Georgia (theirs, not ours) appears headed towards a major embarrassment with the expected publication next month of a European Union report blaming the government of Mikhail Saakashvili for triggering last year’s war with Russia. Reports Spiegel online:
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is preparing the Georgian population for the planned publication in September of the European Union’s report into the five-day war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. The document is expected to assign primary responsibility for the attack on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali to Saakashvili — with the qualification that Moscow provoked him.
As a counter-measure, the government in Tbilisi has already published a separate 190-page report concluding that it was Russia which “launched a large-scale assault on Georgia” last year. “Now the West can have no doubt who started the war, and why,” commented Georgia’s state minister on reintegration, Temur Yakobashvili.
However, NATO and EU experts have so far found no evidence to support Georgian claims that a Russian column of 150 tanks and armored vehicles had advanced into South Ossetia before the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali.
Georgian media has prominently reported on statements by Western politicians which support the Georgian position. However criticism of Georgia is suppressed or presented as the product of a conspiracy. After SPIEGEL in June reported on the provisional internal results of the EU investigative commission, the pro-government weekly newspaper Georgia Today explained the report’s uncomfortable conclusion to its readers by falsely claiming that SPIEGEL had obtained its information from Russian intelligence. In addition, the newspaper made the completely untrue assertion that the German magazine is owned by a subsidiary of the Russian energy company Gazprom — and is therefore a “mouthpiece for Putin.”
Obviously, the Georgian government claims otherwise, and it has its supporters. But from the start of the war last year a diverse group of critics pointed the finger at Tbilisi. It is hard to believe that the European Union, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers, British military officers, and journalists all have been conspiring together at the behest of Vladimir Putin against Georgia. It also is worth noting that the Saakashvili government’s human rights record is not good. Freedom House rates Georgia as “partly free,” better than Russia, but not good for a NATO wannabe. Especially since Tbilisi’s rating has been trending downward.
All of this confirms the wisdom of not expanding NATO any further. Georgia is a security black hole for the U.S., offering potential political instability and international conflicts with no comparable military benefits. And if Tbilisi was reckless when it was merely hoping to join the trans-Atlantic alliance, imagine how it likely would act as a member.