Will Russia and Georgia Go At It Again?

Last August, Russia and its neighbour Georgia had a short-lived squabble along their border that did not, by and large, go well for Georgia. The region was fairly uneventful during the winter, but now that warmer weather is upon us, might fighting flare up once more?

A new paper out from the UK Defense Academy, entitled Provocation, Deception, Entrapment: The Russo-Georgian Five Day War (PDF!), suggests that such is a distinct possibility.

Georgia isn’t getting a lot of media coverage in the west, and when they do, it’s mainly about the country’s domestic political unrest. Less noticed is their aggressive territorial stance, as evidenced by the latest seizure of a Russian cargo vessel off their shore – the tenth such seizure this year. There’s no doubt that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili would very much like a successful, victorious rematch with Russia, and sooner rather than later; amid domestic unrest, and ahead of potentially ugly opposition protests, it’s probably fair to say that his job as President depends on such a victory, as the crushing defeat Georgia faced last year seems to be one of the principal causes of domestic dissatisfaction with him and his administration.

Starting a war to distract the populace from domestic troubles is certainly a cynical ploy, but hardly a new one. Given the state of affairs in Georgia, Saakashvili probably doesn’t even need a military victory – a protracted conflict, and anything less than a August 2008-style crushing defeat, are probably enough to be “spun” domestically into a victory, of sorts.

What, if anything, will happen between Russia and Georgia this year is anyone’s guess. What seems clear, though, is that the ball is very much in Georgia’s court…

Published in: General, History | on April 7th, 2009| Comments Off on Will Russia and Georgia Go At It Again?

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