By David Axe
September 03, 2008
Last month's Russian incursions into Georgia may have been "planned months in advance, awaiting only an appropriate pretext to act," according to EurasiaNet. Indeed, that Russia long had specific designs on Georgia has emerged as consensus in the wake of the conflict, at least among Western analysts.
Their proof? "Less than one month before Russia’s armed forces entered Georgia on August 8, they held massive military training exercises in the North Caucasus involving 8,000 servicemen and 700 pieces of military hardware." As a result, Russian troops were already in place, and primed for action, when Georgia attacked South Ossetian separatists.
But that's not the whole story, according to Gordon Hahn of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and other institutions. In a widely distributed email circular, Hahn claims Georgia also moved forces into place long before the fighting started.
Georgian military officials have inadvertently revealed that they had brought heavy artillery into the conflict zone very early on. For instance artillery brigade commanders told a Georgian newspaper that Georgian artillery used in the zone on August 7 included: "(a)t least 300 gun barrels of Georgian artillery."
Among these were: "the 203-mm Pion systems, the 160-mm Israeli-made GRADLAR multiple rocket launchers, the 152-mm Akatsiya, Giatsint and Dana (pictured) self-propelled guns, the 122-mm Grad and RM-70 multiple rocket launchers, as well as the D-30 and Msta howitzers of the infantry brigades." ["Georgian artillery inflicted 'heavy losses' on Russians," BBC Monitoring, August 25, 2008 translating Georgian weekly Kviris Palitra, August 25, 2008.]
It takes many days if not weeks to bring in the kind of heavy artillery about which the commander is talking into or near the conflict zone through the mountainous terrain around South Ossetia from Georgian army bases in Tbilisi, Senaki or Gori.
If Tbilisi indeed staged weeks early for a war with Russia, it raises the question of what went wrong. Did Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili honestly believe his tiny country stood a chance against Russia?
Hahn offers what he believes is key insight into Saakashvili's miscalculation. The Georgian president, Hahn claims, counted on a massive propaganda effort to draw the West into the war. "Saakasahvili and his ministers made numerous statements in their effort to convince the West that it was obliged to defend Tbilisi from Russia's incursion." More on that later.