Russo-Georgian War begins (August 7, 2008) - History Key

Russo-Georgian War begins (August 7, 2008)

The “frozen” conflict in the early 1990s from Georgia was suddenly got warm on August 7, 2008. What it seemed to be an internal issue, the two separatist movements from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, became a matter of global concern. This “frozen” conflict actually turned into a real regional warfare where the forces that are involved indirectly in the war brought the international attention.

Georgia, Ossetia, Russia and Abkhazia
Georgia, Ossetia, Russia and Abkhazia © user: Ssolbergj/ CC BY-SA 3.0/Image Source: Wikipedia

It was a moment that left a question in the future of Georgia’s economy, but also affected the relations between Russia and the West. Actually, it is believed that it was the biggest crisis between the West and Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Therefore, the war of five days reopens the question regarded to Russia: what is its position on the international scene?

The Calm before the Storm

Georgia’s main priority is the territorial integrity of the state. Also the Euro-Atlantic integration is being promoted, Georgia applying for the Membership Action Plan (MAP), along with Ukraine.

The Russian relations aren’t changed according to Irakli Alasania (Georgia’s Ambassador to the United Nations). As for America, he stated that “the relations between US and Georgia are a model for how a superpower and a small country can be strategic allies.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (not shown) and Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania answer questions from soldiers from a joint U.S. and Georgia force at training center in Tbilisi
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (not shown) and Georgian Minister of Defense Irakli Alasania answer questions from soldiers from a joint U.S. and Georgia force at training center in Tbilisi © Glenn Fawcett/Image Source: Wikipedia

Arms Race

After the failure to recover the two secessionist provinces, President Mikheil Saakashvili says that the chances of getting those two territories back can only be increased by the intervention of the Georgian armed forces capable of fighting the separatists.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi © James Fimley/Image Source: Wikipedia

So, the military funds have increased reaching 8% of its GDP in 2007-2008. Among the acquisitions were over 100 T-72s, 200 lightweight armored vehicles and several attack choppers. Also the state bought several UAVs from Israel for aerial monitoring of the Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Strategic plans or naive dreams?

It was obvious that the balance between the Georgian forces and separatists was inclined towards the Georgian side. Even the Russian “peacekeeping” forces (500 soldiers in South Ossetia and 2,300 in Abkhazia) were outnumbered in case of an attack.

Anyway, the Georgia’s main objective was to attack South Ossetia advancing deeply into the territory of the region. The situation was favorable and the Ossetian authorities didn’t have control over all the areas of the region. Therefore, things should have been simple for Georgia, but they had a “little” problem.

The main problem with the Georgian plan was that it missed the possibility of a Russian intervention. However, Russia was aware of the Georgian plans, but they also missed a detail: the exact date of the start of the operation. Therefore, the political decision to protect South Ossetia was taken in advance.

Unfortunately the shots between Georgian and Ossetian forces intensified and by August things got worse. Russia attacked Georgia and invaded South Ossetia.

Destroyed Georgian tank in Tskhinvali
Destroyed Georgian tank in Tskhinvali © Yana Amelina/Image Source: Wikipedia

Ceasefire doesn’t mean Peace

The change of the situation forces the Georgian authorities to give up and by August 10, 2008 they started to withdraw their troops from South Ossetia. However, one day later the Russians bombed the Georgian town of Gori and conquer it.

Nearly-intact Russian missile booster in the bedroom of a Gori house
Nearly-intact Russian missile booster in the bedroom of a Gori house © U.S. Navy/Lt. Jim Hoeft/Image Source: Wikipedia

The ceasefire was concluded on August 12 after five days of war. Russia recognizes the independence of the two provinces while most of the countries don’t.

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