One of the things I can’t figure out over Georgia’s conflict with Russia (actually it more like Georgia getting whupped by Russia) is what were they thinking? How many countries out there let alone a Putin led Russia would allow a country to try to sieze by force a territory that they have claimed for their own. Even us passive Canadians get upset when the equally passive Danes claim a piece of worthless rock off our Arctic coast or when the Spanish fish in our waters (I think it is hilarious that Wikipedia has a page on the Turbot War). Yet for some reason Georgia’s president thought he could run a couple thousand troops into South Ossetia and the Russian bear would only yawn?
[Saakashvili] came to power in a landslide victory in 2004 promising to bring back the rebel provinces. But as Russia has grown more oil rich and assertive, so Moscow’s diplomatic and practical support for the breakaway Georgian enclaves has grown—and the chances of Tbilisi ever recovering them has shrunk. Most citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been issued Russian passports and are eligible for Russian pensions; in April, the Russian Duma passed a law authorizing official ties with the rebel republics. At the same time, NATO caved in to Russian pressure and declined to give Georgia the clear invitation to membership it had sought. "The message Saakashvili got from that was: it’s now or never," says one senior Western diplomat in Moscow not authorized to speak on the record. "The assault [on Tskhinvali] was a gamble."
It’s a gamble that could backfire badly. Saakashvili may have made exactly the mistake Russia wanted him to make—giving Kremlin hawks the excuse to fill Ossetia with Russian tanks, bloody the Georgian Army’s nose and destroy his chances of re-election. Saakashvili’s appeals to the West for help are unlikely to elicit any practical response, other than diplomatic hand-wringing. There’s little doubt that tiny Georgia has little chance against the might of the refurbished Russian Army in an all-out war. So far, one of the brightest young leaders of the former Soviet space is set to destroy the other.
The problem is that when leaders make political gambles and go to war, the important numbers are not in the opinion polls, they get counted with body bags of the soldiers and civilians he was elected to serve.