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Near AbroadPutin, the West and the Contest over Ukraine and the Caucasus$
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Gerard Toal

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190253301

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190253301.001.0001

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Why Does Russia Invade Its Neighbors?

Why Does Russia Invade Its Neighbors?

(p.17) 1 Why Does Russia Invade Its Neighbors?
Near Abroad

Gerard Toal

Oxford University Press

It was supposed to be China’s coming-out party, a moment in the global spotlight affirming its arrival as an economic superpower. But hours before the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, news of a war in the Caucasus flashed across the world’s TV screens. On the southern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, the state of Georgia launched a military offensive against South Ossetia, a small breakaway territory beyond its control since the Soviet collapse. Georgia’s offensive quickly brought Russia to the defense of its local Ossetian allies. As Soviet-era tanks rolled through the Roki tunnel, the only land connection between South Ossetia and Russia, Russian aircraft bombed Georgian targets in the region and beyond. For the first time since the Cold War ended, Russia was invading a neighboring state. Instead of glowing stories about China, speculation about a new Cold War filled the front pages of the Western press. Yet within a week the war was over and a ceasefire agreed. Thereafter a rapidly moving global financial crisis displaced what seemed a harbinger of geopolitical rupture to an afterthought. As quickly as it had flared, the Russo-Georgian war disappeared, and with it talk of a return to geopolitics past. Six years later Russia was in the global spotlight as host of the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, located on the shores of the Black Sea at the western end of the Caucasus Mountains. Despite well-grounded fears of terrorism, the Olympics were a triumph for Russia and its leadership. Yet a few days later, the world recoiled in shock as Russia once again invaded a neighboring state. Responding to a perceived “fascist coup” in Kyiv, unmarked Russian military personnel seized control of the Ukrainian province of Crimea, once part of Soviet Russia and home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. A hastily organized referendum followed, creating the appearance of legitimacy for Russia to formally annex the province, and the city of Sevastopol, in late March 2014.

Keywords:   Abkhazia, Baltic states, China, Daily Mail, Eastern bloc, Fox News, Great Patriotic War, Holocaust, India, Long Telegram

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