WikiLeaks: Georgia Didn’t Start The War With Russia

There is nothing new in the WikiLeaks material on Georgia. It only reconfirms the fact that Georgian military forces were mobilized late on August 7 in response to Russian aggression. There was no build up of Georgian forces before that time. In addition, Russia has been waging a covert war against Georgia since at least 2004.

Note this line by U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft: “From evidence available to us it appears the South Ossetians started today’s fighting.” This finding has been confirmed by subsequent inquiries into the war. Russia controlled and armed the separatists, who started the conflict by firing large caliber artillery weapons at Georgian villages.

“[Saakashvili’s spokesperson, Manana Manjgaladze] also commented briefly on the world’s current most topical issue that is Monday’s release by Wikileaks of classified information including recordings of secret conversations between world leaders, some of which referred to the events of August 2008. According to the materials released, the decision to open fire on so called South Ossetia was not made by the Georgian authorities and all responsible Georgian officials, who might have done so, were on vacation at that time. They were mobilized only on August 7. Manjgaladze said, “What has been released concerning Georgia, that we were not the initiators of the war, was well known by the world for a long time.” ”

‘Georgia backed by Wikileaks release’


3. (C) Comment: All the evidence available to the country team supports Saakashvili’s statement that this fight was not Georgia’s original intention. Key Georgian officials who would have had responsibility for an attack on South Ossetia have been on leave, and the Georgians only began mobilizing August 7 once the attack was well underway. As late as 2230 last night Georgian MOD and MFA officials were still hopeful that the unilateral cease-fire announced by President Saakashvili would hold. Only when the South Ossetians opened up with artillery on Georgian villages, did the offensive to take Tskhinvali begin. Post has eyes on the ground at the Ministry of Interior command post in Tbilisi and will continue to provide updates. The Embassy held an EAC and will hold another to reasses the situation by COB. We have issued a warden message and are looking at the situation very carefully. If the Georgians are right, and the fighting is mainly over, the real unknown is what the Russian role will be and whether there is potential for the conflict to expand. End comment.”

‘Wikileaks – War in Georgia: Fight was not Georgia’s original intention’

“The cable dealing with the Russian-Georgian conflict sheds particular light on the origins of the 2008 war. At the time, some international observers accused Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of provoking Russia, and sparking the war. Russian troops today remain in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But the cable shows that at least the U.S. ambassador in Tblisi believed Russia was conducting a war of its own against Georgia. In an interview, Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s national security adviser, declined to comment on the cable. However, he told The Washington Times that Russia’s covert war against his country has been under way since Georgia’s independence in 1991, and that the campaign intensified in 2004 when the pro-West Mr. Saakashvili became president.”

‘Russia waged covert war on Georgia starting in ’04’

‘WikiLeaks cables claim Russia armed Georgian separatists’

WikiLeaks ‘Cablegate’

3 December, 2010


The Russia-Georgia War Was Inevitable

MYTH: Georgia sparked the war with Russia when it launched its offensive into South Ossetia.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Russia planned its war beforehand, and the compelling evidence that Russian forces were in South Ossetia before the August 7 Georgian offensive, far too many people, even so-called “experts” are still under the impression that Georgia (or Saakashvili specifically) fell into a Russian trap. However, it can be proven—beyond a reasonable doubt—that this was a trap from which Georgia could not escape. Russia was going to invade, one way or another, and Georgia’s actions were strategically necessary to buy crucial time needed to survive, including alerting the world. Those with a basic understanding of the military, or even a basic understanding of geography, can figure this out—it doesn’t take a genius. If Saakashvili had done anything less, tanks would have rolled into Tbilisi, and Georgia would have lost its independence. 15/7/09

Russian Invasion of Georgia

I’ve been analysing all the moves before the conflict began. Such as Russia’s troop build up along the border a month beforehand, their violation of Georgian airspace, and the sudden escalation of South Ossetian provocations before Russia’s overt involvement. This includes the roadside bombing of a Georgian police patrol and the sudden shelling of Georgian villages, which led to Georgia’s military response. Also, there’s the British Intelligence assessment that Putin would attack this year. Richard Holbrooke’s prediction last year that Russia would respond with force to bring Georgia back under its domination because of their future NATO membership promised in April. Finally, the U.S. government’s investigation that found it was the South Ossetians who initiated the conflict. Frankly, when it comes to believing the word of Saakashvili or Putin (which is mainly what it comes down to here), I’m more willing to believe a democratically elected, western educated ally than an autocratic, election rigging bully. 15/8/08

Parallels between Hitler and Putin

The South Ossetians, who are considered to be Russians, are essentially like the Sudeten Germans of Czechoslavakia in 1938. Putin has used the same premise as Hitler of going in to protect their kin and maybe even annexing territory. Russia’s actions also have parallels with Poland in 1939 with the false pretext for war.

• Hitler counted on a weak West fearful of war in order to get his way. Putin counts on a weak West fearful of war in order to get his way!
• Hitler dreamed of recreating the great German Empire that had been reduced. Putin dreams of recreating the Russian Empire that has been reduced!
• Hitler believed that Germany’s defeat in WWI and the end of the German Empire was the biggest catastrophe in history. Putin believes that Russia’s defeat in the Cold War and the end of the Soviet Empire is the biggest catastrophe in 20th century history (he has been quoted as saying just that!)
• Hitler despised the weakness and Western orientation and brief period of democracy of the Weimar Republic. Putin despised the weakness and western orientation and brief period of democracy of the post Cold War years (the 1990s).
• Hitler came to power democratically and then became a dictator. Putin came to power democratically and then became a dictator. 13/8/08

Putin’s obvious war aims:

1.) The removal of the Democratically elected President of Georgia (Saakashvili)
2.) The annexation of some of Georgia (including Abkhazia and S. Ossetia)
3.) Turn Georgia into a small subservient (or client) state.
4.) VERY IMPORTANT POINT: the control of the oil pipeline (Baku-Supsa) running through Georgia. That would give them a monopoly on oil supplies running through the Caucasus. That would give Russia a lot of power.
5.) Push back American influence in the region.
6.) It would be seen as a reassertion of Russian power (Putin wanting a revival of an imperial Russia). 10/8/08

15 July, 2009

Russia-Georgia War: Part 2?

According to Georgian media reports, defensive fortifications have been set up around Tbilisi. The Georgian Defense Ministry neither confirms nor denies this. If worse comes to worst, how long will the capital hold out against Russian assault, and will the West come to Georgia’s aid militarily?

Russia has begun its second round of “war games”, using tens of thousands of troops. These exercises run from June 29, scheduled to end July 6. Although they are not really trustworthy, the Chechen Muslim rebels (Caucasus Emirate: Umara of Caucasian Mujahideen*) have noted that there are a lot more Russian troops in the region than reported. Formal military exercises involve 8,500 soldiers, 200 tanks, 450 armored vehicles and 250 artillery pieces. But, as Russian authorities confirm:

“All the brigades of the North Caucasus Military District, and also the armies of Air Forces and Air Defense, Caspian Flotilla, Novorossiysk naval base, FSB troops, the North Caucasian regional command of Internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and Airborne troops would be involved in the exercises”.

Even a pro-Russian Chechen fighter is talking up the likelihood of a new war. One Vakha Gelayev, a former fighter from the Vostok (“East”) batallion, a pro-Russian Chechen batallion that participated in the Georgia war last August, says that: 

”A new Russian-Georgian war will happen. The Russians are getting ready for this war. Everyone in the Northern Caucasus is talking about it. Russian generals get drunk and they all keep blabbing that there’ll be a new war this summer.”

During an online conference of “Novaya Gazeta (New Gazette)” Mikhail Kasyanov [leader of the People’s Democratic Union] said that, according to activists of the RPDU, in the past number of weeks military units have been hurriedly transferred to the Caucasus by night: “Armored vehicles that are being transported there are no less than those on the eve of the August conflict in South Ossetia last year,” Kasyanov said.

What’s most significant about these exercises is that they’re taking place within the occupied territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, almost exactly as Russia did last year before the war — a dress rehearsal before the real deal. A confidential assessment by EU diplomats (according to The International Crisis Group) indicates that “Russian reinforcements have included tanks, armored personnel carriers, artillery, and “Grad” multiple-rocket launchers and that an additional 5,000 troops, added to the 3,700 in each region, have entered South Ossetia and Abkhazia since April, 2009.”

Now, this simply could be Russia putting maximum pressure on Georgia and the West, and it could certainly be played out over and over again, like the sword of Damacles constantly hanging over Georgia’s head. However, Russian tanks are now less than 2 hours away from Tbilisi. Previously the Georgians could buy themselves at least 48 hours to alert the world to their plight; which is essentially what they did last time. At the very least, these exercises allow Putin to keep all of his options open, if he really does want to continue where he left off last year.

In fact, several Russian war aims remain unfulfilled:

• The overthrow of Saakashvili’s pro-Western government, and the installation of a pro-Kremlin regime [the Russians, again, attempted to do this via a poorly conceived and executed military coup a few months ago].

• The control of the oil/gas pipelines running through Georgia.

• The crippling and embargo of Georgia’s economy.

• The destruction of Georgia’s military forces.

A second Russian invasion of Georgia would be a complete disaster for the U.S, and for Europe. It would cause a continued breakdown of U.S/Russian relations, because the U.S. has supported the Georgians in the past. And if the West continues to be weak, and the Russians brazen, it could signify a collapse of post WW II foreign policy, and an end to Europe’s hopes for energy independence from Russia.

It would be by far the most tragic event for the post-Soviet states, who would once again fall within Russia’s sphere of influence. If the U.S. could not come to Georgia’s aid, then these countries would see their security futures tied exclusively to Russia. They would be thinking that it is better to have Russia as a friend than as an enemy. Since Russia is now far more authoritarian than it was during the 90’s (a mafia state bordering on a rogue state), this means far less free societies. It might appear a price worth paying but, to quote David Satter, “Russia can have at its borders only enemies or vassals”.

If nothing bad happens this time, the Georgians are still going to have many sleepless July-September nights, for many years to come.

30 June, 2009

Georgia Defenseless

The United States cannot rearm Georgia due to Obama’s “reset” with Russia. It seems that U.S. strategic policy in the South Caucasus is filtered through the prism of good U.S.-Russian relations, whatever the cost of that might be.

“A study just released by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a think-tank closely linked with the Obama White House, reflects the current policy toward Georgia (Samuel Charap and Cory Welt, “A New Approach to the Russia-Georgia Conflict,” October 2010, It seems to view it through the prism of US-Russia bilateral relations, without a guiding US strategic purpose toward Georgia or the South Caucasus region, and lacking any contextual references to European energy interests, the implications for Turkey and NATO, the supply corridor to Afghanistan, or Georgia’s own contributions to US-led operations there.”

‘White House-Connected Think Tank Reframes U.S. Policy Toward Georgia (Part One)’

‘White House-Connected Think Tank Reframes U.S. Policy Toward Georgia (Part Two)’

2 November, 2010

Georgia Betrayed

Russia has not so much frightened the Georgians into submission as cowed their U.S. allies instead. Denying Georgia defensive weapons not only endangers them but allows Russia to achieve one of its central objectives, to send a severe warning to all other former Soviet countries that if they try to get too close to the West (i.e. Nato, EU, good terms with Western leaders etc.) there may be severe consequences for them. It is wrong to punish Georgia for a war they neither wanted, nor started. And it is stupid to allow a military vacuum to exist when Russian tanks and missiles are only 30 miles from Tbilisi.

“Since the 2008 Russian invasion, Georgia has practically become a military vacuum, lacking such basic defensive equipment as anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades or air defenses, while facing massive Russian forces, and devoid of strategic depth. US policy is generally described as an undeclared arms embargo on Georgia, ruling out purely defensive items, including non-lethal equipment. In practical terms, this policy takes the form of stalling on requests submitted by Georgia or by US companies willing to work with Georgia. Without rejecting them outright, the State Department and Pentagon have simply not been acting on such requests during the last two years. The default policy seems to be one of neither denying nor approving.”

‘U.S. Policy on Defense Assistance to Georgia: Neither Yes or No, Perhaps Sometimes’

‘Russia Inhibits U.S. Defense Assistance to Georgia’

‘Russia, muster missiles to Georgia’

28 September, 2010

The Georgian Arms Embargo

Obama and Hillary Clinton talk tough on Georgia, but in reality they are appeasers. Even though Russia is the recognised aggressor in the 2008 war, under the U.S./Russia “reset” it’s Georgia that’s being punished. Georgia can’t even buy blank ammunition from the U.S. to train their own troops with, let alone the defensive weapons they need! It’s obscene, considering Putin acted just like Hitler when he launched his imperialist adventure into Georgia, and Russian troops still occupy Georgian territory, in breach of the ceasefire agreement. If Obama and Hillary can’t, or won’t, back up their strong words with deeds then they should at least be honest about it. If only John McCain were president right now. He would at least ensure that Georgia could defend itself, and have a good deterrent against a future attack.

“As the JDW (Jane’s Defence Weekly) correspondent pointed out, “Other Georgian officials expressed their frustration with the situation by pointing out that ‘the US even prohibits the sale to us of blank ammunition to be used for training. Obviously pushing the ‘reset’ button with Russia is more important than our military.’” So, the infamous ‘re-set’ is again the center of the problem, with Russia being given veto power by Washington over arms sales to Georgia.”

‘What Signal Does Washington’s Arms Embargo against Georgia Tell us About US Policy towards Ukraine?’

17 July, 2010

Georgia’s Struggle

Georgia has been struggling to find defensive weapons since the 2008 war with Russia, due to the following: Israel is under too much international pressure, and therefore is unable to supply more arms; Ukraine is run by a pro-Russian stooge, Viktor Yanukovych, who has cut off relations with them; France is too busy doing deals with the Russians (selling them four Mistral class vessels), ensuring that the Russkies have an effective amphibious assault force; and the U.S. is holding back from supplying Georgia with defensive weapons, such as surface to air missiles.

Georgia should have the right to defend itself, but the reality is that Putin’s paranoia and ambition to reassert Russia’s “sphere of influence” is making things very, very complicated in the region. The Georgians have continued to make great sacrifices for the West, sending hundreds of troops to Afghanistan, and thousands to Iraq. They deserve to have that sacrifice rewarded.

“During a visit to Paris June 7-8, the Georgian president Mikhail Saakachvili presented several requests for military materiel. Paris is currently negotiating the sale of four Mistral class amphibious assault vessels and is therefore less well disposed to sell arms to Georgia than it was three years ago (see p.5 ). In 2007, France was ready to sell Gowind corvettes to Tbilisi as well as ground-to-air and anti-tank missiles.

Israel, which was Georgia’s principal supplier of arms until the conflict with Russia in 2008, has also stepped back from its former client and prefers dealing with Moscow. Last year, the Israeli defence ministry authorised Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to sell four drones, along with a ground station, to the Russian frontier police for $50 million (IOL 610 ). Moscow is currently negotiating the acquisition of several other drones from IAI. The Kremlin has another efficacious means of bringing pressure to bear on Israel: the sale of the S-300 ground-to-air missile to Iran, a deal that is frozen but that could be reactivated at any moment.

Ukraine, the last country to have sold military materiel to Georgia, has had a pro-Russian president since the election of Viktor Yanukovych in February, and it has since cut off relations with Tbilisi. Last year, Kiev was still in the throes of negotiating the sale of Osa and Buk ground-to-air missiles, Kolchuga-M radar systems and BTR-70DI armoured transport vehicles.”

‘Tbilisi’s arms struggle’,84099135-GRA-HOM

28 June, 2010

The Russian Military Buildup Continues

Russian "piece-keeper"

Every year, during the summer campaigning season (July-September), Putin will be ready to try something. He may even try to finish his invasion of Georgia, as many of his war aims remain unfulfilled:

•Prevent Georgia from further cooperation with the West (NATO and the EU).
•The removal of the democratically elected president Mikheil Saakashvili.
•Turn Georgia into a subservient (or client) state, like Ukraine.
•The control of the oil/gas pipelines running through Georgia.
•The crippling and embargo of Georgia’s economy (if they do not comply with Putin’s demands; especially to install a pro-Russian leader).
•The destruction, or subservience, of Georgia’s military forces.

“The newest report from the always-worth-reading International Crisis Group, on South Ossetia, has a good rundown of the latest military developments in the breakaway territory. Relying mainly on Russian and Ossetian sources, rather than on Georgian ones, it nevertheless paints a picture of a pretty serious buildup that will give Georgia real reasons to worry:

The 4th military brigade of the Russian army, officially 3,800 troops, is currently responsible for South Ossetia. It is located in Tskhinvali, Java and the village of Kanchaveti, in Akhalgori. Crisis Group has been told of the construction of an additional military base in the village of Sinaguri, close to the administrative boundary on the west. Reportedly, a smaller unit is deployed in Kurta, a former ethnic Georgian village. These bases, on high hills, give Russia the potential to dominate substantial parts of eastern and western Georgia.

While control of Akhalgori might not have special value for the de facto authorities, it is only 50 km. from Tbilisi, so of high strategic value for Moscow. Backed up with tanks, artillery, multiple rocket launchers and air defence systems, it poses a serious threat to the Georgian capital, as well as to the east-west highway, which Russian troops seized in the 2008 war, in effect dividing the country. Georgian experts estimate that the same operation could now be carried out in one hour. By thus solidifying its presence, Russia may also be able to keep a closer eye on parts of its own restive North Caucasus territories.

Russia has also been restoring and building transportation routes that have potential for dual civilian-military use. It plans to spend 35 billion roubles ($1.2 million) on rehabilitation of the trans-Caucasian highway (TRANSCAM) and the Roki Tunnel (scheduled to be finished in 2012).

Preliminary estimates say road rehabilitation in South Ossetia will cost 10 billion roubles ($325 million). A new road between South and North Ossetia through the disputed Mamison Pass has also been discussed. Russia announced a tender to build heliports in Java and Akhalgori.

Moscow has deployed an estimated 900 border troops along South Ossetia’s administrative boundary with the rest of Georgia, replacing Ossetian security forces. On request from the de facto authorities, Russian experts are currently helping to demarcate the “state borders”, despite strong Georgian protests. Twenty frontier posts that are being built, not least to monitor Georgian military communications and movements, are expected to be completed by 2011.”

‘Inside the Russian buildup in South Ossetia’

‘South Ossetia: The Burden of Recognition’

17 June, 2010

Don’t Throw Georgia To The Wolves!

‘Europe must stand up for Georgia: Open letter’

Twenty years after half of Europe was freed, a new wall is being built – across Georgia, say Vaclav Havel and others

As Europe remembers the shame of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939 and the Munich agreement of 1938, and as it prepares to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall and the iron curtain in 1989, one question arises in our minds: Have we learned the lessons of history? Put another way, are we able to avoid repeating the mistakes that cast such a dark shadow over the 20th century?

To deplore or celebrate past events is a futile act if we remain blind to their lessons. Only if these events teach us how to act differently – and more wisely – do such commemorations have any value.

Looking at Europe today, it is abundantly clear that history has not come to an end and that it remains tragic. Twenty years after the emancipation of half of the continent, a new wall is being built in Europe – this time across the sovereign territory of Georgia.

This presents a major challenge for the citizens, institutions and governments of Europe. Are we willing to accept that the borders of a small country can be unilaterally changed by force? Are we willing to tolerate the de facto annexation of foreign territories by a larger power?

In order for the forthcoming historic commemorations to be meaningful both for Europe’s collective identity and for its future, we urge the EU’s 27 democratic leaders to define a proactive strategy to help Georgia peacefully regain its territorial integrity and obtain the withdrawal of Russian forces illegally stationed on Georgian soil.

Nobody wants a confrontation with Moscow or a return to the hostile atmosphere of the cold war. But, equally, it is essential that the EU and its member states send a clear and unequivocal message to the current leadership in Russia.

As the commission set up by the European Union and headed by Heidi Tagliavini prepares to publish its report on the causes of the Russian-Georgian war, we call on all Europeans to remember the painful lessons of our recent past.

First, a big power will always find or engineer a pretext to invade a neighbour whose independence it resents. We should remember that Hitler accused the Poles of commencing hostilities in 1939, just as Stalin pinned the blame on the Finns when he invaded their country in 1940. Similarly, in the case of Georgia and Russia, the critical question is to determine which country invaded the other, rather than which soldier shot the first bullet.

Second, the failure of western democracies to respond to the dismemberment of a friendly nation, albeit a small one, can have very serious global consequences.

The European Union was built against the temptation of Munich and the iron curtain. It would be utterly disastrous if we were to appear in any way to condone the kind of practices that plunged our continent into war and division for most of the last century. At stake is nothing less than the fate of the project to which we continue to dedicate our lives: the peaceful and democratic reunification of the European continent.

~ Vaclav Havel, Valdas Adamkus, Mart Laar, Vytautas Landsbergis, Otto de Habsbourg, Daniel Cohn Bendit, Timothy Garton Ash, André Glucksmann, Mark Leonard, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Adam Michnik, Josep Ramoneda

1 October, 2009

Lessons Not Learnt


Click image for link

Putin holds all the cards now. However, this situation was only allowed to occur because of the political and moral vacuum that developed in the West since the end of the Cold War.

Michael Totten: “What he [Putin] most fears is that Ukraine might join NATO, removing yet another buffer state between himself and the West and kiboshing his plans for the Eurasian Union, a euphemism for a 21st century Russian empire. (Does anyone seriously believe Kazakhstan will be an equal partner with Moscow?)

Keeping his former Ukrainian vassal out of NATO will be easy now even if a militant anti-Russian firebrand comes to power in Kiev. The Crimean referendum—whether it was free and fair or rigged is no matter—creates a disputed territory conflict that will never be resolved in Ukraine’s favor. It will freeze and fester indefinitely. There isn’t a chance that NATO would accept a member that has a disputed territory conflict with Russia. No chance at all. Ukraine is as isolated as it could possibly be from the West without getting re-absorbed into Russia entirely.

Putin did the same thing to Georgia in 2008 when he lopped off the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and he did it for the same reason.”

What Vladimir Putin is Up To

“Ronald Asmus: This war [The Russia–Georgia war of 2008] is all about the rules of the game in European security. And I think most Americans, perhaps even including people like me, thought five years ago that we had successfully all but completed a post-Cold War European security architecture that had rendered war in Europe impossible and had allowed the United States to shift its strategic focus away from Europe to new hotspots in the wider Middle East.

And the key moment in that was the [2002 NATO] Prague Summit where we completed the so-called “big bang” enlargement of NATO [to] Central and East Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

I think what this war showed was that Russia no longer believes in those rules of the game, because those rules of the game were based, among other things, on the rights of countries to choose their own path and their own alliances.

And as I argued in the book, the fundamental cause of the war was not ethnicity, was not Abkhazia or South Ossetia. This was a war that was fought over Georgia’s desire to go West and Russia’s determination to stop it from going West.”

Interview: Georgia’s ‘Little War’ Raises Big Questions

Every Tyranny Is Paranoid