Eight years ago, on 8 August 2008, the armed conflict began between in South Ossetia between Georgia and a coalition of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Russia.
This conflict resulted in the defeat of Georgian troops, while Georgia itself lost control over all of the territories that had declared independence.
In Ukraine today parallels are often drawn between the 2008 war in Georgia and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine which began in 2014. Europe Insight asked several Ukrainian experts to discuss the similarities and differences between the two wars.
Mykhailo Samus, Deputy Director, Center for Army, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies
All conflicts occurring in the post-Soviet space and inspired by Russia have a great many things in common. In essence, all of these conflicts have been artificially incited for the purpose of creating territories controlled by the Russian Federation within the former Soviet republics so that they can exercise control over the situation there.
In both Georgia and Ukraine, just as in the Trans-Dniester Republic, these new political entities have been created which can be used to influence both the domestic situation and the foreign relations of these countries. We are seeing this quite clearly now.
Georgia, for example, despite applying to join NATO, has little chance of becoming a member of the organization solely because it includes occupied territory. The same can be said of Ukraine. Its chances of entry have decreased substantially because a country at war can hardly be accepted into NATO, as the organization will bear responsibility for its defence. And this is hardly likely, given the foreign policy tendencies of Germany, France, or Italy.
As concerns methods specifically, tactically, certain parallels seem quite interesting. That operation was conducted during the “Caucasus 2008” military exercises, and now Russia is preparing for “Caucasus 2016.” And the troop movements and manoeuvres in Crimea are being initiated against the backdrop of those exercises. The same is happening in the Donetsk theatre.
As concerns hybrid operations, we are now seeing the development of economic aspects, information aspects, and a “fifth column” is being mobilised, along with the activities of intelligence agencies, and attempts to affect people’s mentality – every tool possible to weaken the enemy from within.
Oleksandr Musienko, Director, Center for Military and Legal Research
The main feature in common is obviously the course toward assimilation with the European Union and the North Atlantic alliance that was set by both Georgia and Ukraine. The differences are that, in the case of Ukraine, the ethnic aspect of the conflict is not as clearly pronounced. By this, I mean between the Abkhazians and the Georgians.
Oleksiy Melnyk, Co-Director of Foreign Relations and Security Programmes, Razumkov Centre
The conflicts have much in common. In particular, the global goals pursued by Russia: retaining the post-Soviet countries in its sphere of influence. It also involves the methods used – the creation of frozen conflicts within these countries that can primarily be resolved only by the Kremlin.
There are similar features of how the conflicts were provoked. This does not mean the simple repetition of a template used in Georgia. But the set of tools used is from the same basic toolbox.
With regard to the differences, clearly after eight years we can note the difference in the international reaction. I would not say that the West has entirely learned its lesson from that war in Georgia. Furthermore, if the West had taken different actions at the time, even the same as those taken after the start of the Ukraine conflict, then it is possible that the events in Ukraine would not have taken place.