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Russia-Georgia armed clash on August 8-12, 2008 was Saakashvili’s fiasco - experts

August 10, 2015, 18:12 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Sergei Uzakov

MOSCOW, August 10. /TASS/. The five-day armed clash with Russia following Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008 highlighted utter adventurism of Georgia’s the-then president, Mikheil Saakashvili, caused heavy casualties and resulted South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s decision to break away from Georgia, polled experts have told TASS.

Late in the evening on August 8 the Georgian army attacked the city of Tskhinval — the administrative centre of South Ossetia (formally Georgian territory) with multiple rocket launchers.

Back in 1991-1992 Georgia and South Ossetia were at war following the breakup of the Soviet Union. When the hostilities lulled down, South Ossetia held a referendum on independence and/or reunification with Russia. Ninety nine percent voted for the proposed option. Under the 1992 agreement between Moscow and Tbilisi a mixed peace-keeping force of three battalions — Russian, Georgian and Ossetian — was moved to the conflict zone and a mission of OSCE monitors was deployed in Tskhinval. By 2006 more than 80% of the South Ossetian population had obtained Russian citizenship.

Deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Andrey Klimov, said Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia was a manifestation of Saakashvili’s adventurist policies.

"Saakashvili had hoped should he have problems with storming Tskhinval and occupying the whole territory of South Ossetia, the Americans would provide support. At a certain point he must have had the delusion the United States would be prepared to go to war with Russia for Georgia’s interests. In the meantime, according to the available information, Washington did not have any such plans," Klimov said. "South Ossetia and another former Georgian autonomy — Abkhazia — declared independence and were eventually recognized by Russia and four other countries. Saakashvili suffered utter failure."

"Saakashvili’s latest appointment as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region shows the limit of his capabilities. In his new capacity acting on instructions from Ukraine’s pro-US President Pyotr Poroshenko Saakashvili has been trying to lure Russia into an armed conflict by arranging a blockade of the self-proclaimed republic of Trans-Dniestria, where Russian citizens account for a third of the population and where Russia has a military base. Saakashvili runs the risk of stepping on the same rake again," Klimov warned.

A member of the OSCE Council of Wise Men, Sergey Karaganov, has described Saakashvili as an "adventurist" and "poor player." "In 2008, somebody at the third or fourth tier of the US Administration promised Saakashvili ‘the United States would stand by Georgia’s side’ if Tbilisi tried to restore the country’s territorial integrity," says Karaganov, the dean of the world politics and world economy department at the Higher School of Economics. Saakashvili grew certain that the then US President George Bush, who had paid a visit to Tbilisi, felt fatherly affection for him. Saakashvili is a bad player and an adventurist. He got it all wrong," Karaganov said.

"Seven years ago internal rifts were tearing the Georgian leadership apart. It should not be ruled out that Saakashvili had hoped to gain the upper hand in that internal political clash with just one successful military operation. He was wrong again. Misinformation by the Georgian military must have been another factor that pushed Saakashvili towards attacking Tskhinval."

Karaganov believes that the split in Russia’s relations with the West was the main outcome of the five-day war of 2008. That split climaxed with the 2014 crisis in Ukraine.

"The year of 2008 saw not just Russia’s brief armed clash with Georgia, but also the financial and economic crisis in the West. A war lost by Western ally Saakashvili and the turmoil in the economy and the banking sector dealt a double blow on the West. The United States and the European Union have since been trying hard to regain the lost foothold by stepping up pressures on Russia," Karaganov said.

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