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US Tried to Restrain Georgia?

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Kevin Drum links to an article by Jonathan Landay indicating that the United States did its best to restrain Georgia, and that while it anticipated a strong Russia reaction within South Ossetia, it didn’t foresee the larger Russian counter-offensive. This runs strongly counter to Adrian Bloomfield’s Telegraph account, which suggests that the US gave tacit approval to the Georgian offensive.

The two accounts aren’t necessarily contradictory. The Landay article is much more thoroughly reported than the Bloomfield piece, relying on a number of statements by anonymous US officials suggesting that the United States has been trying to restrain Georgia for several months. The anonymous sourcing is somewhat troubling, but then the Bloomfield piece has no sourcing at all. It’s possible that the administration is in CYA mode, but cautioning Georgia is, after all, the direction I would have expected the administration to go; it’s the sane move, and Bush needs support from the Russians on several issues (primarily Iran) in the last few months of his presidency. The other possibility is that the Americans said different things than the Georgians heard. This happens ALL THE TIME in international politics; motivated bias on the part of Saakashvili may have led him to believe that the Americans were making encouraging noises, because he wanted to believe that the Americans were encouraging him. Indeed, this would go a long way to explaining how the Georgians were certain of US support, despite the fact that there was no compelling reason for the Americans to give support.

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