Diplomaatia’s August issue explores one key theme—the 5th anniversary of the Russia-Georgia War.
In the opening essay, long-serving Estonian diplomat Sulev Kannike contrasts the security policy situation in Estonia with that in Georgia through a geopolitical and geographical prism. While the entire Baltic Sea littoral has never been conquered by great powers, the Caucasus has suffered a different fate—the great powers there decided that increased fragmentation, i.e. splitting the region between themselves, would simply solve all their problems, writes Kannike.
He claims that it is impossible from a Russian perspective to gradually descend from the Caucasus Mountains. “The only option there is to fall down head first,” states Kannike. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia can defend its windows to the Caspian, Azov and Black Seas only by staying put on the Caucasus mountain range and preferably by shifting the border slowly towards its southern flank.”
Political inflexibility and trigger-happiness in the Caucasus are thus functions of local historical and geographical circumstances, rather than issues related to the free will or political morals of the actors involved. The Baltic Sea analogy does not fit here at all, adds Kannike.
The military angle of the Russia-Georgia War is discussed in a comprehensive analysis by LtCol Riho Ühtegi, former chief of Estonian military intelligence. When Vladimir Putin declared in 2012 that Russian troops could have taken Tbilisi if they had wanted to, he was not bragging as it is highly likely that this would have been feasible for the Russians, claims Ühtegi.
However, Russia and Georgia suffered from serious shortcomings in military command and control, while reconnaissance efforts were also deficient on both sides. “The Georgian units were under political orders and they had no Plan B for coping in adverse contingencies,” writes Ühtegi. “Their military leadership was inexperienced and most brigade commanders had recently been replaced. Having received their first setbacks, the Georgians lost their heads.”
One of the crucial drawbacks for the Georgians was the lack of a non-conventional warfare capability.
Estonian diplomat Kalev Stoicescu introduces the French security and defence policy thinking that played a pivotal role in the search for a diplomatic solution to the August War in 2008.
In the book review section, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Lauri Mälksoo examines the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, published in spring 2013.
This article was published in ICDS Diplomaatia magazine.