Emerson, Michael. (2008) Post-Mortem on Europe’s First War of the 21st Century. CEPS Policy Brief No. 167, 27 August 2008. [Policy Paper]
The small war between Georgia and Russia from 8 to 22 August 2008 has shattered any remaining illusions over the frontiers of the normative map of Europe. All the primary parties have to be criticised: Russia for setting a trap for Saakashvili to fall into, the Georgian leadership for its astounding military and political blunder in falling into it, and the United States for having failed to restrain its protégé. The first consequence is that Georgia has paid the price of Saakashvili’s folly, with the definitive loss of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The second consequence is triggered by Russia’s continued occupation of strategic points in Georgia-proper, which means not peacekeeping but threatened strangulation of the Georgian economy and its role in the transit of oil and gas from the Caspian to the West. It also means that business as usual has become impossible, as already announced between NATO and Russia, and with more important decisions pending in both the EU and US. The third consequence is that the EU should immediately step up its policies to integrate Ukraine, with real perspectives of membership subject to the standard criteria. The fourth unknown consequence is how far this deteriorating process between Russia and the West will go. Russia may pretend, with its petro-power and wealth, to be immune from any actions by the West, but beyond the short-term it is vulnerable. Whatever these unknowns, already Russia has crossed a red line with its strategic occupation of Georgia-proper, rather than the option just to push Georgia out of South Ossetia. This latter option would have met with widespread understanding internationally. But with its chosen option Russia has placed itself in another category, which is a throwback to earlier times, and totally incompatible with the political and moral principles of modern Europe.
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