The lessons of the 2008 Russo-Georgian War

The question of who was to blame for the war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia is still controversial today. The region had long been seeking autonomy, and Moscow didn't like Georgia's attempts to form closer ties with the EU and Nato. Since the five days of fighting the conflict has been frozen. Both the West and Russia should have learned more from the war, journalists say.

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Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

The peaceful period ended back then

The war between Russia and Georgia has taught the West an important lesson, writes Upsala Nya Tidning:

“Medvedev, who was the president of Russia during the Russo-Georgian war, said that it was irresponsible of Nato to offer Georgia membership. For Russia the idea of allowing Georgia to make its own decisions regarding security policy appears to be unthinkable. Through the support of pro-Russian politicians and NGOs, cyber-attacks and other actions the Kremlin is trying to influence the social climate in Georgia. ... Russia is behaving similarly in other parts of Europe. After the Cold War many believed that peace in Europe was a certainty. On 8 August 2008 we had to rethink the situation. The right to self-determination of democratic states must not be taken for granted and must always be defended.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Crimea annexation didn't come out of the blue

The West completely underestimated Russia in 2008, Rzeczpospolita finds:

“Ten years ago Russia showed the West that it sees wars as a legitimate instrument for realising its neo-imperialist policies. But the West didn't want to acknowledge this. The West learned nothing from the war into which the Kremlin dragged the little Caucasian country. And then, in 2014, it looked on in surprise as the Russian's attacked Ukraine - a far larger country that shares borders with EU and Nato member states. This later war the West had to acknowledge.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Conflict between two systems

It wasn't just by accident that South Ossetia became a frozen conflict, the Süddeutsche Zeitung explains:

“The Rose Revolution five years before, the democratisation and clear orientation [of Georgia] towards the West and Nato intensified Moscow's fear of being encircled and above all the fear of be infected by democracy. ... The frozen conflicts in Russia's neighbourhood will not be resolved by an act of will on the part of the political leadership. Rather, it is necessary to allay Russia's fears of encirclement - fear that also seem to be being used to cover up the real motive behind this cold power politics. Russian border is namely also the border between competing political systems. Putin's vertical power and the idea of balancing out power à la EU are not compatible.”

Vedomosti (RU) /

Moscow in a political impasse

From a military point of view Russia won the Five-Day-War but politically it didn't gain anything, Vedomosti concludes:

“The main event of the war was that it rendered the restoration of Georgia's territorial integrity impossible and reinforced the special status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moscow, which recognised the independence of both republics on 26 August 2008, put itself in a difficult situation with this move. Since then it has been impossible for it to participate in resolving the conflict between Georgia and its former autonomous areas without losing face. ... Russia gained little from confirming independence: only a few states followed its example. ... Even its closest allies - Belarus and Kazakhstan - preferred not to recognise independence.”