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Issue of 2008 August War Flares Up Again in Domestic Politics

By Messenger Staff
Friday, November 18
The issue of the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 has become the central topic for confrontation in domestic politics in the pre election period in Georgia. Businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili, now engaged in politics, made a statement where he accused Saakashvili and his team of falling into a Russian trap and thus not avoiding war. The ruling administration meanwhile accuses Ivanishvili of repeating Putinís version of the war and thus proving that Ivanishvili is Putinís pet. These mutual accusations triggered further speculation about the events connected to the August war.

Paradoxically enough the issue of how the war started is not answered definitely; there are different interpretations and questions continue to emerge. The fact that Russia was prepared to launch a full scale military operation is a reality. That the Russians themselves and the separatists they support launched provocations against the Georgian civil population and military is also a fact. However, many think that the Georgian leadership should have avoided being trapped by these provocations and should not have started an attack on Tskhinvali. According to the Tagliavini commission's conclusion, the Georgian move was not a defensive operation. It was an attack which was used by the Russian military to carry out an invasion of Georgian territories. This is the official internationally approved interpretation. It was made as a result of several months of research carried out by the Tagliavini commission. But this opinion is not appreciated at all by the Georgian ruling authorities. Officials in Georgia would accuse anyone who said this of pro Russian sentiments and sharing the Russian version of the war. The ruling authorities protect their position which means rejecting the responsibility laid at their door by the Tagliavini commission. Accepting any responsibility would bring up issues of morality, politics and law which would be extremely damaging at any time let alone an election year. Many suspect that if or when the Saakashvili administration goes a new leadership would start its own investigation of the details of the August war. This would be done to finally reveal the names of those responsible Ė who exactly allowed the fall into the Russian trap and who led the country to military defeat, human losses, lost territories, more IDPs and other consequences.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also further aggravated the situation in this respect with revelations published in her memoirs. Rice touches upon the details of the August war. According to her interpretation, the Saakashvili administration's conduct gave Russia an excuse to start military action. This war unfortunately further distanced Georgia from NATO. She also writes in her book how she was upset when President Saakashvili deviated in his press conference from the plans he and the state secretary had previously agreed to follow.

One of the opposition leaders, the former chair of parliament Nino Burjanadze, also addressed the issue stating that it had been possible to avoid the war, despite the provocations. Saakashvili initiated the bombing of Tskhinvali which was followed by the death of hundreds of Georgian soldiers and civilians and lost territories. She blames Saakashvili and his team who convinced the president that Georgia would win the military conflict in just several hours.

However there are some other opinions as well. According to these, it is not only Saakashvili to blame for starting the war, as certain circles in the US also encouraged the Georgian president. It is unlikely that officials would like to continue the discussion of this issue; they have a fixed position and defend it. There is also wide spread opinion in Georgia that the Tagliavini conclusion is partially beneficial to Russia. Thus the issue from the Georgian government's side is best played down and forgotten.