Skip to content

This is how other military incursions ordered by Putin ended (and how they compare to the conflict with Ukraine)

Military offensives to secure Kremlin influence are not an isolated tactic in the 22 years of Vladimir Putin in front of Russia.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not the first time that Putin it defends its interests in the former Soviet republics by deploying military muscle.

First was Chechnya in 1999, then Georgia in 2008 and later crimea in 2014.

But how did those wars end and how do they compare to the current one?

The brutal war – Chechnya, 1999

How was it unleashed?

September 1999. Vladimir Putin, then 47 years old, had just been appointed prime minister and in a few months assumed the presidency of the country after the resignation of Boris Yeltsin at the end of that year.

His rise coincides with the start of the second war in Chechnya, remembered for its brutality and the consolidation of Putin as the “strong man” capable of controlling internal threats from Russia.

Chechnya, a republic once part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, had gained independence in 1991 over opposition from the Russian government. But in 1994 Russian troops went to that territory to crush this independence movement. Three years later, faced with fierce resistance from Chechen rebels, they eventually withdrew.

However, in 1999, new clashes between Chechens and Russian troops; and a series of explosions in residential apartments in Moscow that the Kremlin blamed on Chechen Islamist rebels, prompted the second Russian military onslaught.

The Chechen wars are remembered for their brutality.  Various estimates put the total number of deaths in the hundreds of thousands between military and civilians.  (GETTY IMAGES).

How did it end?

In February 2000, with Putin as president, his troops reconquered and devastated the Chechen capital, Grozny, and in May control was declared from Moscow. Chechnya was integrated into the Russian Federation in 2003 and the war was declared over in 2009, although sporadic clashes in the form of guerrilla warfare did occur.

The cost and brutality of the war caught the world’s attention and various estimates put the Total deaths in hundreds of thousands. But the conquest earned Putin a notable increase in his domestic popularity, after strengthening the security and control of this strategic republic in the North Caucasus.

Today Chechnya, which enjoys greater stability, is under the firm control of the leader Ramzan Kadyrov, akin to the Russian Federation, and whom critics accuse of being authoritarian.

“In the case of the war in Chechnya, what prevailed in the Russian intervention was concern about its security and disintegration a few years after the socialist collapse,” Professor Domitilla Sagramoso, from King’s College University in London, explains to BBC Mundo.


The Short War – Georgia, 2008

how was it unleashed

Situated at an important crossroads where Europe and Asia meet, Georgia emerged as an independent state following the collapse of the USSR in 1991.

But the subsequent and growing economic and political influence of the United States in the country raised concerns in neighboring Russia, as well as its aspirations to join the European Union and NATO.

Vladimir Putin, with almost a decade in power, also imposed his iron fist.

Georgia’s tense relations with the Russian Federation increased with Moscow’s full support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, leading to a brief but deadly war in August 2008.

Russian troops leaving for Georgia in August 2008. (AFP).

How did it end?

Following Georgia’s attempt to retake South Ossetia by force, clashing with Russian-backed rebels, Putin launched an offensive that drove Georgian troops out of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

After five days of hostilities in which hundreds of people died, both sides signed a peace agreement brokered by France.

And Russia recognized the two breakaway regions as independent states, sparking protests in Georgia and other Western countries.

“Georgia was divided into what is Georgia itself and the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which to this day continue to be occupied by Russia and continue to increase their integration with the Kremlin,” says Sagramoso.

Mathieu Boulegue, a researcher at the Russia and Eurasia program at the Chatham House institute, believes that “Georgia began to mark the future of Russia’s foreign policy, when they really began to materialize the intentions that we are seeing today,” he tells BBC Mundo .

Tensions between Georgia and Russia intensified in 2008, prompting Russia to intervene to secure its control in the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  (GETTY IMAGES).

The “softer” invasion – Crimea, 2014

How was it unleashed?

In early 2014, Crimea became the focus of one of the worst crises between Russia and the West since the Cold War, after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following a wave of pro-European protests.

The Ukrainian people were divided between those who wanted greater integration with Russia and those who supported a greater alliance with the European Union (EU), and Moscow decided to intervene.

For much of February 2014, Putin was quietly sending thousands of additional troops to Russian bases in Crimea. Many civilian “volunteers” also moved to the peninsula to complete a plan that was secretly and successfully carried out.

The pro-European protests of 2014 showed the division between Ukrainians in favor of integrating more with Russia and Ukrainians in favor of the European Union.  (GETTY IMAGES).

On Friday, February 28, Russia set up checkpoints in Armyansk and Chongar, the two main road junctions between mainland Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. Pro-Russian leaders claimed they needed to protect Crimeans from “extremists” who had seized power in Kiev and threatened their rights.

On March 16 they organized a referendum in which the population was asked if they wanted the autonomous republic to join Russia.

Ukraine and the West considered the referendum illegal, while Russia strongly supported it. According to local officials, 95.5% of voters supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

How did it end?

On March 18, two days after the publication of the results, Putin made the invasion official by signing a bill incorporating Crimea into the Russian Federation.

BBC journalist John Simpson, who was in Crimea at the time, wrote that it was the “softer” invasion of modern times.

“The operation was so quick that it caught many by surprise,” explains Sagramoso.

“Once again, Putin’s popularity increased a lot among Russians because there was no bloodshed and it was seen as a masterstroke,” adds the expert.

Putin's popularity increased after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. (GETTY IMAGES).

While the crisis in Crimea was resolved in this way, the conflict between pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region and the rest of Ukraine sharpened, setting the stage for Putin’s justification for invading Ukraine eight years later.

Can these invasions be compared to what is happening in the Ukraine?

Each of these wars has been unique, but experts draw some common lines, including the Kremlin’s imperialist vision, its perception of security and its intention to remain influential in the former Soviet republics.

However, they warn that the motivations for the invasion of Ukraine are being “completely” different from other conflicts and the “end” is difficult to predict.

Putin insists that It is neither a war nor an invasion, rather, it is a “special military operation” to defend the Russophone population in the Donbas region.

But today the main Ukrainian cities are under siege by Russian forces, including the capital.

“Russia wants the unconditional political and military surrender throughout Ukraine. He wants their capitulation and total demilitarization “, analyzes Boulegue.

Experts consulted by BBC Mundo explain that the scope of the conflict in Ukraine is difficult to predict and that its consequences could last for decades.  (GENYA SAVILOV / GETTY).

Sagramoso adds that one of the main differences with the cases of Chechnya and Georgia is “the strong emotional idealization of a larger nation.”

“Putin has referred many times to the fact that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people. For him it is an artificial state that should not adopt a pro-European policy“, he points.

Looking for clues about how the invasion of Ukraine will end in what happened in Chechnya and Georgia seems complicated, among other factors, by the generalized resistance of the Ukrainian people.

“It doesn’t look like Ukraine is going to capitulate and we don’t know exactly what the Kremlin will consider a success, how far it will go and what the strategy is to end the war,” Boulegue argues.

In this sense, he points out, the most worrying thing is that “this only seems to be the beginning, the first phase of what could be decades of consequences for the whole world.”


Source: Elcomercio

Share this article:
globalhappenings news.jpg
most popular