The Olympic Games seem to bring out President Vladimir Putin’s fondness for revanchism. In 2008 I was on my way to the airport, heading to the opening ceremony in Beijing, when I was informed of overwhelming evidence that a large number of Russian troops had entered Georgian territory. The Black Sea Fleet had left its base in Sevastopol and was approaching Georgia’s coastline.
Russia had long been fighting a proxy campaign inside Georgia, arming and training its local conspirators and directing their violent provocations. By the same token, Russia’s move last weekend to snatch Crimea from Ukraine was only the latest step in an offensive that has long been gathering pace.
It is not just the tactics that are similar. The same excuses are being trotted out, too. Mr Putin seeks to justify his invasion of Ukraine as necessary for the protection of Russian citizens. It was a similar story in 2008. First, Russian passports were handed out to many Georgians. Then came the agitators, stirring up trouble. Finally, Russian soldiers arrived to “protect” these newly minted citizens.
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