NEW YORK -- In weeks and years past, each of us argued that Russia was pursuing a policy of regime change toward Georgia and its pro-Western, democratically elected president, Mikheil Saakashvili. We predicted that, absent strong and unified Western diplomatic involvement, war was coming.
Now, tragically, a full-scale Russian invasion of Georgia has happened. The West, especially the United States, could have prevented this war. Instead, regardless of whether it actually pulls back its troops to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia has crossed the Rubicon, making this a watershed moment in the West’s post-Cold War relations with Russia.
Exactly what triggered the fighting is unclear. Each side will argue its own version. But we know, without doubt, that Georgia was responding to repeated provocative attacks by South Ossetian separatists controlled and funded by the Kremlin. This was a not a war Georgia wanted; it had believed that it was slowly gaining ground in South Ossetia through a strategy of soft power.
Whatever mistakes Georgia’s government made cannot justify Russia’s actions. The Kremlin invaded a neighbor, an illegal act of aggression that violates the UN Charter and fundamental principles of cooperation and security in Europe.