IT IS now close to a month since the reckless Georgian effort to retake breakaway South Ossetia by force sparked off what Russia is now calling its August war. There is no new iron curtain descending across Europe, no ideologically based “new cold war”; but there is a deep, wounding division that stretches far beyond wrecked Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Ordinary Russians will bear the cost. Russia’s stockmarket has taken a knock and the costs of doing business there have shot up. Russian companies seeking to invest or list abroad ought now to face the closer scrutiny of their finances that earlier dodgy ones didn’t, but should have. And Mr Medvedev’s supposed plans for reform and strengthening the rule of law are in about the same shape as Georgia’s beaten army.But what Russia may come to regret losing most is something Mr Putin longs for: the opportunity to become an accepted European power. He likes to skip over communism’s mistakes and dwell on Russia’s tsarist grandeur. But what did for both was imperial overstretch, a rotten economy and, like Russia’s today, a mostly unaccountable ruling caste that led a proud country to disaster.