Russia’s invasion of Georgia should surprise no one: In hindsight, it's even "absurdly over-determined,” James Traub writes in the New York Times. Russia has an economic interest in Georgian instability and a deep Cold War mindset that could not accept Georgia’s pro-Western path. For its part, Georgia was dangerously baiting the Russian bear as it denied independence to breakaway regions.
Georgian President Saakashvili recently compared the conflict to 1938, when former Czechoslovakia trusted Western allies to fend off Hitler. “If Georgia fails,” he said, “it will send a message to everyone that this path doesn’t work.” By attacking, Russia has indeed revealed an outdated territory-obsessed mentality—but to Russians, Georgia is a Western puppet bent on oppressing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.