Report: Georgia May Have Sparked War With Russia
Accounts by European observers monitoring August's Georgia-Russia war have cast doubt on pro-Western Georgian claims that it was attacked first, The New York Times reported.
Members of an international team working for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conducted two closed-door briefings in August and October to discuss what happened; The Times obtained summaries of both meetings and confirmed the findings with Western diplomats.
Although the newly-reported accounts aren't conclusive, and Georgian leaders have questioned their validity, they appear to show that Georgia's young and relatively inexperienced military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7, "exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm." That attack laid the groundwork for Russian aggression.
The brief nine-day war was disastrous for Georgia, and Russian forces occupied the small country for weeks afterward.
Dissatisfaction within Georgia over the country's handling of the war resulted in a protest by thousands of people in Georgia's capital today, the first since August. [Editor's Note: Number of protesters corrected 11/10/08]
Opposition movements have demanded an explanation from the government for the mistakes of the war, while calling for President Mikhail Saakashvili's resignation.
The war also worsened relations between Russia and the United States, which has publicly backed Georgia and moved quickly with plans to develop a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic to counter possible Iranian attacks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Russia has objected to the plans and promised to install short-range missiles at its western border.
Likewise, in his first nationwide speech Wednesday morning, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called U.S. foreign policy "selfish" and cited the country's "economic blunders," which he said led to the global financial crisis.
In his 85-minute speech, Medvedev said his country's war with Georgia had been "among other things, the result of the arrogant course of the U.S. administration which hates criticism and prefers unilateral decisions."
By Derek Kravitz |
November 7, 2008; 2:11 PM ET
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