Why did Russia invade Georgia?

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Response Paper 1 POLI 244 Why did Russia invade Georgia?

In August 2008, Russia and Georgia went to a brief war over the control of South Ossetia. It was Russia’s first war against another state since the collapse of the Soviet regime. Russia and Georgia have a history of conflict. During the breakup of the Soviet Union, the question of control over the region of South Ossetia was never resolved to all parties’ satisfaction. The South Ossetians were part of a different ethnic group than the Georgians, so they did not want to be part of the same country. This led to a similar war in 1991, which resulted in an uneasy peace in the region. From this peace treaty, South Ossetia and Abkhazia each became semiautonomous republics that still remained under Georgian control. The situation remained calm until Mikhail Saakashvili came into power. Saakashvili was pro-Western and wanted to join NATO. He increased military spending and tried to regain control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The situation deteriorated from there. Even though the Cold War ended, USA supported Turkey, as a counterbalance to Russia’s influence in the South Caucasus but then, due to rapidly growing ties between Ankara and Moscow, the USA stepped in to act as an offshore balancer via NATO expansion. This paper claims that Russia’s response to Georgia’s military operation in South Ossetia was not spontaneous, but a well- calculated step to re-establish its hegemony in the South Caucasus. Russia has historically been motivated by the need to protect itself from attack, by establishing buffer zones from surrounding small states, given the vulnerabilities of its geostrategic position. “…the international system is anarchic...the system comprises independent states that have no central authority above them.” (Mearsheimer 31). Applying this to the context of the Five-Day War, Russia felt vulnerable because its former Cold-War adversary, NATO, was expanding ever closer to Russia’s borders. Despite a 1988 promise not to expand further east than Germany, NATO had, by 2008, expanded as far east as Romania, and talks were underway to include Georgia into the alliance. Due to NATO’s broken promise, Russia’s security felt threatened. War with Georgia, a much less powerful state, was a good strategy to show the US that Russia would not let the threat of invasion linger. “…no state can be sure that another state will not use its offensive military capability to attack the first state.” (Mearsheimer 32) Russia’s uncertainty about USA’s further actions, led to the harsh consequences of starting a war with Georgia. USA as a great hegemonic power poses underlying threats to Russia due to Russia’s great desire to gain power and re-establish the once hegemon status it had as Soviet Union. NATO’s advancement throughout Eastern Europe made the Russian Government question why would the West bridge on Russia’s “space of privileged interest”, if only for the US’s personal benefit at the expense of Russia’s security. Obviously to Russia feared that if Georgia would gain more power with the help of the Western states, USA would become stronger in the East, which will undermine Russia’s role as a great power of that region. Survival is the main goal of any great power in the international system, but that doesn’t mean that states pursue only a direct, militaristic gain of power. Non-security aspects such as economic wealth and prosperity are useful in underlining the country’s importance in relation to others, as Mearsheimer writes “…great powers invariably seek greater economic...
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