The non-American view of the Russian-Georgian Clash

The three-day war in South Ossetia is settled, and the Georgians have lost. President Mikhail Saakashvili has handed Russia a major victory, and Georgia's hopes of joining NATO are gone.

It was Georgia that started this war. The chronology tells it all. Skirmishes between Georgian troops and South Ossetian militia were more frequent than usual over the past several months. On the afternoon of August 7, Georgia President Saakashvili offered the separatist South Ossetian Government "an immediate ceasefire and the immediate beginning of talks," promising that "full autonomy" was on the table.

The same evening, however, he ordered a general offensive. Through all of Thursday night and Friday morning, Georgian artillery shells and rockets rained down on South Ossetia's capital, while Georgian infantry and tanks encircled it. Russian journalists reported that 70 per cent of the city was destroyed, and by Friday afternoon it was in Georgian hands.

Saakashvili assumed that the world's attention would be distracted by the opening of the Olympics, and that the Russian reaction would be slow because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was off in Beijing.

But all of his calculations were wrong. There was no delay in the Russian response.

[Excerpt of an article by Gwynne Dyer, The New Zealand Herald]

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