On December 9 my good friend Ed Lozansky, President of the American University in Moscow, will show a documentary at the National Press Club. The film purports to vindicate Russia in its recent war with Georgia. While quickly winning military battles with Georgia, Russia lost the propaganda war with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. His excellent English skills and Western public relations consultants portrayed Georgia as a helpless and blameless victim of unprovoked Russian aggression, with the Russians out to destroy Georgian democracy.
The very Western media which bought Saakashvili's side of the story now is challenging the way in which he successfully rallied Western support for his regime. Recent reports from the Caucasus question Georgia's account of the origins of the war. Two veteran Western correspondents say they found that shelling of civilian areas in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, began far earlier than Georgian authorities contended. A BBC documentary exposed the rampages of Georgian forces in South Ossetia's capital. A Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International report accused Georgian forces of deliberately targeting civilians and using cluster bombs in populated areas.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) military monitors, comprised of veteran British military officers, told Western media outlets that Russian forces entered South Ossetia eight to ten hours after Georgian forces began shelling Tskhinvali. The allegation is that Georgian forces attacked Russian peacekeepers. At this point Saakashvili successfully exploited America's statements that Georgia's path toward consolidated democracy and NATO membership was guaranteed. Mixed messages from the United States, especially from Vice President Richard B. Cheney's office, contributed to the Georgian Government's sense that a successful war would receive US approval.
In view of the OSCE reports, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the Georgian Government "reckless" for its military actions. The European Union has formed a commission to investigate Saakashvili's behavior to determine if international laws were violated.