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Russia-Georgia Conflict in August 2008: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests

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In the early 1990s, Georgia and its breakaway South Ossetia region had agreed to a Russian-mediated cease fire that provided for Russian peacekeepers to be stationed in the region. Moscow extended citizenship and passports to most ethnic Ossetians. Simmering long-time tensions escalated on the evening of August 7, 2008, when South Ossetia and Georgia accused each other of launching intense artillery barrages against each other. Georgia claims that South Ossetian forces did not respond to a cease fire appeal but intensified their shelling, forcing Georgia to send in troops. On August 8, Russia launched air attacks throughout Georgia and Russian troops engaged Georgian forces in South Ossetia. By the morning of August 10, Russian troops had occupied the bulk of South Ossetia, reached its border with the rest of Georgia, and were shelling areas across the border. Russian troops occupied several Georgian cities. Russian warships landed troops in Georgias breakaway Abkhazia region and took up positions off Georgias Black Sea coast. French President Nicolas Sarkozy, serving as president of the European Union EU, was instrumental in getting Georgia and Russia to agree to a peace plan on August 15-16. On August 25, President Medvedev declared that humanitarian reasons led him to recognize the independence of the regions. This recognition was widely condemned by the United States and the international community. President Sarkozy negotiated a follow-on agreement with Russia on September 8, 2008, that led to at least 200 EU observers to be deployed to the conflict zone and almost all Russian forces to withdraw from areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on October 10. The August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is likely to have long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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