The cornered bear : the August 2008 war in Georgia as the culmination of Russia’s western security dilemma




Ellett, Matthew Hayden

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In 2008 Russia surprised the West by going to war with Georgia. While several analyses have pointed to separate actions by NATO and the West as having influenced the 2008 war, this paper endeavors to show that the combined actions of the West and NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union created a security dilemma for Russia. Because the West refused to properly acknowledge and address Russia’s dilemma, the West inadvertently created the conditions which led to the culmination of Russia’s security dilemma in the form of an invasion of Georgia. Russia’s war with Georgia was less an attempt to protect Russian citizens and prevent atrocities as it was a rebuttal of Western actions. This thesis examines the security dilemma and cooperation theories as presented by Dr. Robert Jervis, and looks specifically at Western-Russian relations relating to three spheres: NATO expansion and Western marginalization of Russia, Western unilateral and extra-U.N. military aggression, and Western anti-ballistic missile defense initiatives and programs. Western actions relating to these three spheres created the conditions for the war, and specifics within the Caucasus region and relating to separatist conflicts drove Russia to deem a war with Georgia a politically safe rebuttal to the West. This paper also examines continued Western refusal to acknowledge Russia’s dilemma and developing conditions, as they relate to the three spheres of NATO expansion, unilateral military action and missile defenses, which could potentially lead to further conflict between Russia and the West.



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