Georgia: How close did Europe come to a wider war?
A poster at the entrance to the World War One exhibition at London’s Imperial War Museum depicts the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, minutes before they were shot dead as they toured the streets of Sarajevo in an open topped car. The two bullets triggered World War One. Alliances quickly came into play and an argument between Austria and Serbia drew in Russia, Germany, France, Belgium and Britain.
Europe was at war.
On August 8 this year Russia sent its forces into Georgia to repel Tbilisi’s attempt to wrest control of the pro-Russian, breakaway region South Ossetia. Georgia, like Ukraine, has been pressing to join NATO but has only been promised membership of the alliance at an unspecified future date. What would have happened if Georgia had already secured NATO membership, as it wished, at the alliance’s meeting in Bucharest back in April?
Would the conflict have dragged in fellow NATO members including the United States, Britain and Germany? By invoking NATO’s Article V mutual defence clause, the Georgians could have required other nations to come to their assistance.
Could this have led to another European war at a time when the West’s guard was down and the Cold War years seemed consigned to history?
In the days after the conflict began, a senior envoy from a European state opposed to Georgian NATO entry told Reuters: “Thank heavens we didn’t take them in… No one in NATO wants to be dragged into a war in the Caucasus because of (President Mikheil) Saakashvili’s miscalculations.”
What do you think?