Ethnic Russians in the Caucasus may have cheered as the Kremlin sent its tanks into South Ossetia, but the impact of the invasion will be felt far beyond the borders of that troubled region. Even as it sent the ruble into a tailspin, slashed nearly 40% off the value of Russian equities and savaged the country's international image, Russia's adventurism brought its leaders something they cherish even more than the boost in local popularity: It brought vastly increased political power. The Putin-Medvedev strategy of military action or threats of it in reasserting Russian influence over its "near abroad" provides a chilling reminder to Western European leaders that Russia has the power to cut off a significant chunk of their energy supplies.
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