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The world ignored Putin’s attack on Georgia. And so Ukraine was next

A Russian tank during the Georgia war.
A Russian IFV during the Georgia war. Photo: Yuriy Lukanov
The world ignored Putin’s attack on Georgia. And so Ukraine was next
Article by: Yuriy Lukanov

Today is exactly 14 years since 08.08.2008, when Putin began to put into practice his threats to the world order expressed at the Munich Security Conference in February 2007.

There, he opposed what he said was a unipolar world dominated by the United States. At that time, his speech was called the beginning of a new Cold War but was not taken seriously, because the economic weight of Russia in the world economy was insignificant. However, on 8 August 2008, Russian troops began an invasion of independent Georgia.

The war between Russia and Georgia ended rather quickly after US President George Bush sent the flagship of one of his fleets towards the Black Sea. At that time, the Russian army could have easily entered Tbilisi: it was opposed then only by police units because the small Georgian army was demoralized after a short resistance.

However, the Russians were then afraid to enter into a direct confrontation with Washington. So the war stopped, but a part of Georgian territory (South Ossetia) became separated from the country.

IDP Georgia war Russia
A Georgian IDP from Russian-occupied territory. Photo: Yuriy Lukanov

Then, for the first time, Ukraine flexed its muscles and stood up against Russia. Hitherto, the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, although it had been an independent state since 1991, was under the strong influence of Moscow, and had never had a serious confrontation with it.

When the war started, Ukraine transferred some air defense systems to Georgia. Then President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko gathered several colleagues from Eastern European countries, and on 12 August, they held a rally in support of Georgia place on Shota Rustaveli Avenue in front of the Georgian Parliament.

Ukrainians at a rally that Yushchenko organized 12 August 2008 in Tbilisi. Photo: Yuriy Lukanov

The attack on Georgia was a blatant, demonstrative action that violated the world order established after World War II. But the so-called civilized countries turned a blind eye, did not punish the aggressor, and, expressing some concern, continued to live their usual lives. They pretended nothing happened.

An EU commission report by Swiss diplomat Heidi Teljavini said that Georgia had started the war and that both countries were responsible. Then President Obama arranged a “reset” of relations with Moscow, essentially telling Putin: “Go on!” And then it became clear that Ukraine would be next.

The fact is that after coming to power, Putin dreamed of restoring the Soviet Union. The majority of Russians supported him in this. Ukraine was the largest Soviet republic after Russia. The Soviet empire could not exist without Ukraine.

Russian food ration georgia war
A Russian food ration from the Georgian war bears Soviet-era imagery dedicated to World War II, Russia’s central “nation-forming” myth. Photo: Yuriy Lukanov

Therefore, Putin made a lot of efforts to keep Ukraine under his influence. He was vexed with the desire of Ukrainians to integrate into Europe and took measures to prevent this from happening.

However, Ukraine’s reaction was too light as well. Pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected in fair elections after Yushchenko, abandoned his course towards NATO and achieved a non-aligned status for Ukraine in favor of Russia. He scandalously signed the so-called Kharkiv agreements, which extended the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea for many years. In addition, he appointed Pavel Liebiediev, a citizen of the Russian Federation, as the Minister of Defense of Ukraine. He doubled down on the ideology of friendship between the Russian and Ukrainian armies.

Ukrainian general Kryvonos recently said that at that time, the Ukrainian army indiscriminately fired dozens of thousands of projectiles every day as part of the policy of disarmament. Artillery barrels were destroyed due to overloading in the process.

Russian soldier eats at checkpoint during the invasion of Georgia
Russian soldier eats at a checkpoint during the invasion of Georgia. Photo: Yuriy Lukanov

As far as the world is concerned, even after February 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea and began a war in Donbas it has only slightly awakened from its lethargic sleep. It imposed sanctions on Russia which caused discomfort but not fundamental damage. And Germany disarmed its Bundeswehr, continued to increase its dependence on Russian gas, and thus financed the murderer.

In the end, we got 2 February 2022, which has already resulted in thousands of victims due to the imprudence of the West.

Will the world conclude that any violation of the global international order should be rebuffed immediately and decisively? I want to believe it. If not,  violence in the world will continue. The world order will be destroyed.

Yuriy Lukanov is a Ukrainian journalist and author of books about Russia’s war against Ukraine, including “The Press: how Russia destroyed media freedom in Crimea.” Contact him at vonakul (@)





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