Last Thursday Russian troops clashed with troops attempting to reassert Georgian authority in South Ossetia. The response from the West, until today, has been weak and essentially non-binding. Several threats of removing Russia from the G-8, economic group have been levied, but nothing of a more serious nature.
International Relations theory states that conflict is most likely to occur when shifts in the systemic balance of power occur. Russia has had a very difficult time adapting to its role in a unipolar world, and nowhere is this more visible then in its relations with its’ neighbors. During the Cold War, Ukraine, Georgia, and Poland were for all intensive purposes, the sovereign territory of Russia under the Soviet Union. Russia has stated repeatedly that they perceive Ukraine and Georgia to be within their “sphere of influence,” and that the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Ukraine or Georgia would be unacceptable. Ukraine and Poland both joined NATO, and Georgia had applied, but was turned away due to intense pressure from Russia.