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5 Apr, 2017 09:42

Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili pens fantasy account of 2008 war with Russia

It’s been established for some time that former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is, to put this in the nicest way possible, a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan

is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

Ex-Georgian President Saakashvili pens fantasy account of 2008 war with Russia

The disgraced ex-president, who was famously filmed chewing on his tie during the recording of a BBC report, went on to serve as the Governor of Odessa in southern Ukraine for little over a year; a rather strange second act for the former president of an entirely different country.

Saakashvili’s fall from grace involved being stripped of Georgian citizenship and ending up on the wanted list for charges of embezzlement and abuse of power, charges he says are politically motivated.

But before he landed his short-lived gig in Odessa, to pass the time, Saakashvili, a man of few scruples, spent his days hanging out with the hipsters in New York and sucking up to neocon war criminal John McCain in Washington.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for what I read under his byline in Politico this past weekend. In a desperate attempt to curry favor with Donald Trump, Saakashvili has penned a piece that so thoroughly re-writes history it’s hard to believe it ever got published.

Saakashvili begins by recounting the events of the five-day war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. In his telling, out of the blue, Georgia was subjected to “a full-blown military attack” by an aggressive Russia intent on the “full occupation” of the country. It was only thanks to a “belated but still powerful intervention” by then US President George W. Bush that this occupation did not happen.

This is, quite frankly, the definition of fake news. Given the events in question took place some nine years ago, you’d think the facts would have been well established by now. So let’s clear it up: Russia did not launch an unprovoked attack on Georgia during the summer of 2008 — and no, this is not just Kremlin spin; it’s the determination of an EU report published a year after the war.

The report found that the conflict “started with a massive Georgian artillery attack" on the town of Tskhinvali in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, where Russian peacekeeping troops were stationed.

The EU report concluded: “There was no ongoing armed attack by Russia before the start of the Georgian operation. Georgian claims of a large-scale presence of Russian armed forces in South Ossetia prior to the Georgian offensive could not be substantiated [by the EU fact-finding mission]. It could also not be verified that Russia was on the verge of such a major attack.”

And yet here Saakashvili is nine years later telling Politico’s readers an entirely different version of events. His motivation, however, is not hidden. He goes on to praise Bush’s handling of the 2008 conflict in Georgia, comparing it to Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis in Eastern Ukraine some years later. The message to Trump is simple: Obama was a weakling who let Putin “get away with murder,”don’t be like Obama.

The appeal to Trump’s ego and desire to appear tougher than Obama is clear, but here again, Saakashvili is rewriting history. The Obama administration, he writes, “saw relations with Russia’s neighbors through the eyes of Moscow.” In reality, however, the relationship between Moscow and Washington worsened to its most dangerous point since the Cold War under Obama. His administration most certainly was not one that saw the world “through the eyes of Moscow.

In a final, and truly mortifying attempt to flatter Trump, Saakashvili finishes with an anecdote about his “personal experience” with the American president. In 2009, when Trump had to choose between investing in Russia or Georgia, he opted for “uncorrupt” Georgia as the better place to do business. While calling Georgia “uncorrupt” is quite the stretch, Saakashvili does, in fairness, deserve some credit for his anti-corruption efforts in Georgia. His negatives well and truly offset any positives.

According to an article in Foreign Policy, Saakashvili has been described by European leaders as “an erratic, unbalanced leader, whose impulsiveness led him and his former homeland, Georgia, into unnecessary peril.

If his sycophantic appeal to Trump seems a little bit desperate, it’s merely following a pattern of similarly desperate behavior. At the European People’s Party congress in Malta this year, the Georgian turned Ukrainian took the seat of another party member in what many on social media assumed was an attempt to sit closer to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. A couple of months earlier, Saakashvili was pictured apparently observing Trump’s inauguration from some bushes a great distance away from the Capitol Building. He blamed people with “Russian ties” for circulating the embarrassing picture.

It’s one thing for Saakashvili to want to ingratiate himself with and flatter the American president in an attempt to achieve his aims and gain some status for himself, but I do have some questions for Politico. Like, where have your editors been for the past ten years?

There’s a lesson here, though. I’m willing to bet that the editors who dealt with this piece at Politico know very little about Saakashvili. I’m willing to bet they have never even heard of the aforementioned EU report condemning him for instigating the 2008 conflict.

The facts have been so thoroughly obscured to suit the Western narrative that now, nearly a decade later, it raises no eyebrows at all to speak of the “Russian invasion” of Georgia. A pretty damning indictment of the fake news-busting media.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.