REALPOLITIK AND THE RUSSIA-GEORGIA WAR: THREE YEARS ON

Ryan DESSEYN, Lasha TCHANTOURIDZÉ


Ryan Desseyn, Member of the Advisory Group, Master of Arts in Diplomacy Program, Norwich University (Northfield, U.S.)

Lasha Tchantouridse, Ph.D.(Political Science), Director and Associate Professor, Master of Arts in Diplomacy School of Graduate and Continuing Studies, Norwich University (Northfield, U.S.)


Introduction

In November 2011, in a dramatic departure from the original claims of the Russian troops rescuing the inhabitants of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Tbilisis genocidal actions, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged the real reason behind the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008. Speaking on 21 November, 2011 at the headquarters of Russias 58th army of its Southern Military District located in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, Medvedev noted: If we had faltered in [August] 2008, geopolitical arrangement would be different now and number of countries in respect of which attempts were made to artificially drag them into the North Atlantic Alliance, would have probably been there [in NATO] now.

This was no slip-up, as Medvedev continued to push this line later on the same day. When interviewed in Rostov on the same day, he further confirmed: Today I already spoke with the army officers and I will tell it to you too that it was of course a very difficult page in our recent history, but, unfortunately, it was absolutely necessary [decision]. And the fact that Russias actions at the time were so tough has eventually secured a situation for us, which, despite of all the difficulties, is now quieter than it was

We have simply calmed some of our neighbors down by showing them that they should behave correctly in respect of Russia and in respect of neighboring small states. And for some of our partners, including for the North Atlantic Alliance, it was a signal that before taking a decision about expansion of the Alliance, one should at first think about the geopolitical stability. I deem these [issues] to be the major lessons of those developments in 2008.

Medvedevs acknowledgment validated what most Russia-watchers in the West suspected, but few cared to admit: Russias war against Georgia was motivated by the age-old realpolitik considerations, and not humanitarian sentiments toward some obscure mountainous peoples. The Russians had apparently decided to stop NATO enlargement by force, and according to Medvedev, the outgoing Russian president, that achievement was a highlight of his presidency. Western allies could respond with nothing of substance, and quietly allowed Moscow to dismember Georgia, the most outspoken pro-American and pro-Western state. This was not the first time when policies of appeasement were offered to an aggressive expansionist state, but it was definitely new for the post-Cold War era.

After the fall of the so-called Evil Empire, most political scientists counted on a peace dividend, whereby standing down from permanent high alert would save on defense costs. However, the outbreak of


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