Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

CASE STUDY—THE AUGUST 2008 WAR BETWEEN RUSSIAN & GEORGIA

and strutting the international stage, would be a nightmare for

Moscow and could well encourage others to follow.

In retrospect, the relevant question is not who started the war,

but why it was not adequately foreseen and made subject to

more concerted efforts of preventative diplomacy. Conflicts in

the Caucasus have always seemed inevitable, and history teaches

that once launched, they spiral out of control, if not checked.

The responsibility rests not only with the two protagonists but

equally with the international community for its failure to see

the storm clouds gathering over the Caucasus, to read properly

the signals emanating from Moscow and Tbilisi, and to act accordingly.

One year later, Russia pauses to assess the cost of its

next move. The United States, which has reluctantly had to

recognise limits to its power, proposes to recalibrate relations

with Russia and policy towards Georgia and Ukraine. As already

mentioned, the EU has as a consequence been handed a key

role and challenge to craft a united strategy towards the region.

Can the EU, which is largely dysfunctional in regard to Russia,

rise to the occasion? Georgia will find it difficult to come to terms

with the reality that the separatist regions are irretrievably lost

for the foreseeable future, that it is inevitable some accommodation

has to be reached as quickly as possible with Russia, and

above all, that it will only be after regional and political stability

has been restored that the Georgian economy can hope to return

to its past short-lived success.

Denouement

The immediate challenge for the United States and Europe

is to find a strategy to engage with Russia on the major global

issues while at the same time providing adequate security for

the newly independent states, particularly Georgia and Ukraine.

The objective should be the training of troops not solely to fight

wars in Iraq or Afghanistan but to defend their own countries.

One lesson of the August 2008 war was that the United States’

highly trained Georgian troops did not have the capacity to

counter a traditional old-style 1940s invasion. In its aggressive

behaviour towards the near abroad, Russia has made a

major miscalculation in believing that fear and distrust can provide

a basis for good relations in the modern world. At the be-

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