The Georgian war was Russia’s first external war since the collapse of the Soviet Union. This paper aims to determine the factors behind Russia’s invasion of Georgia using power transition theory. This theory presents the power transition and dissatisfaction of emerging challenger states as preconditions of hegemonic war. Yet, these are not enough to explain the Georgian war, because Russia avoided a direct clash with the US and invaded the US-backed Georgia instead. Therefore, this paper argues that power transition theory should be extended by adding opportunity structure that shows the costs and benefits of making war. The new conceptual framework has some practical relevance. There is every sign that a possible replay of the Georgian war model might occur in Ukraine and the Baltic states, which have similar conditions, like an antagonistic relationship with Russia and a high Russian minority population in their territory. A possible replay of the Georgian war model depends on the opportunity structure in other former Soviet states. The Crimea, with the large Russian Black Sea fleet, is populated predominantly by ethnic Russians and would offer Russia a pretext to come to their defense in some future crisis.
Ⅱ. Power Transition Theory and Post-Soviet Interstate War
Ⅲ. Russia’s Resurgence to Great Power
Ⅳ. Alienated Russia and the Encircling West
Ⅴ. The Opportunity Structure of the Georgian War