COMMENTARY | As Russia is attacking the Ukraine, either taking the Crimean region or the whole country to restore Viktor Yanukovych, it’s important to remember that something like this happened six years ago, to the Republic of Georgia. During that conflict, one of my students was right there in the thick of the fighting.
While most Americans were following the 2008 election or nervously eyeing the jittery stock market, the Republic of Georgia was being invaded by Russia. Troops from Russia attacked the Georgians after they tried to quell separatist movements in South Ossetia and Abkazia, leading to a six day war that nearly smashed the small Republic in Central Asia.
I interviewed my former student over the weekend as both of us watched the events in the Ukraine from our respective countries. Are there any similarities in the events of 2008 and 2014? “The scenario is much the same,” George replied.
“With Georgia, it was a well-coordinated action and we see the same unfolding with the Ukraine. The Russians see the Caucuses and the Black Sea region as vital to its national security agenda.”
George was on summer vacation, waiting to return to my classroom. Instead, he found himself working with ambulances, struggling to save his fellow countrymen, and dodge Russian attacks in order to survive. “With Georgia, it was a 6 day conflict but it left a scar which will be on Georgia for decades to come.”
As we emailed each other, word came on the news that Russia invaded Crimea. “Having its hand grasped around the Crimea is an evident example of the Russian Neo-Imperialism.”
The last time Russia invaded a neighbor, the world did little to help the Georgians, other than offering a truce and validating Putin’s control over portions of their neighbor. Now that the same scenario is playing out in the Crimea in the Ukraine, George and others wonder whether the West will take Russia’s territorial ambitions a little more seriously now.