The American Conservative‘s Daniel Larison gets right to work, defending Moscow from these charges (because real American conservatives carry water for the Kremlin, right?). ~Daniel Halper
This is a rather dim response. First of all, I would point out that the “scoop” in question is hardly news. This information Lake reported today has been out there in one form or another for more than half a year. For what it’s worth, Jennifer Rubin has been trying to hype this for several months to no avail. What I said in my post is that I am extremely skeptical of any specific charges that the Georgian government makes about Russian covert operations, because the current government resorts to making espionage charges with incredible frequency, the government relies heavily on extracting confessions from detainees to get its “evidence,” and the judicial system of the country is structured in a way that makes it nearly impossible for an accused person to be acquitted. The most recent episode of flinging around espionage charges was the railroading of the Georgian photographers, and this appears to be a clear case of a politically-motivated prosecution against well-known journalists who made the mistake of reporting on a government crackdown. The Georgian government exploits the tensions with Russia to consolidate power at home, and it has shown that it is not above abusing its power, including the use of espionage accusations against its domestic opponents, and it obviously has something to gain by derailing good relations between the U.S. and Russia.
Joshua Foust is appropriately skeptical of Lake’s report:
There’s no way to prove any of this. And, at the end of the day, Borisov could very well be a terrorist. But the evidence Lake reports to charge Russia with bombing the U.S. embassy is terribly circumstantial and limited in sourcing: literally the people with the most to gain from blaming Russia for their own internal problems are pushing this out to journalists. When you combine that with the somewhat alarming tendency in American politics to refuse to admit that the cold war is over — McCain’s desperate quest to portray Russia as a threatening empire is only the most prominent example of this but there are others — it’s difficult to take these charges at face value. Georgia has been caught several times misleading journalists about Russia’s perfidy in the region. Do we have any reason to think this time they’re not?
Thomas de Waal has provided other examples why Georgian government claims should not be taken at face value:
The first reaction of many acquaintances in Tbilisi was to be sceptical. Pro-government media has run many stories over the last year about “Russian agents,” several of whom are actually pro-Western members of the Georgian opposition. Then there was the “War of the Worlds” incident last year when the Imedi channel broadcast reports of a Russian invasion, which turned out to be an irresponsible hoax. The most outrageous episode of this kind occurred in May 2008 during the last presidential election campaign in the village of Khurcha near the border with Abkhazia. A bus carrying voters on a soccer field was fired on and one woman was injured. Pro-government television reported it as an attack by Abkhaz or Russians. Subsequent sleuthing by a UN official found out the attack had been actually staged by Georgian security forces.
The findings on the Khurcha incident can be read here. Like de Waal, I think it is plausible that the Russians are engaged in some covert actions aimed at destabilizing Georgia. Also like de Waal, I think that such a campaign is a serious mistake. As I said in my post, “I don’t doubt that Russia is engaged in covert activity inside Georgia,” but for all of the reasons given above I don’t accept that Russians were responsible for the embassy bombing just because the Georgian government says so. In the end, that is what the “scoop” amounts to, and it isn’t very much.