Lawrence Sheets is Caucasus Project Director of the International Crisis Group. The opinions expressed are his own.
The truce that ended last summer's war between Russia and Georgia may be more or less holding for now, but the structures keeping the peace are crumbling due to Russian pressure and Western acquiescence.
Last August, Moscow and Tbilisi fought a short but vicious war over South Ossetia, a region of less than 50,000 people that Moscow now recognizes as an independent state but which the rest of the world regards as part of Georgia. Intense diplomacy was crucial in ending the fighting, as European Union mediation, under the French Presidency, helped compel Russia to put its pen to a truce agreement.
Unfortunately, practically before the ink was dry on the document, Moscow was blatantly refusing to fulfil the terms of the ceasefire.
Not only has it refused to withdraw several thousand additional troops it sent into South Ossetia as well as Abkhazia -- another region Russia alone recognizes as independent -- it has also flatly refused access to international monitors. And in April, Russia announced it was sending even more troops to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as if to flaunt its noncompliance with the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement of August.