Continuing the phony controversy, Rubin gets some more facts wrong:
And that’s when Russia — who everyone agrees was not attacked [bold mine-DL] — enacted their pre-planned assault by moving their forces in to fight the Georgian army.
In fact, Saakashvili gave the Russians a pretext to intervene when their attack on Tshkinvali killed Russian soldiers stationed there as part of an earlier peacekeeping mission. One can argue that Russia should not have been entrusted with a peacekeeping role in these territories, and one can argue that Russia took advantage of this role to extend its influence into the separatist republics (it certainly did), and one can certainly argue that Moscow was trying to goad Saakashvili into an attack, but it’s simply false to say that Russians were not attacked at the beginning of the war. Rubin simply ignores, or doesn’t know about, the Russian soldiers already present in South Ossetia who were there ostensibly to protect the Ossetians from just this sort of attack.
Der Spiegel published a detailed report on the war. Here was one of their findings on the days leading up to the war:
One thing was already clear to the officers at NATO headquarters in Brussels: They thought that the Georgians had started the conflict and that their actions were more calculated than pure self-defense or a response to Russian provocation. In fact, the NATO officers believed that the Georgian attack was a calculated offensive against South Ossetian positions to create the facts on the ground, and they coolly treated the exchanges of fire in the preceding days as minor events. Even more clearly, NATO officials believed, looking back, that by no means could these skirmishes be seen as justification for Georgian war preparations.
And here is another:
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.
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.
As for the matter of the “pre-planned assault,” there was a prior plan for an attack, and it was Saakashvili’s:
On Aug. 3, the Russian foreign ministry issued a final warning that an “extensive military conflict” was about to erupt. Officials in Europe’s seats of government and intelligence agency headquarters had a sense of what the Russians were talking about. Saakashvili’s plans for an invasion had been completed some time earlier. A first draft prepared in 2006, believed to be a blueprint of sorts for the later operation, anticipated that Georgian forces would capture all key positions within 15 hours [bold mine-DL].
A plan B — in the event of failure — did not exist.
Three days before the outbreak of the war, officials in Israel emphatically stated that the country had not sold offensive weapons to Georgia in months, and that “frantic requests” from Tbilisi, including those requests for Israeli-made Merkava tanks and new weapons, were rejected. From the perspective of the Israelis, Georgia and Russia were clearly on a collision course.
On the question of how Saakashvili interpreted Rice’s warnings, which is one of the main issues in this ginned-up controversy, Der Spiegel reported in a different article that Saakashvili came away from his meetings with Rice that summer with a very different impression than Rice apparently intended to give him:
In retrospect, Saakashvili and Rice would interpret their conversations in different ways. Rice claims that she warned Saakashvili against military conflict with Russia, while Saakashvili recalls Rice’s assurances of firm solidarity [bold mine-DL]. Rice left Tbilisi 28 days before the war broke out.
If Rice doesn’t blame Saakashvili for his role in all of this, she should. Then again, he doesn’t deserve all of the blame. U.S. and allied decisions in the months prior to the August war led to increased tensions between Russia and Georgia:
Putin, meanwhile, watched and waited — he wanted to see how the Kosovo question would turn out. He made it clear that if the ethnic Albanian province was granted the right to secede from Serbia, the West could not deny Abkhazia and South Ossetia the right to secede from Georgia. On Feb. 17, 2008, the United States, Great Britain and France recognized Kosovo’s independence.
After Saakashvili’s state visit to Washington on March 19, when he clearly enjoyed his reception as the president of a key ally in the war on terror, there was the NATO summit in Bucharest. In response to a German and French initiative, the alliance denied Georgia and Ukraine its consent to their joining NATO, but promised membership at a later date.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko promptly predicted that this decision would have “the gravest consequences for overall European security.” US President George W. Bush met with Putin at his Black Sea vacation home in an effort to restore calm. But Bush apparently failed to take the Russian president’s warnings as seriously as they were intended. In retrospect, Western observers describe what happened in the ensuing few days in April as a “point of no return” for the Georgian-Russian war.
P.S. Rubin’s conclusion is hilarious:
But at least for now, a great number of readers will dismiss Atlantic’s reporting on that region as nothing more than the Soros (and Russian) propaganda line.
If they do, they will be making a mistake. It is utterly ridiculous to think that the Soros line and the Russian line could ever be one and the same. Soros’ activism over the years has been overtly hostile to Russia. If someone writing for EurasiaNet has said something that isn’t hostile to Russia, that would be evidence in favor of EurasiaNet’s independence from any particular “line” and proof that we should respect the quality of their analysis.