Russian involvement was deliberately ambiguous, such as the use of troops in unmarked military uniforms, in order to confuse and forestall any international response.
The 2008 crisis revealed the limits of western influence within Russia’s “zone of privileged interest”. It also drew attention to the lack of internal unity within organisations such as Nato over relations with Moscow and future engagement with the area. It could be argued that this emboldened Putin to take action in Ukraine.
Part of the problem is Europe’s over-reliance on Russia as a supplier of natural gas. This has been a long-running issue for European energy security and Europe has long been aware of the dangers.
Little progress has been made in reducing dependence on Russian gas since the wake-up call of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. In 2020 Russian gas giant Gazprom exported 174.9 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas to Europe. This was down from the record highs of around 200bcm in 2018 and 2019, despite diplomatic tensions and the EU’s long-running objective to reduce its dependence on Russia.
Revenues from oil and gas exports have enabled Russia to continue investing in its military capabilities. These exports are also a critical vulnerability for a number of European states.
Unlike Russia, the west did not learn from 2008. Putin clearly considered western sanctions to be a price worth paying, and calculated that western support for Ukraine would not extend to direct military intervention. Because of this, western warnings about the consequences of a military invasion have not been taken seriously and failed to deter Putin from sending his troops into Ukraine.
This article was originally published by The Conversation.
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