The Ukrainian Playbook: The 2008 Russian Invasion of Georgia

As tensions reach an all time high over the past two decades in Eastern Europe, the invasion of Georgia in 2008 is a telltale indicator of what is to come to the country of Ukraine, and how a Russian invasion could potentially become a mix of not only the Georgian invasion, but of the two wars in Chechnya as well.

Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union in early 1991, as the country was rocked with independence movements and general civil unrest. This independence was not peaceful for long, however, as a civil war and separatist movements destabilized the country in the 1990’s, as Abkhazian and Ossetian regions of the country broke away.

As the new millennium rolled in, Vladimir Putin came into power. The Russian Federation, established after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, was entrenched inside of Chechnya, a Russian province for almost 6 years at that time, with both the First and Second Chechen Wars.

A bloody guerilla conflict that lasted for 15 years, the Chechen Wars began in 1994 as Russian soldiers entered the province of Chechnya to re-establish government order, ever since the Chechen Declaration of Independence in 1991. Islamist fighters took up arms against the Russian soldiers, alongside average citizens.

The wars left up to 50,000 Russian soldiers dead, alongside 160,000 more civilians left dead in the separatist movements. Russia was left humiliated after the wars, with the Second Chechen War ending in 2009, but the invasion of Georgia in 2008 bolstered not only the morale, but re-established the dominance of the Russian military.

Similarly to the situation involving Ukraine today, both Georgia and Ukraine were offered NATO membership in April 2008, which would mobilize Vladimir Putin towards carrying out military action towards Georgia in order to block the country from entering the organization.

Immediately after the summit, Russia accused Georgia of amassing troops surrounding Abkhazia, a region that separated from Georgia, and the country declared retaliation if Georgia took any action towards the region.

A troop buildup began on the border of Georgia in early May, as Russia claimed to be preparing for an offensive push into Abkhazia from the Georgian military. Three months later, an evacuation of women and children would begin in Ossetia after hostilities began, and the invasion of Georgia unfolded thereafter, lasting 11 days.

The buildup to the invasion of Georgia is eerily similar to what is occurring in and around Ukraine, as both the Luhansk and Donetsk separatist regions in Eastern Ukraine are backed not only by the Russian government, but also local militias that are armed by the Russian Government.

The Donetsk People’s Republic declared general mobilization of all men aged 18 to 55 on February 19, 2022, and an evacuation of civilians has begun in both Donetsk and Luhansk, as claims of over 700,000 people fleeing from the imminent war in the Donbas region, where Donetsk and Luhansk are located.

Both Luhansk and Donetsk have been formally recognized as sovereign nations by Vladimir Putin as of 10:39 PM, February 21, 2022. The separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were also recognized as sovereign nations following the 2008 invasion of Georgia. Immediately after both regions were recognized by the Russian Federation as sovereign states, Vladimir Putin ordered armed peacekeepers to enter the Donbas region.

President Joe Biden announced on February 21, 2022, that he believed Vladimir Putin would soon attack Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, in hopes of installing new leadership sympathetic to the Russian Federation.

The invasion of Ukraine will be bloody for not only the Russian Federation, but also for the country of Ukraine, which is why the government has actively been training civilians, even children as young as 5, in order to defend their homeland. The use of militias in Ukraine is already well established since the first invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

Stakes are higher than ever, as active troop movements from the Russian Federation have continued, with the White House claiming that as many as 190,000 Russian soldiers could invade Ukraine at any moment.