Friday, September 12, 2008

Analysing the Russo-Georgian War

What have we learnt from the war in Georgia? That is the question addressed in one of the first more comprehensive reports of the recent war between Russia and Georgia. As the war gives credibility to those claiming that we are on the verge of a New Cold War, there is also a time for analysis. The pursuit of knowledge is preferrable to a mere show of arms and empty rhetorics. The stakes may simply be too high to risk such a gamble at this point.

On Monday morning, the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) will present one of the first more comprehensive analyses of the recent war in Georgia at a press seminar in Stockholm. With contributions from 14 analysts of different specialities, the report offers a variety of approaches to the conflict, and how it affects the European security order.
To what extent does the war set the framework for future security policy? What are the challenges for the EU? To what extent will it cause changes in the European security structure? What effects on world economy can we expect? Which are the lessons learnt from the Russian military offensive? These are but a few questions addressed by the study.
As a contributor myself, I deal with - what is loosely called - the information war or rather "cyberwar", viz. the alleged coincidence of an armed conflict with a massive attack over the Internet. Some of the views presented in this part, will hopefully be interesting to and put things in a wider perspective for prospective readers. I thus welcome any feedback, though access is limited to a Swedish readership.
The report in full will be accessible for purchase or download from the FOI website as of noon (GMT+1) on Monday. I hope it will contribute to a nuanced picture of the war and present perspectives that may guide political decision-makers, the media, and an interested general public in their views of the war and its real and potential consequences.


Peter (from Sweden) said...

Another important question is:
Which are the lessons learnt from the Georgian military offensive?

I have always asked myself what the georgian command thought it could gain from approaching South Ossetia.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Peter,

That is, indeed, a case in point. In Russia they use the expression "Kto, kogo?" - literally "who, whom". Whereas I do not know whether you know and understand Russian, it quite well catches the problematical nature of the conflict and how it erupted, but that is - after all -a world in their minds...



Jens-Olaf said...

"-a world in their mind...", we should consider this in any conflict in Europe. Even within the EU, I see this pattern and we are not really passing this point.

Anonymous said...

To what extent will it cause changes in the European security structure?

Nada. I think for the EU this conflict is too removed to be enough of an exogenous shock that will prompt major restructuring.

Although this war did underlined the importance of cyber-defense.

Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Jens-Olaf,

"A world in their minds" refers to a book by Vertzberger on information processing, cognition, and perception in foreign policy decisionmaking.

Of course, we have little to expect from the EU and its leaders. The Union is - contrary to what its name indicates - no united actor in international affairs.



Vilhelm Konnander said...

Dear Vitaliy,

Whereas I do not believe that the European Union will act unless it is forced to do so, the Russo-Georgian war has changed fundamental rules of how international relations are played out.

As for cyberwar, we should perhaps be careful to use the word. Of course, there have been rather extensive DDOS-attacks and hacking directed towards various servers and websites, but with a Georgian Internet penetration of merely 7.8% much of the difficulties may also be explained by e.g. airstrikes on Georgian infrastructure. If it had been an all out cyberwar, then a potential Russian state-directed attack is simply laughable.