October 31, 2010
Russia’s invasion, occupation, and partition of Georgia in August 2008 initially sent shock waves throughout Europe and NATO and appeared to signal a new confrontational phase in Moscow’s relations with the West. This volume places the conflict in the context of Russia’s broader objectives, its internal weaknesses, the limitations of EU and NATO policies, and America’s security priorities.
First, the Georgian conflict underscored Moscow’s determination to reclaim an extensive zone of dominance corresponding with the former Soviet territories. Second, it displayed a shrewd calculation by the Kremlin about the fractured and ineffective Western response, and Moscow continues to test the Obama administration’s rapprochement in pursuing its expansionist ambitions. Third, the 2008 conflict had a lasting impact on the Central-East European and post-Soviet states most exposed to pressures from Moscow. While the former demanded more tangible security guarantees from NATO, the latter either sought accommodation with Russia or intensified their protective strategies. Additionally, beneath the veneer of success, the conduct of the war, the economic recession, escalating separatist sentiments, and faltering attempts by Moscow to make the country more globally competitive revealed Russia’s long-term weaknesses in the midst of its attempted neo-imperial restoration. The study concludes with succinct recommendations on how the transatlantic alliance can more effectively handle Russian ambitions and prepare itself to deter or manage future crises.