I find this recounting of our national security analysis appalling:
The thinking around Washington was that Mikheil Saakashvili, then Georgia’s president, had provoked the Russians and that Moscow’s response was a one-off. “The sense was that while there were complications and Russia went into Georgia,” Smith says, “I don’t think anyone anticipated that anything like this would happen again.” Says one senior State Department official: “The assumption was that there was no threat in Europe.” Russia was rarely brought up to the secretary of defense, says the senior defense official.
I find this astounding.
Putin planned that war long in advance. Saakashvili surely fell into Russia's trap, but the 2008 Goons of August War was no Russian reaction to a Georgian provocation:
The ramshackle Russian military, rusting away for two decades now, miraculously put together an invasion of Georgia, flying in paratroopers even from distant bases, within hours of being attacked by Georgia? You seriously believe that version of events?
Russia got their South Ossetian goon allies to shoot at the Georgians and the Gerogians obliged by shooting back--which triggered the overt Russian invasion of Georgia. That is the reality of the situation.
Georgia fell for the provocation and gave Russia the excuse to invade. Although to be fair to Georgia, the Russians may have invaded anyway even if Georgia had held fire initially. Russia just would have needed to lie just a little more in that case to make up the Georgian provocation.
Russia prepared for this invasion with major exercises in July 2008.
Rather than being a one-off, to me the Russo-Georgian War was a signal that the Russian Empire was back in the game:
I am troubled because it may represent a change in how Russia's leaders sees the former Soviet republics. Russia before the invasion of Georgia may have been the low tide of post-Soviet Russia, angry at their loss of empire but unwilling to do anything about it. And with the invasion, we may be at the starting point of a new Russia built on picking up as much of their loss lands as possible.
This risk was evident before the war. With a bonus warning for Ukraine.
But our analysts thought the war was a "one-off" and that Russia was primed to fulfill our hopes for a "Reset!"
And this failure had repercussions last year when Russia went after Ukraine.
No matter how many times we pressed that "reset" button, it just didn't work. But we were overdosing on hope back then, apparently.
Who am I kidding? Plenty enough ask "why do they hate us?" about Russia and conclude it's our fault.