot ;.
Putin and guides his will aggressively insist that Russia is not going to occupy Georgia and seeks only to protect its citizens.
In recent days, Putin has appeared on television wearing a shirt with the sleeves rolled up - the TV shows how he communicates with refugees on the border with South Ossetia; a real man of action.
On the contrary, Medvedev shown sitting at his desk in Moscow and gave the ceremonial order of the Minister of Defense.
"It is a game that is designed by Putin," - said the new president Rahr, a member of the German Council on Foreign Relations.
Yulia Latynina, a frequent critic of the Putin government, spitefully noticed that on the eve of the conflict in Georgia, when President Bush and Putin talked enthusiastically with each other at the opening of the Beijing Olympics, Medvedev made a cruise on the Volga River.
"Now he can swim the Volga remaining four years. Or go directly to the Bahamas - she wrote on the Russian website "Daily Journal". - I must admit that the first time I felt admiration for the skill with which Vladimir Putin is able to hold on to power ».
In 2000, Putin was elected president of a shaken, uncertain future of the country. Sale of state-owned enterprises to private investors led to a huge capital flight. The economy was in ruins. But the bitterest pill was the expansion of NATO into the former Russian sphere of influence.
Nothing underscored this humiliation as bright as Kosovo, where NATO helped ethnic Albanians to achieve independence from Serbia. Serbia - one of the closest allies of Russia, and 78-day US bombing campaign under the leadership of the United States in 1999, it seems to be finally brought to the consciousness of the idea that the former great power is now powerless.
Putin was determined to change that. First he regained state control over Russian companies extracting minerals, entrusting management companies such as Yukos to his faithful supporters and punishing oligarchs who challenged his authority.
Thus Putin has transformed Russia into a "petro", basking in the profits from the sale of oil and natural gas. Then he bluntly signaled neighbors, supplying cheap energy can not only develop, but also to block. Two years ago, after the so-called "orange revolution" swept into power in Ukraine, leaders, relating friendly to the West, Russia briefly shut the gas valve of this country and in Europe, a wave of anxiety.
Now, thanks to the rapid progress of Russia in Georgia, Putin approved the power of Russia as a military power. On Monday Russian troops entered Senaki in the west of Georgia and Moscow for the first time admitted that its troops crossed into Georgian territory.
"I would say that we have a situation where the Russian side came to the verge of what is permitted & quot ;, - said Dmitry Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Describing Putin, people often upotreblinyut word "ice". After a shaky presidency of Boris Yeltsin, Putin has positioned himself as a man scrupulously controls all his impulses. He does not drink alcohol, do without lunch if than himself and indulges, only judo.
At the beginning of his term, he has fascinated Western counterparts, giving the impression of a cosmopolitan and eloquent leader. But some topics are always forced him to turn to other party.
As a tough guy - the prime minister under Yeltsin - he created a furore threatened Chechen rebels in the language of the urban poor: "If you catch in the toilet, we soak them in the toilet».
In 2002, when a French journalist chided Russia for the killing of innocent civilians in Chechnya, Putin said that just because a journalist sympathetic to the Muslims, he can arrange a circumcision. "I recommend to do the surgery so that you do not have increased", - he said.
Overture to the events in Georgia demonstrated that Putin is acting at the same time carefully, and rude. In the spring, when Western nations vying acknowledged only that the declaration of independence of Kosovo, Putin responded officially recognized the two breakaway enclaves in Georgia.
Over the last decade, the Russian government has issued passports to virtually all residents of South Ossetia. This step was the justification for the invasion of outside Georgia. Last year, Russia imposed a unilateral moratorium on compliance with the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which, in particular, demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and Moldova.
But emotions ran high, sometimes unpredictably. Special dislike Putin has for Saakashvili.
In April, when Putin decided to establish official ties with the governments of the breakaway regions, the Georgian president called him and said that Western leaders have issued statements in support of the Georgian position. Putin responded in a very rude manner told him where to shove these statements.
'Saakashvili, he is disgusted with what appears to be, it overpowers all that tell him the other & quot ;, - said a senior US official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Perhaps decipher the meaning of the signals sent by Putin last week, will manage at once, but one thing is clear: Russia insists that it was considered a great power. "The problem is that for a great power is generated, - says Trenin. - Will this be a great power, who lives by the rules established in the world of the XXI century? ».
Used materials CJ. Chivers
New York Times