Bush Aides Weighed Attack to Halt Russia-Georgia War


George W. Bush’s national security team considered launching air strikes to halt the invasion. Vladimir Putin boasted that he alone could be trusted. And Nicolas Sarkozy badgered Georgia’s leader into signing a cease-fire.

These are just three peeks behind the diplomatic curtain presented in “A Little War That Shook the World,” Ronald D. Asmus’s absorbing account of the five-day clash in the Caucasus that August.

Asmus, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, now runs the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund. He pieced together this tale of realpolitik and diplomatic dead-ends by unearthing previously unpublished documents and interviewing Western and Georgian officials. Taken together, the evidence illustrates how the West failed to get to grips with an emboldened Russia.
Im sure every option was considered. Maybe dropping the 82nd Airborne just outside of Moscow? But of course not taken seriously.

Every contingency has to be considered

to paraphrase Bismarck i think, 'Georgia is not worth the blood of a single NATO Grenadier'
KGB_resident said:
hTaken together, the evidence illustrates how the West failed to get to grips with an emboldened Russia.

Fortunately Bush didn't… He might have found that the Russian Home Team were a tad better than the Arabs flying 'Monkey Model' MIG's they were used to dealing with.
‘Stark and Threatening’

Late-term tensions between Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney punctuate this story. Cheney’s office grew concerned that Bush inadvertently gave Russia the all-clear to attack by staying mute in response to Putin’s “stark and threatening language” about Georgia during a meeting between the two men in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in April 2008. One Cheney staffer, reading a memo of that encounter, fretted that Bush might have given Russia a “green light.”

“A Little War” eavesdrops on a telling conversation Putin had with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the architect of Georgia’s pro-western policies, in February 2008.

“You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you?” Putin asked according to a Georgian record of the talk. “Nobody can be trusted! Except me.”

Georgian ‘Hothead’

Saakashvili, seen as a reformer by some, a demagogue by others, was central to the non-meeting of minds between the U.S. and Europe over how to bring Georgia closer to the West. In European capitals he was seen as “an American-backed hothead who spelled trouble,” Asmus writes.

Trouble was preprogrammed when the equally histrionic Sarkozy shuttled between Moscow and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to negotiate a ceasefire. The choice of the French leader, in his role as holder of the EU presidency, reflected concern in Washington that high-profile U.S. involvement would further rile the Kremlin.

Asmus’s account of Sarkozy’s seat-of-the-pantalons diplomacy includes the insight that at least one senior U.S. official was “appalled” by the ambiguous ceasefire text improvised by the French leader in Moscow on Aug. 12.

Later that evening, with 100,000 Georgians happily chanting “Sar-ko-zy, Sar-ko-zy” outside the parliament in Tbilisi, the French president confronted Saakashvili with the document and told him that he wouldn’t get a better deal.

“Where is Bush? Where are the Americans?” Sarkozy is quoted as snarling at the Georgians. “They are not coming to save you. No Europeans are coming, either. You are alone. If you don’t sign, the Russian tanks will be here soon.”

“A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West” is published by Palgrave Macmillan (254 pages, $27, 20 pounds).
It could have of course been far worse. Late era Bush was a far wiser man well aware of how over stretched DC was by two relatively small but lengthy wars. Unable even to intimidate slippery little Qom, DC had no credible saber to rattle at the far more formidable Kremlin.

In these conditions a half hearted bit of bombing was likely to escalate into something far nastier and at best an even more humiliating climb down. The mistake was not making very clear to a deluded Misha how much the game had changed since 02 and how exposed Tbilisi was, Cheney's office seems to have offered re-assurance and pipeline peep talks instead.

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