The Russian blitz on Georgia seems to have taken the world by surprise, demonstrating the widespread lack of appreciation of Russian politics and its Imperial traditions.
Russia has a long tradition of invading its smaller neighbours and an equal tradition of being happiest when ruled by a ruthless and unprincipled dictator.
Ivan the Terrible is the first Russian ruler to achieve notoriety outside his borders. This 16th Century despot could claim to have created modern Russia as an Imperialist State. He established a group of henchmen who rode across Russia bringing terror to serfs in remote villages and he employed terror against the aristocrats who previously thought they ruled Russia.
Under Ivan, Russia was both expansionist and isolationist. Russia soldiers were used to annex small neighbours but Russia was reluctant to engage with the wider world, displaying paranoia and a determination to operate within what Ivan saw as his private area of interest.
St Petersburgh a beautiful city built on misery for Czar Peter
Peter the Great has enjoyed a more positive international reputation but his reign was just as bloody as Ivan’s and included beating his son to death and working thousands to death in the fulfillment of his pet plans.
Russia has always wanted to expand into the Middle East and India, feared Chinese expansion and wanted to dominate Europe.
Czar Vladimir (Lenin)
Under Lenin, the national socialist Russia of the Soviet Union developed an interest in expanding Russian domination through international socialism.
Czar Josef (Stalin)
Under Stalin, whose birth place in Georgia has ironically just been heavily bombed by Russian war planes, the policies of Ivan and Peter were continued. Having flirted with national socialist Germany, Stalin was forced into alliance with the West to survive the attack on his country by Germany. In 1945, he firmly set Russian policy in brutal expansion into neighbouring countries and annexed large areas of Europe, as a prelude to full invasion of Europe, being contained by NATO with US support.
The high point of his expansion plans was the starvation and annexation of Berlin. He was defeated by the massive Anglo-American airlift of supplies that broke the Russian blockade.
Russia attempted world domination after the death of Stalin under a succession of national socialist Czars. These plans were defeated by the US blockade of Cuba when Russia attempted to set up a nuclear missile base on Cuba to dominate the US.
The fall of the USSR was a direct result of the US and NATO standing up to Russian attempts at imperial expansion. The brief interlude of democratic experiment was bound to fail and its demise was helped because the US and NATO failed to support the handful of democrats adequately and failed to understand that Russia was slipping under the grasp of a new Czar.
Czar Vladimir (Putin)
Putin found a way around the Russian constitutional rules to continue in control after he was required to stand down as President. Every thing that he has done since coming to power has been to reintroduce the long established Russian desire to dominate.
The vulnerability of the pipeline that brings energy to Europe through Georgia should have been fully understood by the West. Since it broke away from Russia, Georgia has been great strides towards a genuine democracy and is seen as a threat and an opportunity to Czar Vladimir (Putin).
If Europe and the US fail to react strongly in the way of the Berlin Airlift and the Cuban Blockade, they will have lost a key battle in a new war between Russia and the rest of the world.