The Russian-Georgian War

This statement was issued 8/18/08 by the Heritage Foundation
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D.
Senior Research Fellow,

Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security,

Douglas and Sarah Allison

Center for Foreign Policy Studies

The Russian-Georgian War

As the Olympic Games opened, the tragic and ominous conflict between Georgia and Russia erupted as well. On Thursday of last week, South Ossetian separatists, supported by Moscow, escalated their machine gun and mortar fire attacks against neighboring Georgian villages. On August 7 and 8, Georgia attacked the separatist capital Tskhinvali with artillery to suppress fire. Tskhinvali suffered severe damage, thus providing the pretext for Moscow's long-planned invasion of Georgia.

Russia's goals for the war with Georgia are far-reaching and include the termination of Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; "regime change" by bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; preventing Georgia from joining NATO and sending a strong message to Ukraine that its insistence on NATO membership may lead to war and/or its dismemberment; shifting control of the Caucasus, and especially over strategic energy pipelines; and recreating a 19th-century-style sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.

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