There's more than one way to steal your neighbor's territory.
There's more than one way to undermine your neighbor's sovereignty.
There's more than one way to violate your neighbor's independence.
You can do it Crimea-style, quickly and forcefully -- sending in your little green men, staging a referendum at gunpoint, and following up with the pomp and circumstance of a formal annexation ceremony.
Or you can do it quietly and stealthily -- manufacturing a conflict on your neighbor's territory, pretending to be a mediator in that conflict, and slowly but surely turning the conflict zone into your own de facto protectorate.
Last week, we saw an example of the latter when the State Duma ratified a military agreement that effectively merges Russia's military with that of Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region.
Under the agreement, units of South Ossetia's armed forces will now formally serve in the Russian military.
Now, according to international law, of course, South Ossetia -- like Abkhazia -- is Georgian territory.
Moscow, meanwhile, is continuing to insist on the fiction that they are both independent states -- and is continuing to go through the charade of having bilateral relations with them.
But in reality, they are both the subject of a stealthy annexation process by which they are being slowly and steadily integrated into Russia.
It lacks the spectacular shock-and-awe character of the forceful seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
But the creeping annexation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is no less damaging to Georgia's sovereignty -- and no less a violation of international law.