Corridors of Power: After the Georgian War and the Olympics

Corridors of Power: After the Georgian War and the Olympics

GEORGIAN BLAME GAME . . . -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili may excoriate Russia for invading his country in interviews with Western media -- such as his Financial Times interview Monday -- but for local consumption he does not spare the West from responsibility for Georgia's current crisis. In a major speech in Tbilisi last week, he said the Russian military build-up in South Ossetia was well underway before Georgian forces attacked the breakaway province, but Western leaders wouldn't believe him, and Western intelligence failed to detect it. "When we were asking our Western partners [read: the United States] did you see them coming, they answered that their satellites were directed mainly on Iraq, and could not fly over Georgia," said Saakashvili. "But [they said] it was impossible to see what was happening on the ground because it was cloudy. So it was a serious failure of intelligence."

If the Russians were there in strength already, the wisdom of Saakashvili's decision to launch a Georgian offensive would seem even more questionable, given the obvious superiority of the opposing force. But Saakashvili portrays his action as a preemptive strike. When he warned Western leaders about a possible Russian attack, he said, "their response was, I was exaggerating." NATO had its chance to bolster Georgia's defensive position at the May alliance summit in Bucharest by starting the membership process for his country, the Georgian president went on. In failing to do so, NATO, he said, "made a strategic mistake."

The government is clearly picking up on public disappointment with what is widely perceived as the West's lack of support. Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian minister of state for re-integration of the breakway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia, was quoted by a Tbilisi newspaper as saying that Georgia was "pushed into war not only by the Russians, but by the West as well." By saying no to NATO membership for Georgia, the Atlantic alliance "gave the green light to Russia" to invade, Iakobasvili told the paper Rezonasi. On Aug. 8, he added, the Georgian government began blocking all Russian TV stations and all Web sites in the ".ru domain." The Russians retaliated by hacking into Georgian government computers.

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