It’s been five years this week since Putin’s Russia invaded Georgia. And if the lack of references to that anniversary in the major news and media outlets is any indication, then this is indeed the forgotten war.
Actually, a more accurate statement is that it’s the forgotten war in Washington and the major capitals of Europe. Almost certainly, it is far from forgotten in Moscow, Kiev, the capitals of Eastern Europe and, of course, Tbilisi.
Some things are forgotten because they are not important. But some things are “forgotten” because we would rather not remember them. The Russian-Georgian war undoubtedly falls into the latter category.
From the very start of the Rose Revolution in November 2003, Georgia’s new leaders were determined to put Georgia on a path of integration with the democratic West, including membership in NATO and the European Union. In turn, the EU and NATO teased Tbilisi with those prospects, allowing talks to go forward, but never conclude, while at the same time accepting Georgia’s military help in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Having consolidated power in Russia, Putin was determined to put an end to Georgia’s “provocations” and show the West just how powerful he was and, in turn, how weak in fact NATO and the EU were. And with less than a week’s worth of war, he proved his point. There was no effort on the part the Bush administration or Brussels to assist Georgia materially and there was no threat made by the West to punish Putin for his decision to invade and occupy parts of Georgia.
There is probably no direct connection between Moscow’s decision to give Edward Snowden asylum and the Russian victory over Georgia in August 2008, but it can’t help be the case that, if Putin could get away with murder then, he’s hardly worried about the repercussions of giving an American traitor a home now.