chapter  13
25 Pages

The Russian–Georgian war and its aftermath

Russia’s neo-empire
WithDomitilla Sagramoso

The chapter looks at the outbreak of war between Russia and Georgia in 2008. More specifically, it attempts to determine who was responsible for the outbreak of large-scale violence. The chapter argues that, from Moscow’s perspective, the war allowed Russia to reassert its position as a global power capable of defending its interests, including with the use of military force, in the Near Abroad. Moreover, the conflict also succeeded in putting a halt, at least momentarily, to NATO’s continued enlargement into the former Soviet space. This chapter also argues that Russia’s military engagement was conducted in clear violation of international law and came at the expense of a quite significant deterioration in Russia’s relations with the West. The chapter then describes how Russia failed to comply with the September 2008 ceasefire agreements, prolonging indefinitely its military presence in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia – in a clear sign that it viewed this area as falling under its exclusive sphere of influence. The chapter also discusses the various agreements that Russia reached with the separatist regions in 2008–2009 as well as the additional all-encompassing treaties reached in 2014 and 2015, which almost fully incorporated these regions into Russia. However, this chapter argues that while the Kremlin clearly turned these areas into Russian protectorates, Russia at the same time, significantly lost its influence in the rest of Georgia. The Georgian leadership described Moscow’s policies in the separatist regions of Georgia as an ‘occupation’, and increasingly turned to the West, the EU and NATO for support – showing the limits of Russia’s strategic reach.

This chapter also examines the policies of Russia towards conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniestria during the Medvedev Presidency and Putin’s third presidency, with the aim of determining whether Russia was trying to help find a negotiated solution that kept Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan within Russia’s sphere of influence. This chapter reaches the conclusion that, as far as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is concerned, Russia was not actively trying to exacerbate the conflict to ensure that it kept the region under its influence. Instead, the Russian leadership engaged actively in the resolution of the dispute to find a peaceful and lasting solution. The chapter also shows how, as violence escalated, in 2014, and 2016, President Putin became actively and directly engaged in the talks to reach a negotiated solution to the crisis. The chapter shows how Russia pursued its conflict resolution activities on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in cooperation, and not in opposition, to the OSCE Minsk Group. The chapter also discusses the negotiations held on the Transdniestrian conflict during the Medvedev Presidency, and shows how Russia’s actions in Moldova, and in Transdniestria more specifically, were closely inter-linked with developments on the European continent, primarily in the security field. The chapter also examines Russia’s policies towards the Transdniestrian conflict under President Putin’s third Presidency and shows how the Kremlin tried to keep these regions within its sphere of influence. The chapter discusses Putin’s concerns over Moldova’s ever closer ties with Romania, and with NATO, and how that affected the direction of Russia’s policies towards Transdniestria. Finally, the chapter also briefly discusses the impact of the war in Ukraine’s Donbass on Moldova’s separatist region as well the implications of Moldova’s closer ties to the EU on Russia’s actions in this key strategic area of the CIS. ,