As the title suggests, Asmus sees enormous stakes in the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Whether they were as high as he thinks or for the reasons he ascribes can be disputed, but there is much merit in his argument that the war laid bare the fundamental weaknesses in Europe's security arrangements. Many would also agree that the tragedy revealed U.S. and European leaders' myopic and reckless inattention to the gathering clouds of war. Fewer, however, would agree with his essentially Georgian view of the war's details, causes, and significance. Although Asmus is right that the Russians later offered fraudulent justifications for their actions, he fails to convince on his core claim -- that Moscow launched a premeditated war to thwart Georgia's NATO aspirations. This reads vastly too much into a story whose facts, as he acknowledges, are contested at almost every critical turn. Still, the reader will gain greatly from Asmus' many conversations with people on the Georgian side and from his detailed reconstruction of the events.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Republics From This Issue