The outbreak of the Russo-Georgian war sparked a very strong and swift reaction from the Baltic states and Poland. In contrast to other European states, they did not hesitate to accuse Russia of initiating the conflict and sought to punish it for its alleged imperialist ambitions. Traditional variables of national economic, geopolitical or security interests fall short of accounting for such acute sensitivity by Baltic and Polish politicians. Instead, this article argues that identity politics driven by historical-psychological legacies provide the most plausible explanation. The case illustrates how third parties decide their level of engagement in conflicts that have limited strategic importance to them.