I stopped by the Center for Strategic & International Studies earlier today for a forum with Georgian Chairman of Parliament Davit Bakradze. The most interesting part was Bakradze’s detailed account of how the war with Russia began. This BBC article gives some useful background:
The Georgians said they had been forced to retaliate after coming under continuing and sustained attack from the South Ossetian side.
Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze, speaking on the morning of 8 August, said there had also been reports of an incursion of “so-called volunteer fighters” from North Ossetia coming through the Roki tunnel, which links South Ossetia to Russia.
In a news conference six days later, the prime minister amplified this, referring to “a massive column of 150 units” crossing through the Roki tunnel during the night. It was this, he said, that had triggered the decision to send in the troops.
So far there have been no independent reports about this alleged incursion, although there were reports of Russian military exercises in the area around the Roki tunnel in the days leading up to the fighting. It is just one of many questions about this war which have yet to be answered.
According to Bakradze, there will be new evidence of Russian incursions through the Roki tunnel released in the near future. Bakradze characterizes this as the primary reason for the Georgian incursion into South Ossetia (though he gives a whole lot more context than just that; maybe when I have a chance to transcribe my recording I’ll share the rest of it). He says the Georgians were genuinely afraid that the Russians would march all the way to Tbilisi, and calculated that if they could hold them off for a day or two the international reaction would deter the Russians from taking over all of Georgia. In fact, Bakradze argues that, had they not sent troops into South Ossetia, Georgia might have been swallowed whole before the rest of the world even noticed.
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