In the Times of London, Anatol Lieven reminds that South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been in the center of turmoil between Georgia and Russia and their own assertions of independence in 1918 and then again in 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated.
On his FT blog, Gideon Rachman thinks Saakashvili overplayed his hand with the Russians and was too confident in American support. Rachman writes:
It seems to me that the Georgians under-estimated the ferocity of the Russian reaction and over-estimated the support they would get from the west. When I interviewed President Saakashvili earlier this year, he was keen to boast of his personal friendships with the likes of President Bush, John McCain and President Sarkozy.
My hotel in Tbilisi was full of American military personnel. But Nato’s refusal to offer Georgia a “Membership action plan” late last year was a warning that there was a clear limit to how far Georgia’s western friends will go in its defence.
Third, Ronald Asmus and Richard Holbrooke call for a new transatlantic strategic plan to deal with Russia’s heightened aggressiveness. Asmus and Holbrooke at first say that it’s hard to see exactly who or what started the conflict in South Ossetia but nonetheless suggest that we must stand by Georgia and hold against Russia. Regrettably, there is little analysis in their piece of what actually created the ecosystem of fragility and imbalance between Georgia, two autonomous provices, and Russia. I regret to say that Holbrooke and Asmus don’t look back to Kosovo independence and other measures America took to gut and neutralize Russia’s interests. If they had included a bit of American self-reflection, I’d agree with them that a new strategic course is needed — but not one that focuses almost exclusively on punishing Russia.
Finally, my own views on the Russia-Georgia War are here and have been referenced widely around the blogosphere.
I hope to have comments from Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes later in the day.
— Steve Clemons