POL101 Spiegel

POL101 Spiegel - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Druckversion - Road to...

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08/25/2008 12:00 AM Road to War in Georgia The Chronicle of a Caucasian Tragedy By SPIEGEL Staff Many in the West were surprised by the outbreak of war between Georgia and Russia. But there were plenty of signs that the conflict was approaching. SPIEGEL reconstructs the road to violence. The Sheraton Metechi Palace Hotel in the Georgian capital Tbilisi has a sand-colored façade, dozens of floors and a bright atrium-style lobby. It is an ideal base for guests working abroad who are eager not to attract attention. A small group of American soldiers along with US advisors in civilian clothes stand huddled around laptop computers, whispering with officers and looking at images on the screen. As soon as a visitor walks over to see what they're up to, they snap the computers shut. A man in his mid-30s, wearing a blue polo shirt, explains: "We're the worst-informed people in Tbilisi. I can't even tell you what we're doing here." As of the end of last week, the roughly 160 American military advisors still stood their ground in Georgia. They weren't the only foreign soldiers in the country, though. Russia withdrew far more slowly than Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had promised. And Moscow has likewise announced that some 500 soldiers will remain in the country to secure a buffer zone between Georgia and South Ossetia. It is, in short, a messy situation. But who is actually responsible for this six-day war in the southern Caucasus? Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili criticizes what he calls a "brutal Russian attack and invasion." In return, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calls Saakashvili a "war criminal" and talks of the "genocide" committed against Russian citizens. But what are the representatives of the Western community of values saying? The fact is, they are still puzzled. If They Only Looked This is surprising, because the war that erupted on the southern flank of the Caucasus Mountains was almost as inevitable as thunder after a lightening strike. The dozens of witness statements and pieces of intelligence information at SPIEGEL's disposal combine to form a chronicle of a tragedy that anyone could see coming -- if they only looked. But a true reconstruction of events must begin well before Aug. 7 -- the day when Georgian troops marched into South Ossetia. A war of words had been raging between Moscow and Tbilisi since the beginning of the year and, before long, both sides were conducting military maneuvers, which, in retrospect, can be seen as preparation for actual conflict. A number of intelligence agencies had observed troop movements in Georgia and South Ossetia, with satellites providing precise images of what was happening on the ground. United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice became involved in shuttle diplomacy, trying to appease Saakashvili on the one hand, while criticizing Putin, on the other. In truth, the world should have been able to predict what was about to
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POL101 Spiegel - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Druckversion - Road to...

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