News

    Lessons Learned from the 2008 War in Georgia

    Multimedia

    Audio

    One year after Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, much of the debate has focused on who was to blame. But regional analysts are asking other questions, too. Specifically, they are talking about what lessons can be learned from the conflict and how those lessons relate to today’s challenges.

    Both Russia and Georgia blame each other for starting the conflict last August. Eurasian expert Paul Goble says both sides are culpable. “The Georgian government acted foolishly, but the Russian government acted criminally.”

    Goble says Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s decision to introduce Georgian troops into South Ossetia provided Russia with an opportunity to intervene. “When he did so, the Russian government of President Dmitri Medvedev used that as a casus belli to introduce Russian troops into Georgian territory in the name of supporting Russian peacekeepers,” said Goble. South Ossetia was recognized as part of Georgia under international law. Thus, Russia’s deployment of troops there, he said, constituted an act of war.

    Despite the facts of the invasion, Goble says Russia’s propaganda machine has done an effective job of convincing many people in Europe and in the United States that President Saakashvili caused the war last August.

    A Russian Perspective

    As might be expected, Russian television has focused on Georgia as the aggressor in the conflict. But as Russian journalist Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center notes, that is not what matters most. 

    “I don’t think it makes sense today to look at who was first to attack,” said Lipman.  “We still have this fog of war veiling what happened a year ago – details provided by both sides – that make it impossible to figure out exactly what happened.”  In the eyes of Russians, however, Lipman said, the defense of Russian citizens in South Ossetia and the safety of peacekeepers there made the Russian incursion an entirely legitimate military and diplomatic move.

    A Georgian Perspective

    In Georgia, what counts now is concentrating on Georgia’s current military, economic, and political challenges. That’s the view of Levan Tsutskiridze, president of the Association for International Relations in Tbilisi. “Today’s security situation is very unstable. Georgia’s capital sits within artillery range of Russian forces,” Tsutskiridze observes.

    Like the rest of the world, Georgia’s economy needs to be recharged. Politically, it now appears the internal political struggle between President Saakashvili and the leaders of Georgia’s opposition has leveled off, and the months of protest in the heart of Tbilisi are over. Tsutskiridze suggests that President Saakashvili is poised to remain in power until the end of his term.

    Lessons for the West

    What lessons can Washington glean from reviewing what happened in Georgia last year? “The United States has to realize that it has to deliver its messages far more clearly and in a single voice than it has up until now,” said Paul Goble. “I do not believe Saakashvili would have done what he did, had he not thought – on the basis of comments by the former U.S. President and the former Secretary of State – that Washington would have no choice but to support him.”

    Goble says, by not being more emphatic, Washington may have inadvertently encouraged the Georgian President to believe that NATO membership was a realistic goal and that the promise of eventual membership implied western protection. It didn’t. Russia was not going to allow NATO bases in another former Soviet republic on its border.

    “The United States and the West Europeans have got to realize that the government in Moscow has not accepted the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991 as the final settlement of the Cold War,” Goble cautions. He calls Russia a “revisionist power” that would like to rewrite history.  In that sense, he says, Moscow constitutes a threat around the whole periphery of the Russian Federation.

    In fact, shortly after the war with Georgia, President Medvedev laid claim to what he called a “privileged sphere of influence” in the region. He said that sphere included not only the states adjacent to Russia’s border but also Russian citizens and commercial interests – wherever they might be. As if to underscore that position, this week Prime Minister Putin visited the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, which Moscow also recognizes as an independent country, pledging to strengthen Russia’s military presence there.

    ------------------------------------

    Goble, Tsutskiridze, and Lipman appeared on the Thursday, 13 August edition of VOA’s International Press Club radio program with host Judith Latham.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora