In the spring and summer of 2008, several analysts advising the Government of Georgia were sitting behind maps and media reports and trying to figure out what Russia was planning against Georgia. At that time, most Western governments thought that Russia was not planning anything. The possibility of military invasion was not even discussed — this would have been “totally irrational.” German newspapers wrote that the escalating conflict between “the separatists and the central government” was Georgia’s own fault, and that Saakashvili was harming his country because he did not get on well with Moscow.
In April 2008, the Russians established official relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia by presidential decree and sent landing troops and railway troops to Abkhazia, and the West did all it could to beg all parties for “dialogue.” Berlin, Washington, Paris, Brussels, and Tbilisi were all trying to carry out parallel “peace plans.”
Russia of course refused to participate in international negotiations to de-escalate tensions and would not agree to give up its quasi-recognition of Abkhazia, which had caused general outrage. A large Russian military exercise, Kavkaz 2008, was underway in the North Caucasus, and the exchange of fire between Georgian separatists and Georgian border guards across the line of control became more frequent.
So far, it is difficult for the West to admit that different conflicts instigated by Russia are elements of one large crisis.
The Kremlin thinks, or pretends to think, that the time for creating the long-awaited new global security architecture has arrived.
Russia does not want to face a possible counter-attack from the West, but extinguish any real resistance and willingness to help Ukraine.
In short, the map was full of red flags and indicators of a forthcoming conflict. However, apart from a few Russian analysts and the information agency of the Chechen independence movement, which was still active at that time, nobody predicted that there would be war. The West refused to believe it was possible, and those who believed that Russia could attack were not taken seriously.
At the end of July, Russia removed its railway forces and landing troops from Abkhazia, and the West thought that their diplomacy had been successful, when actually, the work was completed. We know very well what happened in early August.
In the early spring 2014, when the popular Euro-Maidan revolution was rising and Yanukovych (and the special forces sent to help him from Moscow) was falling in Kyiv, nobody even looked at a map, let alone made predictions about Moscow’s forthcoming military invasion of Ukraine. Little green men appeared in the cities of Crimea unexpectedly, rapidly, highly organized, without resistance. Once it was clear that no one from the West was coming to stop Russia — and that Ukraine was not able to stop Russia, for the time being — the invasion of the oblasts of Eastern Ukraine began.