Δευτέρα, 27 Οκτωβρίου 2008

DID SAAKASHVILI LIE? (from Spiegel on line)

The West Begins to Doubt Georgian Leader
By SPIEGEL ..>>
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,578273-2,00.html
Five weeks after the war in the Caucasus the mood is shifting against Georgian President Saakashvili. Some Western intelligence reports have undermined Tbilisi's version of events, and there are now calls on both sides of the Atlantic for an independent investigation.

[.. Clinton speaks late in the debate. Even her voice sounds tired. But politically she is still her old self, and she cuts right to the chase..]
"Did we embolden the Georgians in any way" to use military force? she asks the members of the committee. Did the Bush administration really warn Moscow and Georgia sufficiently about the consequences of a war? And how could it be that the United States was so taken by surprise by this outbreak of hostilities? These questions, says Clinton, should be examined by a US commission, which should "in the first place determine the actual facts."

Although Clinton speaks for only a few minutes, her words show that the mood toward Georgia is shifting in the United States. For Americans, wasn't this war in the faraway Caucasus -- over there in the Old World -- nothing but a struggle between a giant, expansionist country and a small, democratic nation it was seeking to subjugate? And wasn't Georgia attacked merely "because we want to be free," as President Mikhail Saakashvili was saying in front of CNN's cameras almost hourly?
"Today, we are all Georgians," Republican presidential candidate John McCain declared. The neoconservative commentator Robert Kagan compared the Russian action with the Nazis' 1938 invasion of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia. And in a meeting with US Vice President Richard Cheney, Saakashvili was assured of Washington's support for his most fervent wish: admission to NATO.
But now, five weeks after the end of the war in the Caucasus, the winds have shifted in America. Even Washington is beginning to suspect that Saakashvili, a friend and ally, could in fact be a gambler -- someone who triggered the bloody five-day war and then told the West bold-faced lies. "The concerns about Russia have remained," says Paul Sanders, an expert on Russia and the director of the conservative Nixon Center in Washington. His words reflect the continuing Western assessment that Russia's military act of revenge against the tiny Caucasus nation Georgia was disproportionate, that Moscow violated international law by recognizing the separatist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and, finally, that it used Georgia as a vehicle to showcase its imperiBut then Saunders qualifies his statement: "More and more people are realizing that there are two sides in this conflict, and that Georgia was not as much a victim as a willing participant." Members of US President George W. Bush's administration, too, are reconsidering their position. Georgia "marched into the South Ossetian capital" after a series of provocations, says Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian al renaissance.

But now the volume is being turned down on the anti-Moscow rhetoric. Last week German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier publicly called for clarification on the question of who is to blame for the Caucasus war. "We do need to know more about who bears what portion of the responsibility for the military escalation and to what extent," Steinmeier told a meeting of Germany's more than 200 ambassadors in Berlin. The European Union, he said, must now "define our relations with the parties to the conflict for the medium and long term," and that the time has come to have concrete information.
At 10:35 p.m. on Aug. 7, less than an hour before Russian tanks entered the Roki Tunnel, according to Saakashvili, Georgian forces began their artillery assault on Tskhinvali. The Georgians used 27 rocket launchers, including 152-millimeter guns, as well as cluster bombs. Three brigades began the nighttime assault.
The intelligence agencies were monitoring the Russian calls for help on the airwaves. The 58th Army, part of which was stationed in North Ossetia, was apparently not ready for combat, at least not during that first night.
The Georgian army, on the other hand, consisted primarily of infantry groups, which were forced to travel along major roads. It soon became bogged down and was unable to move past Tskhinvali. Western intelligence learned that the Georgians were experiencing "handling problems" with their weapons. The implication was that the Georgians were not fighting well.
The intelligence agencies conclude that the Russian army did not begin firing until 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 8, when it launched an SS-21 short-range ballistic missile on the city of Borzhomi, southwest of Gori. The missile apparently hit military and government bunker positions. Russian warplanes began their first attacks on the Georgian army a short time later. Suddenly the airwaves came to life, as did the Russian army.
Russian troops from North Ossetia did not begin marching through the Roki Tunnel until roughly 11 a.m. This sequence of events is now seen as evidence that Moscow did not act offensively, but merely reacted. Additional SS-21s were later moved to the south. The Russians deployed 5,500 troops to Gori and 7,000 to the border between Georgia and its second separatist region, Abkhazia.
Is Saakashvili Already Dead Politically?
The Georgian president is also coming under pressure in his own country, as the united front that developed during the Russian invasion crumbles. Those who have long criticized Saakashvili and his senior staff as an "authoritarian regime" are speaking out once again. Back in December 2007, Georgy Khaindrava, a former minister for conflict resolution who was dismissed in 2006, told SPIEGEL that Saakashvili and his circle are people "for whom power is everything." A few weeks earlier, Saakashvili had deployed special police forces in Tbilisi, where the opposition had staged large demonstrations, and declared a state of emergency. At the time, Khaindrava expressed concerns that Saakashvili could soon attempt to bolster his weakened image with a "small, victorious war" -- against South Ossetia.
In May 2006, former Foreign Minister Salomé Surabishvili had already cautioned against her former boss's actions. The "enormous arms buildup" he had engaged in made "no sense," Surabishvili said, adding that it created the impression that he planned to resolve the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia militarily.
Last week, the heads of Georgia's two major political parties called for Saakashvili's resignation and the establishment of a "government that is neither pro-Russian nor pro-American, but pro-Georgian." In Moscow, former Georgian Deputy Interior Minister Temur Khachishzili, who spent years in prison for attempting to assassinate Saakashvili's predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, is drumming up support for a change of government back home among the more than one million Georgians living in Russia.
Is Saakashvili, who only five weeks ago had gained the West's sympathy as the victim of a Russian invasion, already dead politically?

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