Ukrainians, Georgian Politicians Both Learning From Review Of 2008 War
Georgia is close to releasing a long-awaited official review of the 2008 South Ossetia war. And while critics of the government have expressed concern that the report will be a politically motivated attack on the former government, led by President Mikhail Saakashvili, the current defense minister is instead emphasizing how the report will have lessons for Ukraine as it, too, struggles with Russia.
At the end of April, the defense ministry announced that it had finished the report. That it was commissioned shortly after Saakashvili's defeat made some think it was going to be an attempt to blame him, rather than Russia, for the war. Alasania denied this last April: "Russia started an aggressive war campaign against Georgia, a sovereign country, and occupied its territories. No-one questioned this and no-one will question it in the future." Instead, Alasania insisted that the report would be focused on military, rather than political, questions and would be used to plan future development of the armed forces. That criticism has not gone away, with Saakashvili's United National Movement claiming "that the research might be politically motivated, aiming at political pressure on the [UNM] prior to the local self-government elections scheduled for June 15."
Saakashvili critics, on the other hand, have said that the new report is necessary because the old government politicized investigations into the war, trying to present the "desirable" as reality, said military analyst Irakli Aladashvili. “We had such military training that we should have opposed worthily to the Russian forces. I do not say that we would have won. However, resistance should have been more worthy. There are still many officials in the army who should respond to the mistakes made,” Aladashvili said in an interview with Georgian Journal.
But Alasania, on a visit to Washington this week, gave the report a different spin: how it could help Ukraine in its own struggles with Russia. In an interview with American website The Daily Beast, Alasania said "“I am offering some lessons learned."
Among Georgia’s tips for Ukraine: hunt moles early; watch for “non-governmental organizations” that are really Moscow’s fronts; seek out encrypted communications from the West; and if Russia does annex more territory, keep humanitarian, economic and cultural lines of communications open without formally recognizing the transfer of turf—it could be a useful way for the government in Kiev to address some of the needs of Ukraine’s Crimean citizens....
Alasania said he already has had two lengthy conversations with Ukraine’s interim defense minister and is planning a face-to-face meeting to present his ministry’s report and offer his country’s assistance in planning for Ukraine without Crimea.
With the elections coming soon, the report will no doubt be picked through for political ammunition. The implications for the country's future military planning, however, will likely be much more significant. For Ukraine, though, it may be too late.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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