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Hints of an Offensive?

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This NYT article sheds some light on the question of US awareness of Georgian military preparations.

At the State Department in Washington, Mr. Fried, the top envoy for the region, received a phone call on Thursday from Georgia’s foreign minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili, who said the country was under attack. The foreign minister said Georgia had to protect its people. “We told them they had to keep their unilateral cease-fire,” the official said. “We said, ‘Be smart about this, don’t go in and don’t fall for the Russian provocation. Do not do this.’ ”

Around the same time, members of the Georgia army unit assigned to a training program under American advisers did not show up for the day’s exercises. In retrospect, American officials said, it is obvious that they had been ordered to mobilize for the mission in South Ossetia by their commanders. “This caught us totally by surprise,” said one military officer who tracks events in the region, including the American-Georgian training effort. “It really knocked us off our chairs.”

As Tara points out, Jeff Stein is having none of this. I’m not, as of yet, convinced either way. Not noticing the Georgian preparations would certainly have been an intelligence failure, but then again not noticing Russian capabilities and intentions is also a pretty grim intelligence failure. Whether we were aware of Georgian intentions or no, somebody somewhere messed up. I’m inclined to stick with my previous assessment, which is that the US sent signals that the Georgians misconstrued. But I’m hopeful that as things fall out over the next few weeks, we’ll have a clearer picture.

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