The war in South Ossetia was entirely predictable and indeed over-predicted - and still it took every major actor, including Russia, by surprise. Introduction The war in South Ossetia was entirely predictable and indeed over-predicted – and still took every major actor, including Russia, by surprise. The guns of August shattered the status quo that had survived the ‘Rose Revolution’ in Georgia in November 2003, a couple of electoral crises in Armenia and Azerbaijan, and indeed the two Chechen wars. Now the US has to assess the risks of renewing military ties with Georgia, the EU needs to hammer out a strategy of meaningful engagement with the South Caucasus – and Russia is taking stock of new strengths and weaknesses of its position, perhaps discovering that the spoils that duly go to the victor are mostly damaged goods.
The war have changed many intricate Caucasian interplays but it has resolved nothing as the status problem of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains open, and the deep ‘ideological’ conflict between the Putin/Medvedev regime and the Saakashvili regime continues to generate tension. This analysis will not go into the impact of the war on Russia’s political evolution, but will concentrate on the shifts in competing energy policies in the Caspian area, on the emerging new role of the power factor in the Caucasus, and on Russia’s changing guidelines for Iran, Turkey and the Middle East.