October 25, 2021

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The Kremlin is dealing with Ukraine now as it did with Georgia before the 2008 invasion, Portnikov says.

Russian soldiers invading Georgia taking photographs by the road sign showing 66 kilometers to the country's capital Tbilisi. August 2008. Photo: Social media

Russian soldiers invading Georgia take photographs near the road sign showing 66 kilometers to the country’s capital Tbilisi. August 2008. Photo: Social media

2021/04/14 – 12:35 •

Edited by: AN

Moscow’s propaganda campaign against Ukraine and its troop deployment near the Ukrainian border echo the propaganda it deployed against the Republic of Georgia and the troops it moved to the Georgian border before invading that country in 2008, says Vitaly Portnikov.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Since Moscow invaded Ukraine seven years ago in a hybrid fashion, the Ukrainian analyst says, most people are comparing what happened before Moscow’s moves back then with what it is doing now. But a much more instructive comparison is provided by what Moscow did in Georgia in 2008.

Vladimir Putin and his representatives constantly accuse Ukraine of being aggressive and unpredictable and preparing to invade the Donbass. Viewed from Kiev, these claims sound like Russian paranoia. Not only have Ukrainian leaders denied what Moscow accuses them of, but Ukraine has made no preparations, unlike Russia which has strengthened its forces.

In reality, Portnikov continues, what Moscow is showing is not paranoia but cold calculation. It is behaving exactly as before the start of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. Then, South Ossetia bombed the Georgian territory and the Russian “peacekeepers” did nothing to stop it. Instead, Moscow blamed Tbilisi for causing the problem, exactly as Moscow is doing in Ukraine.

“And therefore, when the Russian forces first appeared on the territory of the self-proclaimed South Ossetia and then in Georgia proper, few were surprised not only in Russia but in the world.”

Western leaders had been “psychologically prepared” for the Kremlin’s attacks on the Georgian leadership.

Russian army battalion on its way to Georgia, August 9, 2008

Russian army battalion on its way to Georgia, August 9, 2008

Repeating the same approach in Ukraine offers Moscow three advantages:

  • It allows the Russian government to block the negotiations and blame Kiev for this action.
  • Destabilize conditions in Ukraine.
  • And “in the event of a real war starting, he can always explain it with the aggressive actions of Ukraine, about which the Kremlin had warned”.

To be sure, few believe what the Kremlin says. But even Western recognition of the possibility of a new war paves the way for something else the Kremlin wants: Western efforts to negotiate directly with Putin. “They will ask him to remove his forces, and he will ask them to make Zelenskii ‘reasonable’.”

“And then if a war breaks out,” Portnikov concludes, “the Kremlin will blame the West” for encouraging Ukraine in its aggression towards Russia and failing to heed Russian warnings, again just as it did in Georgia in the 2008.

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Edited by: AN

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Tags: North Ossetia – Alania, Putin’s confrontation with the West, Russian aggression, Russian geopolitical strategy, Russian imperialism, Russian neo-colonialism, Russian strategy, Russian war in Georgia, Russo-Georgian war, Russo-Georgian war of 2008, War Russian-Ukrainian (2014-present), South Ossetia