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GEORGIA: Leaked memos fuel debate over who started war with Russia


More than two years after Russia and Georgia clashed in South Ossetia, the fog of war continues to hover over Tbilisi and Moscow.

According to diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, released by the Wikileaks website, Russia was doing everything it could -– including reportedly arming South Ossetian separatists with Grad missiles and spreading nasty rumors about the Georgian president's sanity -– to provoke and destabilize Georgia, long before the two countries clashed in August 2008. One of Russia's primary goals seems to have been to oust Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

This leaked confidential information is not a game-changer -– it's certainly not new to any Russian or Georgian who owns a television -– but it does add fodder to a still-heated debate about which nation started the war in the first place, and who is to blame for the fallout.

For the last week, media outlets in both countries have been busily cherry-picking the information in the cables that supports their country's position.

The Russian media are focusing on those cables that indicate that Tbilisi moved a military force to the South Ossetian border prior to the beginning of the war -– evidence, Russian pundits say, of Georgian aggression in 2008. Moscow's narrative has long been that Russia engaged militarily with Georgia only to protect Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia.

The Georgian media, for their part, are focusing primarily on two cables. The first is a summary of all the ways in which Russian forces had allegedly tried to destabilize Georgia before the war began. There's a lot of juicy stuff in there -– missile attacks, murder plots, a car bomb -– but the best is a "psychological study" of Saakashvili, allegedly disseminated by the Russia government, that says he suffers from an "expansive type of paranoid dysfunction ... combined with narcissist type of hysteroid personality."

The second is an avowal by the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi in August 2008: "All the evidence available to the country team supports Saakashvili's statement that this fight was not Georgia's original intention."

-- Haley Sweetland Edwards in Tblisi

Photo: A convoy of Russian troops makes its way through the Caucasus Mountains toward the armed conflict between Georgian troops and separatist South Ossetian troops in the South Ossetian village of Dzhaba on Aug. 9, 2008. Credit: Dmitry Kostyukov / AFP

Comments () | Archives (11)

To Chris:
Georgia never belonged to Russia, even under the Soviet rule! USSR contained 15 independent countries/republics. Yes, the capital was in Moscow, but to say that Russia owned Georgian or any other territories within USSR except the Russian is flat wrong! Georgians spoke in their own language and so did other republics. Russian was the secondary language learned at schools, just like Spanish in the U.S.
In 1921 Georgia was forcefully incorporated in the USSR, but not in Russia!!!
Yes, we called USSR Russia, but for various reasons majority folks in the U.S were not really informed much about USSR or other eastern block unions, like Yugoslavia, on how they were structured, which countries these unions contained. If you are Russian (there are many Russians with fake westernized names participating in blogs like this) than your statement is something of a fascist-expansionist one.

Russia is trying to dominate and undermine Caucasus Nations since 300 years, this was in Georgia did not start in 2008 and it did not even start in 1990 when Soviet Union Collapsed, it did start long ago...
I only wonder, how some of you are so uneducated...
Just go and read Russian history and you will understand soon, who is actually a problem creator in Caucasus. Russians repeatedly committed genocide of entire Nations in Caucasus, just take Circassia, Chechnya ... they leveled entire ethnic groups...
It's like always, big nations against small, all depends who's side you are on, unfortunately for Georgia it chose to be with civilized world, long term it will pay off, may not just right away.
I say long term, because some day I hope, Russia will become civilized country too and will start respecting other Countries too.

When it comes to this war, I trust neither Russia nor Georgia because Russia wants to re-dominate all countries it once dominated, and Georgia's actions towards South Ossetia are driving the South Ossetians to hate Georgia even more so than before.

please do not confuse the comments of one sam,with another of the same name. thank you.

Dear Sam:
I was in Russia during that war and I can tell that for me or any russian the choice of news media was state controlled and not state controlled russian TV channes, CNN (International), Euronews (International), Deutsche Welle (German), TV5 Monde (French). This is only the smallest package any russian (at least in Moscow) can easily get. So one may question who can get a more informed opinion - a viewer in Moscow or the one stuck with US-centric CNN(US)/FoxNews....
As to Georgia - I do not know, but still suprised with your notion that Georgia has (of course..?) much better and freerer newsmedia. On what grounds you draw such conclusion...

@Sam, are you an American?

Americans criticizing Russian actions in countries that formerly belonged to it under the USSR should first remove the log out of their own eye (Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.?) before pointing out problems in someone else.

No doubt media in Georgia is much, MUCH free than in Russia. We all know the temper of Russian's, they're still doing what they do the best - and ist's called ocuupation. It's silly and unfair to blame Georgia for that defensive war

Obviously Georgia government got duped in to shooting war with Russia which even US and China wont dare to do it themselves, same ploy which let Saddam to attack Kuwait and then finding out he have been duped by US in to that war, of course he wasn't a brilliant fellow to start with!

There was already an EU commission that determined that Georgia triggered the war, there is no debate anymore.

According to the lead investigator "Heidi TAGLIAVINI,"

"Let me start with the answer to the question that has been asked most frequently. In the mission’s view, it was Georgia that triggered the war when it attacked Tskhinvali with heavy artillery on the night of 7 and 8 August 2008. None of the explanations given by the Georgian authorities in order to provide some form of legal justification for the attack offered a valid explanation. In particular, to the best of the mission’s knowledge there was no massive Russian military invasion under way that had to be stopped by Georgian military forces shelling Tskhinvali."

Russia is constantly meddling is all FSU countries' affairs. To say that these past actions caused the events in South Ossetia is just an excuse for Saakashvili's miscalculation and the fact he screwed up.



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