In February this year, in another part of Russia’s former sphere of influence, Kosovo declared itself independent from Serbia.
It was a move which saw East and West squaring up.
America and the majority of EU states recognised Kosovo. Russia was furious, viewing it as illegal interference in a sovereign state, namely Moscow’s ally, Serbia.
With the Ukrainian and Georgian leaders present, the then President Putin warned at the time of a possible domino effect.
“The precedent set by Kosovo’s independence is terrible,” Putin said. “It shatters the fundamental system of international relations, formed not just in the last decade, but over the past century. And this precedent could lead to an unforeseen chain of events. The people who did this mis-calculated the consequences of their actions. In the end, they’ll face a backlash head on.”
Six months later, and the tables are turned on the west, with Russia’s recognition of the two pro- Moscow breakaway regions of Georgia.
Furthermore, President Medvedev has warned Moldova not to follow Georgia’s lead, and use force to take back Transnistria, another breakaway region which unilaterally declared independence from Moldova in 1990.
It led to war between the two sides in 1992. Russia sent in peacekeepers, mirroring the situation in Georgia’s breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
And Moscow’s warning to Moldova has resonance too across the border in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic with a considerable pro-Moscow population in the west of the country, which is angering the Kremlin by pressing to join NATO.
Russia undoubtedly felt a sense of humiliation when NATO forces attacked Serbia to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, and again when so much of the West recognised its independence earlier this year.
Now, it seems, it is Moscow’s turn to make its mark felt.