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The Russian-Georgian War: A Challenge for the U.S. and the World

Recorded on August 18, 2008

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

As the Olympic Games opened, the tragic and ominous conflict between Georgia and Russia erupted as well. On Thursday of last week, South Ossetian separatists, supported by Moscow, escalated their machine gun and mortar fire attacks against neighboring Georgian villages. On August 7 and 8, Georgia attacked the separatist capital Tskhinvali with artillery to suppress fire. Tskhinvali suffered severe damage, thus providing the pretext for Moscow's long-planned invasion of Georgia.

Russia's goals for the war with Georgia are far-reaching and include the termination of Georgian sovereignty in South Ossetia and Abkhazia; "regime change" by bringing down President Mikheil Saakashvili and installing a more pro-Russian leadership in Tbilisi; preventing Georgia from joining NATO and sending a strong message to Ukraine that its insistence on NATO membership may lead to war and/or its dismemberment; shifting control of the Caucasus, and especially over strategic energy pipelines; and recreating a 19th-century-style sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union.

What steps can the United States and its European allies take to immediately stop Russia's aggression and restore Georgia's territorial integrity? What roles can international organizations such as the EU, the OSCE, PACE and the UN play in this conflict? What is at stake for Georgia and the West in this conflict? What is at stake for Russia? What does this conflict tell us about Russia's trajectory and Georgia's and Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration? Lastly, what are the implications to US policy?