Georgian Perspective of The August 2008 War

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, 15 new states had emerged and started settling themselves on the global arena, changing the geopolitical condition of the world. Nevertheless, for some post-Soviet little states, it was difficult to discard the Russian shadow in the domestic as well as the foreign policy. Georgia, a neighbor state of the “Russian bear”, had been struggling to gain sovereignty and function independently. However, when the leader of the Rose Revolution, Mikheil Saakashvili, took rule of the country in 2004, a new era in the Georgian history started, shifting the country’s orientation to the West. Driven by a will to have stronger allies, the Western course of Georgia evolved to a motivation to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO. Consequently, the ties between Georgia and Russia had crumbled, causing a discontent of the big neighbor, which, later, turned into a war, known as the August War.

Main Reason of the Georgian-Russian Conflict

It was clear that the future aspirations of the Western educated, Mikheil Saakashvili, were not connected with Russia. Instead, he believed that it was vital for the future of Georgia to secure an alliance with the European Union and the United States, which, consequently, engendered a big dissatisfaction to Russia. The geographic location of Georgia, however, had been a misfortune, as it could not allow the country to stay, by far, away from the Russian interference, particularly, in the Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Despite the fact that Mikheil Saakashvili’s pro-Western attitude and his attempts to find new allies in the West, had been strongly condemned by Russia, Georgia proceeded with its efforts to become part of the western alliances. Bucharest Summit 2008 was a historical breakthrough for the growing little state, since its efforts were crowned with a declaration of Georgia to become a member of the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). Nevertheless, this happiest moment turned into a reason of the Five Days war with Russia, which showed its resentment at the NATO enlargement by giving more support to Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders.

Since the Bucharest Summit declaration, series of provocations had been taking place. First by denouncing the territorial integrity of Georgia, then increasing the number of peacekeeping troops; Furthermore, some aerial attacks have been carried out in the breakaway regions. These attacks were explained by the so-called protection of the Russian citizens Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Georgian government was trying to avoid Russian provocations and retain peace and the stability of the region. Not dissimilar to the Georgian position, the international community addressed both sides, to avoid violence, calling for an end to provocations and negotiations for peaceful solutions. However, these attempts failed and the conflict evolved into a war.

Perspectives of the War

There are various polemics, debates and researches about the August war. Ronald D. Asmus and his book “A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West” (. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) claimed that the conflict had been a message to the United States: that Russia will not give up on Georgia simply. The book of Gearóid Ó Tuathail “Near Abroad: Russia, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) underlines the unresolved territorial disputes between Georgia and Ukraine from one side, and Russia from the other; rhetoric about the geopolitical struggles between these countries; And, Russia’s expressions about NATO enlargement in its Near Abroad. There are different perspectives about the outbreak of the Five Days war. For instance, for Ossetians, the conflict was a genocidal campaign implemented by Georgia. For Russia, the August War was defensive approach, in order to protect Russian citizens in the South Ossetia. However, for Georgia, this war was nothing but an intervention of Russia into a neighbor country, driven by the will to keep its circle of influence.

The Georgian perspective, according to newspaper narratives and the speeches of the Georgian government leaders, perceived the August war as an aggressive military intervention that had been planned for longer than it lasted. Russia itself was perceived as an aggressor, occupier country with its outrageous barbarian actions on the Georgian territory. In their interviews about the Russian intervention, Georgian government leaders, claimed unanimously that it was a military vandalism aiming to slow down Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia and if possible, to stop it once for all.

The Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili personally blamed Putin for the brutal attacks, which targeted occupying Georgia and ending its statehood. It was hard for Georgian leaders to get the world’s attention, especially, since Beijing Olympic games, were meanwhile taking place. President Saakashvili’s speeches and televised broadcasting aimed to spread the voice of the country into the world, representing Georgia as a state that was in danger. Knowing Russia’s old Soviet tactics with the pretext of defense, Saakashvili tried to show the real face of this war to the rest of the world.

In the present day, the Georgian nation still recognizes Russia as an aggressive country, which occupies 20 % of its territory.

About the Author

Salome Tsikarishvili, is an intern at the Institute of International Relations Prague. She studies Master in International Relations at Sakarya University, Turkey.