Earlier this month, coinciding with the seventh anniversary of Russia’s war on Georgia, Dmitri Shashkin, former Georgian defense minister, revealed the role of the Bush administration in stopping the Russian invaders from conquering the whole of the former Soviet Captive Nation.
Shashkin’s comments were published in Russian by Radio Liberty.
As reported by Paul Goble, who understands and translates Russian for his blog:
Shashkin published in Georgia a message he received from the White House on August 14, 2008: ‘President’s press conference is in 45 min. Gates will lead the operation. 6th fleet is on its way, Herculeses in the air. GEO will be safe’
In his memoir, Duty, Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates refers to this incident only in passing, writing that the airlift of 1,800 Georgian Peacekeepers from Iraq to Georgia “began on August 10 and was completed the next day, and on August 13 I directed that the humanitarian assistance begin. There was no interference from the Russians.”
But this was not the whole story.
According to Shashkin, the reasons “Tbilisi was not taken by storm” were thanks to the “Georgian army, international support and specific steps by the US” which “stopped Russia.”
Many do not know that our peacekeeping brigade returned from Iraq to Tbilisi on American military planes which under the circumstances of war was direct military support by the US.
“Many do not know that Russia could not bomb the Tbilisi airport because American Hercules planes were on the tarmac,” Shishkin continues.”Many do not know that the flagship of the US Fifth Fleet which entered the Black Sea monitored on its radars the airspace in the Tbilisi-Moscow-Volgograd triangle.”
And “many do not know that the August 14 Hercules flights from Jordan were accompanied by (American) fighters. Many do not know that the statement of the commander of these fights that ‘any activity of Russian planes in the Georgian sky will be considered an attack on the United States of America,’ thus effectively closing the Georgian sky to Russian planes.”
By contrast, then-Senator Barack Obama’s weak response – calling for “a United Nations mediator to address this crisis,” to “convene other international forums to condemn this aggression,” and even calling for Georgia to “refrain from using force” in the provinces Russia had wrenched away from the already small country (South Ossetia and Abkhazia constitute about 1/3 of the Republic of Georgia) – prompted Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to remark:
After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.
Shishkin offers this analysis:
Putin is an ordinary KGB officer who knows that the USSR fell apart as a result among other things of the war in Afghanistan when zinc coffins came to Russian cities and villages. After the war in Georgia, they concealed their losses; now in Ukraine, they are burning the bodies … [so that] zinc coffins will not come to Russia [again].
On August 25, a Russian newspaper accidentally revealed that, according to Goble’s translation, “‘For the families of those who have died in the course of military actions in the east of Ukraine, monetary compensation has been set at three million rubles [40,000 US dollars] and for those who have become invalids during the military actions at 1.5 million rubles [20,000 US dollars].’ … As of February 1, 2015, Moscow had already paid monetary compensation ‘for more than 2000 families of soldiers who had been killed and for 3200 soldiers who were seriously wounded and recognized as invalids.'”