Seven years ago, Russia launched its week-long war with Georgia. And what seemed then a victory can now be recognized as one of the worst August disasters in Russian history. On the one hand, it is true that the war generated a moment of national unity, which was deeply false but politically very useful. It also produced a conviction that the West was weak and divided, while the reproach in public opinion did not matter. Almost a year and a half ago, Putin sought to reproduce that moment of “patriotic” unity with the annexation of Crimea, but that spectacular triumph soon thereafter delivered him the Donbass quagmire. He also counted on the timidity of Western leaders, but the depth of public indignation in Europe and the US compelled them to take a firm stance and to insist on this firmness over 18 months, despite Moscow’s diplomatic machinations aimed at undermining the West’s unity. Every miscalculation has to be compensated with yet another show of external aggressiveness and domestic repression, but now the Russian elite increasingly worries that the Kremlin’s next supreme whim could prove a blunder too far.
This is the bottom line from the article in Eurasia Daily Monitor, 10 September