As the two sides trade accusations of provocation, the Russian military continues to add to its positions in South Ossetia, putting a significant number of troops just 25 miles from the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi.
The growing military presence so close to the nation further adds to the pressure on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has faced weeks of opposition protests calling for his ouster. After enjoying domestic popularity during the brief August war between the two, Saakashvili’s political star crumbled as opposition figures accused him of triggering the conflict, which led to the virtual destruction of the Georgian military and the formal loss of the separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The United States and European Union insist the Russian troop build-up is a violation of the EU-brokered ceasefire which ended the war, though Russia insists that defense agreements signed with the governments of the enclaves supercede the requirements of the ceasefire. Saakashvili has vowed to reclaim the enclaves and Georgia does not recognize the governments of either.
The United States, which has promised to use its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to keep South Ossetia and Abkhazia from being recognized as independent nations. They have supported Georgian membership in NATO, but its accession has been stalled by reservations about its crackdown against opposition groups.