Russia-Georgia Conflict in August 2008: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests

In the early 1990s, Georgia and its breakaway South Ossetia region had agreed to a Russian-mediated ceasefire that provided for Russian “peacekeepers” to be stationed in the region. Moscow extended citizenship and passports to most ethnic Ossetians. Simmering long-time tensions escalated on the evening of August 7, 2008, when South Ossetia and Georgia accused each other of launching intense artillery barrages against each other. Georgia claims that South Ossetian forces did not respond to a ceasefire appeal but intensified their shelling, “forcing” Georgia to send in troops. On August 8, Russia launched air attacks throughout Georgia and Russian troops engaged Georgian forces in South Ossetia. By the morning of August 10, Russian troops had occupied the bulk of South Ossetia, reached its border with the rest of Georgia, and were shelling areas across the border. Russian troops occupied several Georgian cities. Russian warships landed troops in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region and took up positions off Georgia’s Black Sea coast.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, serving as the president of the European Union (EU), was instrumental in getting Georgia and Russia to agree to a peace plan on August 15-16. The plan called for both sides to cease hostilities and pull troops back to positions they held before the conflict began. It called for humanitarian aid and the return of displaced persons. It called for Russian troops to pull back to pre-conflict areas of deployment, but permitted temporary patrols in a security zone outside South Ossetia. The plan also provided for a greater international role in peace talks and peacekeeping, both of seminal Georgian interest. On August 25, President Medvedev declared that “humanitarian reasons” led him to recognize the independence of the regions. This recognition was widely condemned by the United States and the international community. President Sarkozy negotiated a follow-on agreement with Russia on September 8, 2008, that led to at least 200 EU observers to be deployed to the conflict zone and almost all Russian forces to withdraw from areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on October 10.

On August 13, former President Bush announced that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to France and Georgia to assist with the peace plan and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would direct U.S. humanitarian aid shipments to Georgia. Secretary Rice proposed a multi-year $1 billion aid plan for Georgia. Several Members of Congress visited Georgia in the wake of the conflict and legislation has been passed in support of Georgia’s territorial integrity and independence. P.L. 110-329, signed into law on September 30, 2008, provides $365 million in added humanitarian and rebuilding assistance for Georgia for FY2009.The August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is likely to have long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond. Russia has augmented its long-time military presence in Armenia by establishing bases in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. Georgia’s military capabilities were at least temporarily degraded by the conflict, and Georgia will need substantial U.S. and NATO military assistance to rebuild its forces. The conflict temporarily disrupted railway transport of Azerbaijani oil to Black Sea ports and some oil and gas pipeline shipments, although no pipelines were reported damaged by the fighting. Although there have been some concerns that the South Caucasus has become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan has begun to barge oil across the Caspian to fill the oil pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey (the BTC pipeline) and the European Union still plans to begin construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria in 2010.

Russia-Georgia Conflict in August 2008: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests

March 3, 2009 (RL34618)



In the early 1990s, Georgia and its breakaway South Ossetia region had agreed to a Russian-mediated ceasefire that provided for Russian "peacekeepers" to be stationed in the region. Moscow extended citizenship and passports to most ethnic Ossetians. Simmering long-time tensions escalated on the evening of August 7, 2008, when South Ossetia and Georgia accused each other of launching intense artillery barrages against each other. Georgia claims that South Ossetian forces did not respond to a ceasefire appeal but intensified their shelling, "forcing" Georgia to send in troops. On August 8, Russia launched air attacks throughout Georgia and Russian troops engaged Georgian forces in South Ossetia. By the morning of August 10, Russian troops had occupied the bulk of South Ossetia, reached its border with the rest of Georgia, and were shelling areas across the border. Russian troops occupied several Georgian cities. Russian warships landed troops in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region and took up positions off Georgia's Black Sea coast.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, serving as the president of the European Union (EU), was instrumental in getting Georgia and Russia to agree to a peace plan on August 15-16. The plan called for both sides to cease hostilities and pull troops back to positions they held before the conflict began. It called for humanitarian aid and the return of displaced persons. It called for Russian troops to pull back to pre-conflict areas of deployment, but permitted temporary patrols in a security zone outside South Ossetia. The plan also provided for a greater international role in peace talks and peacekeeping, both of seminal Georgian interest. On August 25, President Medvedev declared that "humanitarian reasons" led him to recognize the independence of the regions. This recognition was widely condemned by the United States and the international community. President Sarkozy negotiated a follow-on agreement with Russia on September 8, 2008, that led to at least 200 EU observers to be deployed to the conflict zone and almost all Russian forces to withdraw from areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on October 10.

On August 13, former President Bush announced that then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would travel to France and Georgia to assist with the peace plan and that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would direct U.S. humanitarian aid shipments to Georgia. Secretary Rice proposed a multi-year $1 billion aid plan for Georgia. Several Members of Congress visited Georgia in the wake of the conflict and legislation has been passed in support of Georgia's territorial integrity and independence. P.L. 110-329, signed into law on September 30, 2008, provides $365 million in added humanitarian and rebuilding assistance for Georgia for FY2009.The August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict is likely to have long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond. Russia has augmented its long-time military presence in Armenia by establishing bases in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. Georgia's military capabilities were at least temporarily degraded by the conflict, and Georgia will need substantial U.S. and NATO military assistance to rebuild its forces. The conflict temporarily disrupted railway transport of Azerbaijani oil to Black Sea ports and some oil and gas pipeline shipments, although no pipelines were reported damaged by the fighting. Although there have been some concerns that the South Caucasus has become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan has begun to barge oil across the Caspian to fill the oil pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan, Turkey (the BTC pipeline) and the European Union still plans to begin construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline from Azerbaijan to Austria in 2010.

Russia-Georgia Conflict in August 2008: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests

Most Recent Developments

At the Munich Security Conference on February 7, 2009, Vice President Joe Biden stated that "the United States will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. We will not recognize a sphere of influence. It will remain our view that sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances."1 The Vice President met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who later stated that the "main message" he received in Munich was that "it has been confirmed that we have very serious, unequivocal, detailed support from the new U.S. Administration."2

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, representing the European Union (EU), warned Belarus on February 23, 2009, that recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would remove Belarus from the "European consensus" not to extend diplomatic recognition to the regions, and might make it less eligible to participate in a prospective EU Eastern Partnership Program of expanded economic cooperation.

Russian military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer has warned that Western moves to improve relations with Russia—which were strained after the August 2008 conflict—risk emboldening Russia to try again to gain suzereignty over Georgia. He argues that Russia's repeated claims that Georgia is massing troops and equipment near South Ossetia (claims that monitors from the European Union find groundless) may be cover for a new Russian attack.3

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a resolution on January 28, 2009, criticizing Russia for failing to abide by the ceasefire agreements. PACE reaffirmed its commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and again called on Russia to withdraw its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It called for full access by international monitors and humanitarian aid workers to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as the establishment of international peacekeeping forces in the regions. It condemned Russia for building military bases in the regions, and censured Russia and the de facto authorities of South Ossetia for failing to halt ethnic cleansing. It condemned cross-border shootings and other violence emanating from the regions. PACE demanded immediate Council of Europe access to the regions in order to protect human rights. It requested that Russian troops withdraw from areas of Georgia that were controlled by Georgia before the August 2008 conflict, such as the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, the Georgian enclave around Tskhinvali and the Perevi village, and the Akhalgori district in South Ossetia. Reportedly, the vast majority of Akhalgori's 7,700 mostly ethnic Georgian residents had fled. The Assembly called for both Russia and Georgia to sign the U.N. Convention banning Cluster Munitions.4

Although gas shipments through a pipeline from Russia to South Ossetia were renewed in January 2009, the region remains cut off from Russia due to winter weather and faces an economic and humanitarian crisis, according to some observers.


Tensions in Georgia date back at least to the 1920s, when South Ossetia made abortive attempts to declare its independence but ended up as an autonomous region within Soviet Georgia after the Red Army conquered Georgia. In 1989, South Ossetia lobbied for joining its territory with North Ossetia in Russia or for independence. Georgia's own declaration of independence from the former Soviet Union and subsequent repressive efforts by former Georgian President Gamsakhurdia triggered conflict in 1990. In January 1991, hostilities broke out between Georgia and South Ossetia, reportedly contributing to an estimated 2,000-4,000 deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands of people.

In June 1992, Russia brokered a cease-fire, and Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian "peacekeeping" units set up base camps in a security zone around Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia. The units usually totalled around 1,100 troops, including about 530 Russians, a 300-member North Ossetian brigade (which was actually composed of South Ossetians and headed by a North Ossetian), and about 300 Georgians. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) did most of the patrolling. A Joint Control Commission (JCC) composed of Russian, Georgian, and North and South Ossetian emissaries ostensibly promoted a settlement of the conflict, with the OSCE as facilitator. According to some estimates, some 20,000 ethnic Georgians resided in one-third to one-half of the region and 25,000 ethnic Ossetians in the other portion. Many fled during the fighting in the early 1990s or migrated.

Figure 1. Map of South Ossetia

Source: Central Intelligence Agency via the University of Texas at Austin. Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection.

Some observers warned that Russia's increasing influence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia over the years transformed the separatist conflicts into essentially Russia-Georgia disputes. Most residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia reportedly were granted Russian citizenship and passports and most appeared to want their regions to be part of Russia.5

In late 2003, Mikheil Saakashvili came to power during the so-called "rose revolution" (he was elected president in January 2004). He pledged to institute democratic and economic reforms, and to re-gain central government authority over the separatist regions. In 2004, he began to increase pressure on South Ossetia by tightening border controls and breaking up a large-scale smuggling operation in the region that allegedly involved Russian organized crime and corrupt Georgian officials. He also reportedly sent several hundred police, military, and intelligence personnel into South Ossetia. Georgia maintained that it was only bolstering its peacekeeping contingent up to the limit of 500 troops, as permitted by the cease-fire agreement. Georgian guerrilla forces also reportedly entered the region. Allegedly, Russian officials likewise assisted several hundred paramilitary elements from Abkhazia, Transnistria, and Russia to enter. Following inconclusive clashes, both sides by late 2004 ostensibly had pulled back most of the guerrillas and paramilitary forces.

In July 2005, President Saakashvili announced a new peace plan for South Ossetia that offered substantial autonomy and a three-stage settlement, consisting of demilitarization, economic rehabilitation, and a political settlement. South Ossetian "president" Eduard Kokoiti rejected the plan, asserting in October 2005 that "we [South Ossetians] are citizens of Russia."6 The Georgian peace plan received backing by the OSCE Ministerial Council in early December 2005. Perhaps faced with this international support, in mid-December 2005, Kokoiti proffered a South Ossetian peace proposal that also envisaged benchmarks, but presumed that South Ossetia would be independent.

In November 2006, a popular referendum was held in South Ossetia to reaffirm its "independence" from Georgia. The separatists reported that 95% of 55,000 registered voters turned out and that 99% approved the referendum. In a separate vote, 96% reelected Kokoiti. The OSCE and U.S. State Department declined to recognize these votes. In "alternative" voting among ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia (and those displaced from South Ossetia) and other South Ossetians, the pro-Georgian Dmitriy Sanakoyev was elected governor of South Ossetia, and a referendum was approved supporting Georgia's territorial integrity.

In March 2007, President Saakashvili proposed another peace plan for South Ossetia that involved creating "transitional" administrative districts throughout the region—ostensibly under Sanakoyev's authority—which would be represented by an emissary at JCC or alternative peace talks. In July 2007, President Saakashvili decreed the establishment of a commission to work out South Ossetia's "status" as a part of Georgia. The JCC finally held a meeting (with Georgia's emissaries in attendance) in Tbilisi, Georgia, in October 2007, but the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the Georgian emissaries made unacceptable demands in order to deliberately sabotage the results of the meeting.7 No further meetings were held.

During the latter half of July 2008, Russia conducted a military exercise that proved to be a rehearsal for Russian actions in Georgia a few weeks later. Code-named Caucasus 2008, the exercise involved more than 8,000 troops and was conducted near Russia's border with Georgia. One scenario was a hypothetical attack by unnamed (but undoubtedly Georgian) forces on Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian forces practiced a counterattack by land, sea, and air to buttress Russia's "peacekeepers" stationed in the regions, protect "Russian citizens," and offer humanitarian aid. The Georgian Foreign Ministry protested that the scenario constituted a threat of invasion. Simultaneously with the Russian military exercise, about 1,000 U.S. troops, 600 Georgian troops, and token forces from Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine conducted an exercise in Georgia, code-named Immediate Response 2008, aimed at increasing troop interoperability for NATO operations and coalition actions in Iraq. Most of these troops had left Georgia by the time of the outbreak of conflict.8

Renewed Conflict in South Ossetia

Tensions escalated in South Ossetia on July 3, 2008, when an Ossetian village police chief was killed by a bomb and the head of the pro-Georgian "government" in South Ossetia, Dmitriy Sanakoyev, escaped injury by a roadside mine. That night, both the Georgians and South Ossetians launched artillery attacks on each other's villages and checkpoints, reportedly resulting in about a dozen killed or wounded. The European Union (EU), the OSCE, and the Council of Europe (COE) issued urgent calls for both sides to show restraint and to resume peace talks.

On July 8, 2008, four Russian military planes flew over South Ossetian airspace. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the incursion had helped discourage Georgia from launching an imminent attack on South Ossetia. The Georgian government denounced the incursion as violating its territorial integrity, and on July 11 recalled its ambassador to Russia for "consultations." The U.N. Security Council discussed the overflights at a closed meeting on July 21, 2008. Although no decision was reached, Georgian diplomats reportedly stated that the session was successful, while Russian envoy Vitaliy Churkin denounced the "pro-Georgian bias" of some Security Council members.9

The day after the Russian aerial incursion, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Georgia for two days of discussions on ways to defuse the rising tensions between Georgia and Russia. She stated that "some of the things the Russians did over the last couple of months added to tension in the region," called for Russia to respect Georgia's independence, and stressed the "strong commitment" of the United States to Georgia's territorial integrity.10

On July 25, 2008, a bomb blast in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia, killed one person. On July 30, both sides again exchanged artillery fire, with the South Ossetians allegedly shelling a Georgian-built road on a hill outside Tskhinvali, and the Georgians allegedly shelling two Ossetian villages. Two days later, five Georgian police were injured on this road by a bomb blast. This incident appeared to trigger serious fighting on August 2-4, which resulted in over two dozen killed and wounded. Kokoity threatened to attack Georgian cities and to call for paramilitary volunteers from the North Caucasus, and announced that women and children would be evacuated to North Ossetia. Georgia claimed that these paramilitary volunteers were already arriving in South Ossetia.

On the evening of August 7, 2008, South Ossetia accused Georgia of launching a "massive" artillery barrage against Tskhinvali, while Georgia reported intense bombing of some Georgian villages in the conflict zone. Saakashvili that evening announced a unilateral ceasefire and called for South Ossetia to follow suit. He also called for reopening peace talks and reiterated that Georgia would provide the region with maximum autonomy within Georgia as part of a peace settlement. Georgia claims that South Ossetian forces did not end their shelling of Georgian villages but intensified their actions, "forcing" Georgia to declare an end to its ceasefire and begin sending ground forces into South Ossetia (for more on this view of events, see below, "International Response"). Georgian troops reportedly soon controlled much of South Ossetia, including Tskhinvali.

Russian President Medvedev addressed an emergency session of the Russian Security Council on August 8. He denounced Georgia's incursion into South Ossetia, asserting that "women, children and the elderly are now dying in South Ossetia, and most of them are citizens of the Russian Federation." He stated that "we shall not allow our compatriots to be killed with impunity. Those who are responsible for that will be duly punished." He appeared to assert perpetual Russian control in stating that "historically Russia has been, and will continue to be, a guarantor of security for peoples of the Caucasus."11 On August 11, he reiterated this principle that Russia is the permanent guarantor of Caucasian security and that "we have never been just passive observers in this region and never will be."12

In response to the Georgian incursion into South Ossetia, Russia launched large-scale air attacks in the region and elsewhere in Georgia. Russia quickly dispatched seasoned professional (serving under contract) troops to South Ossetia that engaged Georgian forces in Tskhinvali on August 8. That same day, Russian warplanes destroyed Georgian airfields, including the Vaziana and Marneuli airbases near the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Saakashvili responded by ordering that reservists be mobilized and declaring a 15-day "state of war."

Reportedly, thousands of Russian troops had retaken Tskhinvali, occupied the bulk of South Ossetia, reached its border with the rest of Georgia, and were shelling areas across the border by early in the morning on August 10 (Sunday).13 These troops were allegedly augmented by thousands of volunteer militiamen from the North Caucasus.14

On August 10, Georgian National Security Council Secretary Alexander Lomaia reported that Georgia had requested that then-Secretary Rice act as a mediator with Russia in the crisis over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, including by transmitting a diplomatic note that Georgia's armed forces had ceased fire and had withdrawn from nearly all of South Ossetia.15 Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili also phoned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to report that all Georgian forces had been withdrawn from South Ossetia and to request a ceasefire, but Lavrov countered that Georgian forces remained in Tskhinvali.16

On August 11, Russia bombed apartment buildings in the city of Gori—within undisputed Georgian territory—and occupied the city.

Actions in Abkhazia and Western Georgia

On August 10, the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Edmond Mulet, reported to the U.N. Security Council that the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG; about 100 observers in all) had witnessed "ongoing aerial bombardments of Georgian villages in the Upper Kodori Valley" the previous day.17 They also had observed "the movement by the Abkhaz side of substantial numbers of heavy weapons and military personnel towards the Kodori Valley." Mulet also warned that Abkhaz separatist leader Sergey Bagapsh had threatened to push the Georgian armed forces out of the Upper Kodori Valley. In violation of their mandate, the Russian "peacekeepers" "did not attempt to stop such deployments" of Abkhaz rebel weaponry, Mulet reported. Fifteen UNOMIG observers were withdrawn from the Kodori Valley because the Abkhaz rebels announced that their safety could not be guaranteed, Mulet stated.18

Russian peacekeepers also permitted Abkhaz forces to deploy in the Gali region and along the Inguri River near the border of Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia. Russian military and Abkhaz militia forces then moved across the river into the Zugdidi district, southwest of Abkhazia and undisputedly in Georgian territory (although some part is within the peacekeeping zone). Bombs fell on the town of Zugdidi on August 10. As the local population fled, Russian troops reportedly occupied the town and its police stations on August 11. Reportedly, the Russian military stated that it would not permit the Abkhaz forces to occupy the town of Zugdidi. The next day, the Russian military reported that it had disarmed Georgian police forces in the Kodori Valley and the Georgian police had pulled out.19

On August 10, Russia sent ships from the Black Sea Fleet to deliver troops to Abkhazia and take up positions along Georgia's coastline. Russian military officials reported that up to 6,000 troops had been deployed by sea or air. Russian television reported that Igor Dygalo, Russian naval spokesman and aide to the Russian navy commander-in-chief, claimed that Russian ships had sunk a Georgian vessel in a short battle off the coast of Georgia.20 Georgian officials reported that the Russian ships were preventing ships from entering or leaving the port at Poti. The Russians reportedly also sank Georgia's coast guard vessels at Poti. Russian troops occupied a Georgian military base in the town of Senaki, near Poti, on August 11.


On August 12, the Russian government announced at mid-day that Medvedev had called Javier Solana, the European Union's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy to report that "the aim of Russia's operation for coercing the Georgian side to peace had been achieved and it had been decided to conclude the operation."21 In a subsequent meeting with Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and chief of Armed Forces General Staff Nikolai Makarov, Medvedev stated that "based on your report I have ordered an end to the operations to oblige Georgia to restore peace.... The security of our peacekeeping brigade and civilian population has been restored. The aggressor has been punished and suffered very heavy losses." Seemingly in contradiction to his order for a halt in operations, he also ordered his generals to continue "mopping up" actions, which included ongoing bombing by warplanes throughout Georgia, the occupation of villages, and destruction of military bases, bridges, industries, houses, and other economic or strategic assets.22

Later on August 12, Medvedev met with visiting French President Sarkozy, who presented a ceasefire plan on behalf of the EU.23 President Medvedev reportedly backed some elements of the plan. French Foreign Minister Koucher then flew to Tbilisi to present the proposals to the Georgian government. Medvedev and Saakashvili consulted by phone the night of August 12-13 and they reportedly agreed in principle to a six-point peace plan, according to a press conference by Sarkozy.

The peace plan calls for all parties to the conflict24 to cease hostilities and pull troops back to positions they had occupied before the conflict began. Other elements of the peace plan include allowing humanitarian aid into the conflict zone and facilitating the return of displaced persons. It excludes mention of Georgia's territorial integrity. The plan calls for the withdrawal of Russian combat troops from Georgia, but allows Russian "peacekeepers" to remain and to patrol in a larger security zone outside South Ossetia that will include a swath of Georgian territory along South Ossetia's border. The plan also calls for "the opening of international discussions on the modalities of security and stability of South Ossetia and Abkhazia." This seems to provide for possibly greater international roles in peace talks and peacekeeping, both of seminal Georgian interest. However, it does not specifically state that international peacekeepers will be deployed within South Ossetia. Supposedly, the Russian "peacekeepers" will cease patrolling the area outside South Ossetia after the modalities of international peacekeeping are worked out and monitors are deployed within this area, a process that could take some time.

An emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers on August 13 endorsed the peace plan and the possible participation of EU monitors. Medvedev hosted the de facto presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Moscow on August 14, where they signed the peace agreement. On August 15, then-Secretary Rice traveled to Tbilisi and Saakashvili signed the agreement. France submitted a draft resolution based on the plan at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on August 19, but Russia blocked it, reportedly stating that only the verbatim elements of the vaguely-written plan should be included in the resolution (see also below for UNSC action).25

Occupation Operations

The Russian military was widely reported to be carrying out extensive "mopping up" operations throughout Georgia, except for the capital, Tbilisi. These appeared to involve degrading Georgia's remaining military assets and occupying extensive "buffer zones" of Georgian territory near the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On August 20, Russia's General Staff deputy head Nogovitsyn claimed that the 6-point peace plan permitted the establishment of "buffer zones" and no-fly zones near Georgia's borders with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He specified that the zone around Abkhazia would include Georgia's Senaki military base, precluding Georgia's use of the base. These zones appear somewhat like those established by Armenia during the early 1990s conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region.

International media reported that Russian troops and paramilitary forces were widely looting, destroying infrastructure, detaining Georgians, and placing mines throughout the country, similar to what often took place during Russia's operations in its breakaway Chechnya region early in the decade. On August 18, Russian forces burned the Ganmukhuri youth patriotic camp near Zugdidi, which Russia had claimed was a Georgian military base. From the occupied base at Senaki, Russian troops made repeated forays into the countryside. Russian forces occupying Poti reportedly prevented most trade in and out of the port and widely pillaged. They detained 20 Georgian troops and police guarding the port on August 19. They also allegedly destroyed a Georgian missile boat and seized U.S. HUMVEEs being shipped out of the port.26 France reportedly raised concerns that a mountain warfare training base it had helped Georgia set up in Sachkere in Western Georgia for NATO interoperability training was being threatened with destruction by Russian military forces.27

Russia's Partial Withdrawal

On August 21, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff, Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, stated that "by the end of August 22 all forces of the Russian Federation [now in Georgia] will be within the area of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers." Western media on August 22 reported sizeable but not complete Russian military withdrawals. On August 22, Russian forces reportedly left the village of Igoeti, 17 miles from Tbilisi, but an Ossetian militia occupied the village of Akhalgori, 25 miles north-west of Tbilisi.28 Russian forces reportedly were leaving Gori on August 22. Until then, access to the city had been partially restricted. In the northwest, Russian troops reportedly left the Senaki military base.

Nogovitsyn and other Russian officials seemingly had argued that Georgia's actions had negated past ceasefire regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nonetheless, Nogovitsyn asserted on August 28 that the 1992 ceasefire accords for South Ossetia permitted Russia to deploy "peacekeeping" troops in Poti, more than one hundred miles from South Ossetia, or in other areas "adjacent" to the region.29

Russia Recognizes the Independence of the Regions

On August 25, Russia's Federation Council (upper legislative chamber) and the Duma (lower chamber) met and recommended that the president recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In an announcement on August 26, Medvedev claimed that "humanitarianism" dictated that Russia recognize the independence of the regions, and he called on other countries to also extend diplomatic recognition. Russia began searching for premises for embassies and considering ambassadorial candidates.

On September 5, Nicaragua extended diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the only sovereign nation besides Russia to do so. At a late August 2008 summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (a trade and security organization consisting of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan), the communique appeared to reflect China's disapproval of recognizing breakaway regions.30 Similarly, a meeting of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization in early September (other members include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) did not result in any members extending diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Follow-On Ceasefire Agreement

On September 8, 2008, visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a follow-on ceasefire accord that fleshed out the provisions of the 6-point peace plan. It stipulated that Russian forces would withdraw from areas adjacent to the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on October 10; that Georgian forces would return to their barracks by October 1; that international observers already in place from the U.N. and OSCE would remain; and that the number of international observers would be increased by October 1, to include at least 200 EU observers. An international conference on ensuring security and stability in the region, resettling refugees and displaced persons, and a peace settlement would be convened in Geneva in mid-October.

In a press conference after signing the accord, President Medvedev asserted that Russia's recognition was "irrevocable," and that Russian "peacekeepers" would remain deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Although Sarkozy strongly implied that the international conference would examine the legal status of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Medvedev pointed out that the regions had been recognized as independent by Russia on August 26, 2008, and stated that disputing this recognition was a "fantasy." Sarkozy hailed the accord as possibly clearing the way for the EU to soon re-open partnership talks with Moscow.31

On September 9, the Russian defense minister asserted that several thousand Russian troops would remain in Abkhazia and the same number in South Ossetia.32 This assertion triggered criticism by the United States, Georgia, and others that the ceasefire accords called for the numbers of Russian "peacekeepers" to revert to pre-conflict levels, which before the build-up in Abkhazia were about 2,000 troops and in South Ossetia were 1,000 troops (500 Russian troops and 500 North Ossetian troops, whom were in actuality mostly South Ossetian). On September 14, NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer reportedly criticized the EU for not insisting that Russia reduce its "peacekeepers" to pre-conflict levels.33

Russia troops withdrew from Poti and Senaki on September 13 in accordance with the follow-on accord. The European Union (EU) deployed 225 unarmed monitors to Georgia by October 1, 2008, to patrol areas along Georgia's borders with its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in accordance with ceasefire accords. Russian troops pulled back by October 9 from so-called "buffer zones" they occupied outside of the borders of the regions. Troubling aspects included Russia's apparent backing to efforts by Abkhazia and South Ossetia to increase the size of their territories at Georgia's expense. In Abkhazia, Russian troops remained in the Kodori Gorge area and appeared to support Abkhaz efforts to move the border to the Inguri River. In South Ossetia, Russian checkpoints remained in Akhalgori district, which was within the region's Soviet-era borders but had been administered by Georgia since the South Ossetian conflict of the early 1990s. The United States continues to argue that the 6-point ceasefire plan calls for Russian troops in excess of pre-conflict numbers to withdraw from South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Status Conference Meetings in Geneva

As provided for under the ceasefire accords, a conference to consider the future of South Ossetia and of Abkhazia was opened on October 15 in Geneva. Co-chairs include the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General and representatives of the EU and OSCE. Delegations from Georgia, Russia, and the United States, as well as emissaries from the de facto and Georgia-recognized Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaderships participate in discussions. Reportedly, progress in planning this conference was complicated by Russia's insistence that Abkhazia and South Ossetia participate as independent states. EU, UN, and OSCE mediators and emissaries from three countries, Georgia, Russia, and the United States, were to sit down in what is termed 3+3 talks. They convened in a formal session in the morning and an informal session in the afternoon, where the separatist emissaries could attend. Reportedly, the Russian delegation was absent during most if not all the morning session. The Georgians and the emissaries from Abkhazia and South Ossetia allegedly clashed at the afternoon session, with the latter demanding that they be treated as representatives of sovereign countries and walking out. Assistant Secretary Fried, the U.S. participant, stated that the United States was amenable to working with Russia on non-use of force pledges (beyond those that are associated with the ceasefire accords). He stated that another Russian demand—for a ban on offensive arms transfers to Georgia—seemed questionable given Russia's buildup of arms in the region.34

Sessions in Geneva in November and December 2008 were more successful in involving the emissaries in discussions, but little progress was reported on the main issues. At the February 17-18, 2009, session, however, the sides agreed in principle to set up an "incident prevention and response mechanism" which will aim to defuse tensions before they escalate. Emissaries from the EU, OSCE, and U.N. will hold weekly meetings, investigate violent incidents along the conflict borders, and ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance. Assistant Secretary Fried hailed the agreement as "a significant step forward. It's positive, it's practical," although he cautioned that implementation will "depend on good will on all sides and we will have to see whether the good will that existed today in sufficient quantity to reach this achievement continues." He regretted that there was no progress on the issue of access to South Ossetia for humanitarian aid and cautioned that "we have a very long way to go in restoring security and peace on a long term sustainable basis in Georgia. The situation along the administrative lines, particularly between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia is unsatisfactory, even dire, with attacks, raids, [and] violence."35 The next meeting may be held in late May or early June 2009.

Implications for Georgia and Russia

According to some observers, the recent Russia-Georgia conflict harms both countries. In the case of Georgia and South Ossetia, the fighting reportedly resulted in hundreds of military and civilian casualties and large-scale infrastructure damage that set back economic growth and contributed to urgent humanitarian needs. Tens of thousands of displaced persons added to humanitarian concerns. The fighting appeared to harden anti-Georgian attitudes in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, making the possibility of re-integration with Georgia—which is still hoped for by the Saakashvili government even in the face of Russia's recognition of the regions' independence—more remote. Georgia also appeared even less eligible by some NATO members for a Membership Action Plan (MAP), usually considered as a prelude to membership, because of the destruction of some of its military capabilities and the heightened insecurity of its borders. In the case of Russia, its seemingly disproportionate military campaign and its unilateral declaration of recognition appeared to harm its image as a reliable and peaceable member of the international community. Russia also reported that its military operations and pledges to rebuild South Ossetia were costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to a report prepared by the World Bank and other international financial institutions, the conflict "resulted in shocks to economic growth and stability in Georgia [including] a weakening of investor, lender and consumer confidence, a contraction of liquidity in the banking system, stress on public finances, damage to physical infrastructure,... and increased numbers of internally displaced persons." The conflict caused an estimated $394.5 million in damages that needed to be soon repaired and reduced projected economic growth for 2008 from 9% to 3.5%, according to the World Bank. Lessened economic growth rates may persist for several years.36 Commissioner of Human Rights of the COE, Thomas Hammerberg, reportedly found widespread destruction of ethnic Georgian villages and homes during a visit to South Ossetia, apparently caused by Ossetian and North Caucasian militias as part of "ethnic cleansing" efforts.37

Although Georgian opposition politicians and other citizens initially muted their criticism of Saakashvili after the ceasefire, there were signs later in 2008 of a growing debate about the causes and conduct of the conflict. Former legislative speaker Nino Burjanadze formed a new opposition party called Democratic Movement-United Georgia in October. Former Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli announced in late 2008 that he would form an opposition party, and two prominent opposition parties—the New Right and Republican Parties—formed an alliance. In February 2009, Irakli Alasania, Georgia's former ambassador to the UN, joined this alliance. The opposition parties have called for Saakashvili to resign and to schedule early presidential elections.

President Medvedev's vow on August 8 to "punish" Georgia denoted Russian intentions beyond restoring control over South Ossetia. When he announced on August 12 that Russian troops were ending their offensive against Georgia, he stated that Russia's aims had been accomplished and the aggressor punished. Various observers have suggested several possible Russian reasons for the "punishment" beyond inflicting casualties and damage. These include coercing Georgia to accept Russian conditions on the status of the separatist regions, to relinquish its aspirations to join NATO,38 and to depose Saakashvili as the president.39 In addition, Russia may have wanted to "punish" the West for recognizing Kosovo's independence, for seeking to integrate Soviet successor states (which are viewed by Russia as part of its sphere of influence) into Western institutions such as the EU and NATO, and for developing oil and gas pipeline routes that bypass Russia.

The prospects of improved Russia-Georgia relations appeared dimmed by Russia's refusal to directly negotiate with Saakashvili, Georgia's decision on August 29 to sever diplomatic relations with Russia, and Russia's retaliatory severing of diplomatic ties with Georgia.40 Ruptured bilateral trade and transport ties—which have wider regional economic and humanitarian repercussions—are likely to persist for some time, according to many observers.

The Russia-Georgia conflict seemed to show Putin as the dominant figure in the Russian government. Putin left the Beijing Olympics early and flew to Vladikavkaz in North Ossetia. State-controlled media showed Putin meeting with military officers and seemingly in charge of military operations. Later government-issued reports and telecasts of meetings between Medvedev and Putin during the crisis appeared to show Putin "suggesting" courses of action to Medvedev. Following international criticism of Russia's incomplete withdrawal of military troops from Georgia and its recognition of the regions as independent, both Putin and Medvedev escalated their anti-Western rhetoric, according to many observers. One Russian commentator raised concerns that the hard line followed by the Putin-Medvedev tandem strengthened the influence of the so-called siloviki—the representatives and veterans of the military, security, and police agencies—over foreign and defense policy.41

Many observers initially warned Russia that it risked international isolation by engaging in behavior widely condemned by the world of nations. Prime Minister Putin downplayed the significance of various sanctions considered by the West, including the value of Russia joining the World Trade Organization or retaining membership in the G-8, and appeared to implement pre-emptive trade restrictions on U.S. food exports. At the same time, the EU, the COE, and NATO appeared to retreat from considering extended sanctions against Russia (see below).

South Ossetia's "president" Kokoiti has stated that his region seeks unification with Russia, although according to one Russian media report, Russian officials urged him to soft-pedal this intention for the time being and to instead state that South Ossetia wanted to remain independent.42 Abkhazia's "president" Bagapsh stated that the region wants to remain independent, but to have ties with Russia that appear virtually confederal in nature. In 5-10 years, he stated, a decision could be made on unification with Russia.43

On September 17, 2008, Russia signed Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. According to some Russian authorities, these agreements provide for the regions to "decide" on the number of Russian troops they host, so render inoperable arguments by the EU and the OSCE that Russian troop levels in the regions should accord with pre-conflict numbers.

The friendship agreements effectively make the regions dependencies of Russia, according to some observers. They permit Russia to establish military bases in the regions and to deploy Russian border troops to help defend the regional borders. Residents of the regions are permitted to freely enter Russia and Russian embassies protect the interests of the residents of the regions when they travel abroad. Perhaps merely codifying the existing trend before the Russia-Georgia conflict, the regions pledge to "unify" their civil, tax, welfare, and pension laws and their banking, energy, transportation, and telecommunications systems with those of Russia.

The Commonwealth of Independent States dissolved the CIS "peacekeeping" mandate in the regions in mid-October 2008, but Russian troops were invited by the regions to establish bases in line with the friendship agreements. In February 2009, the Russian general staff announced that it was constructing or revamping facilities at Java and Tskhinvali in South Ossetia and Gudauta in Abkhazia for the 3,700 troops being sent to each region. It was also announced that some ships from the Black Sea Fleet would be deployed to Abkhazia's port town Ochamchire. NATO and the EU criticized the basing arrangements as destabilizing.44

According to some observers, Russia's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia conferred legitimacy on the existing ruling groups in the regions—which include corrupt "elected" officials and organized crime leaders—and gave permanence to smuggling networks allegedly run by Russian "peacekeepers" and security personnel. These observers warn that this enhanced Russian backing increased the threats posed by smuggling and other criminal activities to Georgia's stability. In the wake of recognizing the regions, Russia appeared to reshuffle some regional officials as a condition for granting economic assistance, perhaps indicative of the criminal activities of the de facto officials.45

Assessing the Causes of the Conflict

Russia and Georgia have campaigned to convince international observers that the other party initiated the conflict. Georgian officials released cell phone intercepts in September 2008 that they claimed showed that the Russian offensive had been launched before the Georgian troops moved into Tskhinvali.46 Russian officials have denied that these cell phone intercepts indicate a pre-planned massive movement of Russian attackers through the Roki tunnel. Russian oppositionist Andrey Illarionov has alleged that North Caucasian "volunteers" moved into South Ossetia in early August to prepare an attack. Some Russian military forces also had been prepositioned, but major troop movements took place through the Roki tunnel on the evening of August 7. Georgian troops became aware of this attack, entered South Ossetia, and raced toward the Roki tunnel to try to halt the Russian advance, he has alleged.47

Conversely, Russian authorities on September 25 released supposed captured Georgian "war plans" that they claimed "proved" that Georgia's attack on South Ossetia was prepared in advance to annihilate ethnic Ossetians and re-establish government control. Russia also has justified its incursion into Abkhazia and other areas of western Georgia by alleging that Georgia's "war plans" included military action in Abkhazia after control was re-asserted over South Ossetia. Examining these conflicting accusations, PACE approved a resolution on October 2, 2008, that urged an international investigation of the causes of the conflict, among other matters.48

In early December 2008, the EU finance ministers approved setting up such an international commission. To emphasize its international composition, former U.N. special representative to Georgia Heidi Tagliavini, from non-EU Switzerland, was picked as commission head. The commission has conducted interviews with the parties to the conflict zone and conducted other research and is expected to release a report by the end of July 2009.

Georgia also set up a nonpartisan legislative commission in October 2008 to investigate the causes of the conflict. This commission heard lengthy testimony from nearly two dozen government witnesses, including President Saakashvili. In its December 2008 report, the commission concluded that Georgia's military action in South Ossetia on August 7-8 was a response to a plan set in motion by Russia over a period of months that culminated in an invasion by more than 40,000 Russian troops. Some critics of the report claimed that the commission members backed Saakashvili's account of events out of patriotism and so as not to appear pro-Russian.

Casualties and Displaced Persons

Estimates of dead and injured have varied, in part because Russia initially limited media and most NGO access to South Ossetia. However, early claims by sources in South Ossetia that 1,500-2,000 people were killed during the conflict with Georgia have appeared overblown. In December 2008, an official in the Russian Prosecutor's Office stated that 162 civilians had been killed in South Ossetia, and in February 2009, a Russian deputy defense minister stated that 64 military personnel had been killed and 283 wounded in the region during the conflict.49 Russian military sources reported that four of its warplanes had been shot down. On September 15, 2008, the Georgian government reported that 372 citizens had died, of which 168 were military servicemen, 188 civilians, and 16 policemen. However, there were dozens of "missing persons," which eventually may result in a revised death toll. These casualty figures had not been updated by early 2009.50 According to Georgian and NGO reports, Ossetian and allied paramilitary forces in South Ossetia continue to engage in "ethnic cleansing" against ethnic Georgians, forcing those remaining to flee the region. A similar process allegedly is taking place in Abkhazia.51

According to a report prepared by the World Bank for the donors' conference in October 2008, about 127,000 persons were displaced by the fighting in Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia at the height of the conflict. Over 68,000 displaced persons (in Georgia and the regions) had returned to their homes, according to the World Bank, but about 34,000 persons needed temporary shelter until they could return to their houses in the spring, and about 30,000 persons needed long-term housing because they could not return or their homes had been destroyed. The returnees were in need of assistance to restore their livelihoods and repair damage to their property. In addition, 100,000 people that were affected directly or indirectly by the conflict might need assistance.52 Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry reported in mid-September that almost all of the 35,000 South Ossetians whom had fled to North Ossetia during the fighting had returned to their homes and that all the temporary accommodation facilities opened in North Ossetia had been closed. Some 2,000 South Ossetians remained in the north, mainly those whose houses had been heavily damaged.

The Georgian government moved quickly to provide housing for the displaced persons. Many people were housed temporarily in schools or other public buildings or lived with relatives. The government rehabilitated thousands of damaged houses or apartments and constructed nearly 4,000 houses in several new communities for people likely to be displaced for some time. Some of these houses were provided with plumbing and heating and were designed for indefinite use while others were more rudimentary and designed for temporary use. Some observers have raised concerns that these new communities are not fully provided with social services and are not near places of work. Concerns also have been raised that some displaced persons have been forced to return to conflict areas even though their housing remains damaged or they fear ongoing cross-border violence.53

On August 12, 2008, Georgia filled a case against Russia at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for alleged crimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 1990 and 2008. President Medvedev also had threatened to file a case with the Court about Georgia's "genocide" in South Ossetia. The Court held an urgent hearing on the case on September 8-10, 2008. Besides an examination of Russia's support for ethnic cleansing, Georgia requested that the Court declare as unlawful Russia's moves to recognize the separatist regions and Russia's denial of the right of return of internally displaced ethnic Georgians. The case also requested monetary compensation for the damage Russia has inflicted on Georgia.54 On October 15, the ICJ issued a "provisional measures" order to Russia and Georgia to immediately cease and desist from further acts of ethnic discrimination, to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and protect people and property in the conflict zone.

Several NGOs have alleged that both Russia and Georgia committed human rights abuses during the conflict. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged that the Georgian military used "indiscriminate and disproportionate force resulting in civilian deaths in South Ossetia" on August 7-8, and that the Russian military subsequently used "indiscriminate force" in South Ossetia and the Gori area, and targeted convoys of civilians attempting to flee the conflict zones. HRW has alleged that both Russia and Georgia used cluster bombs against civilians, and has rejected claims by Russia that Georgia was carrying out "genocide" in South Ossetia. HRW announced on September 1 that it had received a letter from the Georgian Defense Ministry admitting that it had used cluster bombs near the Roki tunnel.55 The Dutch government released a report on October 20 that concluded that Russia had used cluster bombs in Gori.56 Russia has encouraged hundreds of South Ossetians to file cases with the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court alleging human rights abuses by Georgia during the conflict. Georgians similarly have filed dozens of cases alleging Russian abuses.

International Response

Myriad world leaders and organizations initially rushed to mediate the Georgia-Russia conflict. While many governments have appeared to consider that both Russia and Georgia may share blame for the recent conflict, they have stressed that the most important concern at present is implementation of a ceasefire regime and urgent humanitarian relief. These governments have criticized Russia for excessive use of force and peremptorily recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in violation of the principle of Georgia's territorial integrity, and Georgia for attempting to reintegrate South Ossetia by force.57

Immediately after the events of August 7-8, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) met daily for several days to attempt to agree on a resolution, but Russia and China refused to agree to various texts proffered by the United States, France, and Great Britain. The latter states were working on a resolution based on the EU peace plan (see below).58 At the UNSC meeting on August 10, U.S. Permanent Representative Zalmay Khalilzad denounced the "Russian attack on sovereign Georgia and targeting of civilians and a campaign of terror," and warned that "Russia's relations with the United States and others would be affected by its continued assault on Georgia and its refusal to contribute to a peaceful conclusion of the crisis." Churkin countered that it was "completely unacceptable" for Khalilzad to accuse Russia of a campaign of terror, "especially from the lips of a representative of a country whose action we are aware of in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Serbia."

On August 10, Lavrov claimed that Rice had "incorrectly interpreted" remarks he made to her in a phone conversation earlier about Saakashvili. Lavrov emphasized that Russia "cannot consider as a partner a person [referring to Saakashvili] who gave an order to carry out war crimes," but he rejected the inference that Moscow was demanding Saakashvili's ouster as a condition for ending military operations.59

The presidents of the three Baltic states and Poland called on August 9 for the EU and NATO to oppose the "imperialist policy" of Russia. The next day, Polish President Lech Kaczynski unveiled a plan worked out by the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine, for an international stabilization force for the South Caucasus, and recommended the plan to French President Sarkozy for consideration by the EU. Commenting on the plan, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski stated that an EU stabilization force was needed, since "it is no longer possible for Russian soldiers alone to assure the peace in South Ossetia." In apparent contrast to the Polish position, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi warned against the EU adopting an "anti-Russian" stance regarding the Russia-Georgia conflict.60 EU foreign ministers met in Brussels in emergency session on August 13. They emphasized support for the EU peace plan, called for bolstering OSCE monitoring in South Ossetia, and suggested that EU or U.N. observers might be necessary.61

European and other international leaders were overwhelmingly critical of what they viewed as Russia's non-compliance with the provision of the six-point peace plan that called for Russia to immediately withdraw its military forces from Georgia. European and other international leaders likewise were overwhelmingly critical of Medvedev's decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Chancellor Merkel termed the recognition "absolutely not acceptable," and raised the hope that a dialogue still could be opened with Russia, although she stated that such a dialogue presupposed "shared values, and those include respecting the territorial integrity of individual states, as well as the use of international mechanisms to resolve conflicts."62 Sarkozy, in his capacity as the EU President, issued a statement strongly condemning the recognition as "contrary to the principles of the independence, the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia," and that the EU would "examine from this point of view the consequences of Russia's decision."63 Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini likewise decried the apparent creation of ethnically-homogeneous enclaves, but cautioned against a Western reaction of isolating Russia.64

During a UNSC meeting on August 28, most members criticized Russia's non-compliance with the six-point plan and the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, including the United States, Great Britain, France, Spain, Costa Rica, Belgium, and Indonesia. U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative Alejandro Wolff reportedly condemned Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as incompatible with a UNSC resolution approved in April 2008 that reaffirmed the commitment of U.N. Members to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia. He raised the question that such disregard for the resolution by Russia could be a portent of further disregard for the U.N. He also stated that Russia's attack in Abkhazia disregarded UNOMIG's mandate. Churkin responded that UNSC members should not have violated U.N. resolutions by recognizing Kosovo.65

Some observers called for sanctions against Russia. These included no longer inviting Russia to participate in the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized democracies, withdrawing support for Russia as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and re-examining Russia's suitability for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). U.S. analyst Ariel Cohen urged the West "to send a strong signal to Moscow that creating 19th century-style spheres of influence and redrawing the borders of the former Soviet Union is a danger to world peace."66 EU analyst Nicu Popescu called for the EU to sanction Russia, including by suspending talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.67 In practice, however, the desire in the West for engagement with Russia on counter-terrorism and energy issues appeared to rule out imposing harsh sanctions.

At a session of the European Parliament (EP) on September 3, a resolution was approved that did not impose sanctions on Russia, although it agreed that consultations on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement would be postponed until Russia immediately and completely withdrew its troops from Georgia. The EP strongly condemned Russia's recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It called for an international investigation of the causes of the Russia-Georgia conflict, under the aegis of the U.N. or the OSCE. However, the EP also asserted that "during the night of 7-8 August 2008 the Georgian army launched ... a ground operation using both tanks and soldiers aimed at regaining control over South Ossetia." Nonetheless, the EP condemned "the unacceptable and disproportionate military action by Russia and its deep incursion into Georgia," and stressed that there was "no legitimate reason for Russia to invade Georgia, to occupy parts of it and to threaten to override the government of a democratic country." The EP called on sending EU observers to Georgia, a proposal endorsed at the meeting of EU foreign ministers on September 6. The foreign ministers also concurred with the EP on opening an international inquiry into the causes of the conflict.68

Similarly, some members of the COE advocated suspending Russia's voting rights in the organization because of its violations of membership commitments on human rights. However, other members argued that Georgia also had violated commitments on human rights. At the late September-early October 2008 session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the resolution did not mention sanctions against Russia (or Georgia), instead stressing that PACE should facilitate dialogue between Russia and Georgia.69

On September 15, 2008, the EU External Relations Council decided on the mandate, composition, and financing of the EU mission to Georgia. The Council, composed of foreign ministers of the EU states, decided that at least 200 civilian observers would be deployed to the buffer zones around Abkhazia and South Ossetia by October 1. It also supported launching an independent international inquiry into the causes of the Russia-Georgia conflict, called for a donors' conference for Georgian rebuilding to be held in Brussels in October, and appointed Pierre Morel as Special Representative for the crisis in Georgia.70

At the EU-Russia summit in Nice, France, on November 14, 2008, the EU agreed to restart talks with Russia on a Partnership and Cooperation agreement. In explaining the decision, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, stated in February 2009 that the EU "opted for dialogue and negotiation [with Russia] rather than sanctions as the best means of passing our messages and defending our interests ... including by maintaining a significant mission on the ground in Georgia. Russia knows that what happens there is important for our relationship."71

Several Western diplomats and analysts drew parallels between Russia's activities in Georgia and the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia (Yugoslavia), which was aimed at forcing Serb President Slobodan Milosevic to end Serbian attacks in the Kosovo region. Moscow opposed the NATO operation. According to former Greek diplomat Alex Rondos, "Russia wants to serve up to the West a textbook copy of what the West did to Serbia, but of course it's a ghastly parody."72 These observers point to the large-scale ethnic cleansing and the deaths of thousands of Kosovars. They are critical of Russia's disproportionate response in Georgia and stress that NATO's military aircraft and artillery did not target civilians in Serbia, as Russian forces and allied militias allegedly targeted ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia and across the border. They also stress that NATO halted operations after Serbia pulled its forces out of Kosovo and accepted international peacekeeping, while Russia continued operations after Georgia's withdrawal of troops from South Ossetia and its calls for a ceasefire. Lastly, the international community spent several years discussing the status of Kosovo and strengthening the capacity of the regional government for self-rule.73

While some commentators asserted that Georgia's military incursion into South Ossetia was unjustifiable, others argued that Georgia had been provoked by Russia and South Ossetia and had been forced to counter-attack. Taking the former view, London's Independent argued on August 10 that "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ... should, while defending Georgia's sovereignty, also point out to President Saakashvili that the US cannot underwrite a bellicose approach towards its separatist regions.74 The publication Jane's similarly stressed on August 14 that "Tbilisi's confidence in launching its South Ossetian operations was incredibly misplaced."75 Taking the latter view, U.S. analyst Robert Kagan argued that Russia "precipitated a war against Georgia by encouraging South Ossetian rebels," and that Saakashvili "[fell] into Putin's trap."76

Taking a seemingly dim view of Russian intentions, U.S. analyst Ronald Asmus stated that "despite everything we may have hoped for we are in a new geopolitical competition in the old Soviet spheres of influence. We may lose Georgia. We may lose the ... best chance for a democratic future in the Caucasus. The next target for Moscow will be Ukraine."77 One Italian commentator asserted that Russia's actions in Georgia represented the beginning of Russia's efforts to roll back the Euro-Atlantic integration of Eastern European and Soviet successor states.78

Some observers raised concerns that Russia's alleged attempts to bomb the Georgian sections of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and the South Caucasus [gas] Pipeline (SCP) were Russian attempts to disrupt Caspian energy pipelines that it does not control. The BTC pipeline provides oil to Europe and the United States. The SCP provides gas to Turkey and to EU-member Greece, and may be further extended to other EU members. Azerbaijan's pledge to provide gas through a prospective Nabucco pipeline that would run through Georgia and Turkey to Europe also might face greater Russian opposition, as might the proposed trans-Caspian oil and gas pipelines, which would provide Central Asian countries with non-Russian export routes to the West.

Some observers in Soviet successor states voiced concerns that Russia's actions in Georgia did not bode well for their own sovereignty and independence. Russia's Moscow Times newspaper termed Russia's actions in Georgia "the strongest possible signal of how far [Russia] is ready to go to retain influence" in other Soviet successor states, and warned that these states are likely to "seek protection from the West," because of fears that they one day might be invaded.79 Ukraine's officials voiced heightened concerns about Russian intentions, including over threats by Putin and others in Russia to encourage secessionism by eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula. Azerbaijan's authorities also appeared to have a new level of hesitancy about settling the problem of the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region by force, because of fears that Russia might intervene. Similarly, some officials in Armenia reportedly have added concerns that the country's close security ties with Russia could result in the infringement of Armenia's sovereignty.80 While Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan quickly endorsed Russia's actions and shipped humanitarian assistance to North and South Ossetia, they also refused to extend diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Belarus faced pressure from Russia to extend diplomatic recognition to the regions, while the EU warned Belarus that its eligibility for the planned Eastern Partnership might be placed in jeopardy by such a move.81

The Stand-off on OSCE Monitoring

On August 19, 2008, Russia agreed that 20 OSCE military observers could be deployed immediately to an area adjacent to South Ossetia to supplement eight monitors who were already in Georgia. The OSCE anticipated that the number of observers later would be bolstered to 100. Then-Secretary Rice stated that the United States would facilitate the transport and equipping of the monitors. The initial group of monitors began work at the end of August.

In September 2008, however, the OSCE talks on sending 100 observers to Georgia were at least temporarily suspended, reportedly over the insistence by some members that the observers be given access to South Ossetia and Russia's refusal to permit such access. Finally, in December 2008, Russia's insistence that a proposed OSCE field office in Tskhinvali be negotiated with South Ossetia as an independent state led the OSCE to announce that no agreement could be reached on the extension and alteration of the mandate of the OSCE Mission in Georgia and that it would cease work. In February 2009, however, the OSCE agreed that the 20 new military observers would stay in Georgia until the end of June 2009, but that the eight members of the OSCE Mission in Georgia would cease work by the end of March 2009.

Other Developments in 2009

At the January 26-29, 2009, session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a resolution called for Russia and Georgia to fully implement pledges—made as part of the ceasefire that ended the active phase of the August 2008 conflict—on the treatment and repatriation of displaced persons. The resolution condemned continuing human rights violations in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions (which are under Russia's control), and called for humanitarian aid workers and ceasefire monitors to be provided with open access to the regions. Although not reflected in the resolution, some members condemned the continued presence of Russian troops on Georgian territory in violation of ceasefire provisions and called for Russia to rescind its recognition of the independence of the breakaway regions.

In February 2009, the UNSC renewed the mandate of UNOMIG, although referring to it only as the "United Nations mission." The renewal expires in mid-June 2009. Significantly, the UNSC resolution reinstates a buffer zone between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia, where heavy military weaponry and armed forces are banned. In his report to the UNSC covering the period just before the UNSC meeting, the U.N. Secretary General mentioned the presence of Russian armed forces and heavy equipment, Abkhaz paramilitary forces and heavy equipment, and light forces used by Georgian police in the zone. Besides the U.N. observers, U.N. police continue to provide training and equipment to Abkhazians and Georgians.

International Humanitarian and Rebuilding Assistance

Many countries, international organizations, and NGOs quickly mobilized to deliver large amounts of relief to Georgia. The U.N. World Food Program reported that it began efforts in Georgia on August 9, and UNHCR reported that its first aid shipment arrived in Georgia on August 12. The ICRC issued a preliminary appeal on August 11 for $7.4 million to support its efforts to monitor captured or arrested persons, to provide surgical care for the wounded; and to assist civilians in South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia and persons displaced to North Ossetia. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a Flash Appeal on August 18, 2008, for $58.5 million in humanitarian aid for Georgia over the next few months. Pledges made as a result of this appeal have been included in the amounts pledged at the October donors' conference (see below).

Among international institutions and NGOs, Russia has permitted only the ICRC and Human Rights Watch to work in South Ossetia.82 Regional "president" Kokoiti has stated that he will not permit aid organizations that have their primary offices in Georgia to conduct operations in South Ossetia.

In early September 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced plans for an 18-month stand-by assistance package of $750 million for Georgia, which received final approval by the IMF in mid-September 2008.

The EU and World Bank convened a donors' conference in Brussels on October 22, 2008, to garner international funds for Georgia's rebuilding. Thirty-eight countries and fifteen international organizations pledged approximately $4.5 billion in aid to Georgia for the 2008-2010 period. The amount pledged was higher than the basic needs outlined in a Joint Needs Assessment report presented to the conference, indicating the high level of international concern over Georgia's fate. The pledges are addressed to meet urgent social needs related to internally displaced people, as well as damaged infrastructure; budgetary shortfalls; loans, equity, and guarantees to the banking sector; and core investments in transportation, energy, and municipal infrastructure that will boost economic growth and employment. The United States pledged the largest amount—$1 billion—for these efforts (see below).83

U.S. Response

For years, the United States had urged Georgia to work within existing peace settlement frameworks for Abkhazia and South Ossetia—which allowed for Russian "peacekeeping"—while criticizing some Russian actions in the regions. This stance appeared to change during 2008, when the United States and other governments increasingly came to support Georgia's calls for the creation of alternative negotiating mechanisms to address these "frozen" conflicts, particularly since talks under existing formats had broken down.

This U.S. policy shift was spurred by increasing Russian actions that appeared to threaten Georgia's territorial integrity. Among these, the Russian government in March 2008 formally withdrew from economic sanctions on Abkhazia imposed by the Commonwealth of Independent States, permitting open Russian trade and investment.84 Of greater concern, President Putin issued a directive in April 2008 to step up government-to-government ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He also ordered stepped up consular services for the many "Russian citizens" in the two regions. He proclaimed that many documents issued by the separatist governments and businesses which had been established in the regions would be recognized as legitimate by the Russian government. Georgian officials and other observers raised concerns that this directive tightened and flaunted Russia's jurisdiction over the regions and appeared to be moving toward official Russian recognition of their independence.

A meeting of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) on April 23, 2008, discussed these Russian moves. Although the Security Council issued no public decision, the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany stated that same day that they "are highly concerned about the latest Russian initiative to establish official ties with ... Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the consent of the Government of Georgia. We call on the Russian Federation to revoke or not to implement its decision."85 The Russian foreign ministry claimed that Russia's actions had been taken to boost the basic human rights of residents in the regions.

According to one U.S. media report, Bush Administration officials "were taken by surprise" by Georgia's attempt to occupy South Ossetia in early August 2008, since the Administration had cautioned Georgia against actions that might result in a Russian military response. At the same time, a "senior U.S. official" on August 9 reportedly described the fighting in South Ossetia as localized and unlikely to escalate.86

President Bush was at the Beijing Olympics when large-scale fighting began. Although he did not cut short his trip (unlike Putin), President Bush stated on August 9 in Beijing that "Georgia is a sovereign nation, and its territorial integrity must be respected. We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops. We call for the end of the Russian bombings." A similar statement was issued by then-Secretary Rice. On August 10, then-Deputy National Security Adviser James Jeffrey warned Russia of a "significant long-term impact" on US-Russian relations if Moscow continued "disproportionate actions" in Georgia and urged Russia to respond favorably to Georgia's withdrawal of forces from South Ossetia.87 Late on August 10, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza flew to Tbilisi to assist with Koucher's EU peace plan.

On August 10, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told then-Secretary Rice in a phone conversation that "given the continuing direct threat to the lives of Russian citizens in South Ossetia, Russian peacekeeping forces... are continuing operations to force peace on the Georgian side." U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Khalilzad revealed that Lavrov had told Rice that Saakashvili "must go" as a condition for a ceasefire.88

Former Vice President Cheney issued a statement on August 10 after a phone conversation with Saakashvili that "Russian aggression must not go unanswered," and that the continuation of aggression "would have serious consequences for [Russia's] relations with the United States, as well as the broader international community."89 Also appearing to take a stronger stance, former President Bush on August 11 referred to his conversation with Putin on August 8, stating that he had told Putin that "this violence [in Georgia] is unacceptable," and that he had "expressed my grave concern about the disproportionate response of Russia and that we strongly condemn bombing outside of South Ossetia."90 On August 12, then-Secretary Rice stated that she was encouraged by reports from French Foreign Minister Koucher in Moscow that there was progress in talks with President Medvedev about the EU peace plan, and reiterated that the United States supports Georgia's territorial integrity and "its democratically elected government."91

On August 10, the U.S. military began flying 2,000 Georgian troops home from Iraq after Georgia recalled them. A U.S. military spokesman stated that "we want to thank them for the great support they have given the coalition and we wish them well." Another military spokesman stated that "we are supporting the Georgian military units that are in Iraq in their redeployment to Georgia so that they can support requirements there during the current security situation.92 On August 11, Putin criticized these U.S. flights as aiding Georgia in the conflict.

In a strong statement on August 13, former President Bush called for Russia "to begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world [by meeting] its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia [and withdrawing] all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days." He raised concerns that some Russian troops remained in the vicinity of Gori and Poti. He announced that he was sending then-Secretary Rice to France to "confer with President Sarkozy" on the EU peace plan and to Georgia, "where she will personally convey America's unwavering support for Georgia's democratic government [and] continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia." He also announced that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would direct a humanitarian aid mission, which already had begun with an airlift of medical supplies to Tbilisi.93

Bush Administration officials stated that they hoped to maintain cooperation with Russia on anti-terrorism (including assistance in operations in Afghanistan), non-proliferation, and sanctions against Iran and North Korea. On August 14, however, Secretary Gates stated that the Russia-Georgia conflict had forced the Administration to reconsider efforts to carry on "a long-term strategic dialogue with Russia," and that "Russia's behavior ... has called into question the entire premise of that dialogue and has profound implications for our security relationship going forward, both bilaterally and with NATO."94

In seemingly harsh language on August 19, then-Secretary Rice asserted that Russia is "becoming more and more the outlaw in this conflict," and that by "invading smaller neighbors, bombing civilian infrastructure, going into villages and wreaking havoc and wanton destruction of this infrastructure," Russia is isolating itself from the "community of nations."95

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza presented the most detailed Administration position on the events in Georgia in a briefing on August 19 and in testimony on September 10. He appeared to argue that the outbreak of fighting in Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region on the night of August 7-8 was preplanned and provoked by Russia. He pointed out that "South Ossetia's government and its security structures are run by Russian officials [who were] commanding these South Ossetian forces that were shooting at ... Georgian peacekeepers or troops and villages." He also asserted that "there was an offensive under way from Russia, through the Roki Tunnel, toward Tskhinvali and Kurta and other ethnically Georgian villages. And at that point, the Georgian leadership told some of us: We have no choice but to defend our villages and our people" and lift a cease-fire that Georgia had declared earlier.96

Despite this evidence, Bryza maintained, "whoever shot whom first is now no longer the issue at all. It is that Russia has escalated so dramatically and brutally.... Russia has moved well beyond South Ossetia.... It used strategic bombers to target civilian[s]," blocked the port of Poti, and destroyed east-west rail lines. Moreover, he stressed, Russian forces also invaded Georgia from its breakaway Abkhazia region, which "has nothing to do with South Ossetia at all.... In the case of Abkhazia, it was the Abkhaz who attacked the Georgians." Bryza stated that the Administration in early August had "strongly recommended" to Georgia that it "not engage in a direct military conflict with Russia."

Indicative of heightened tensions in U.S.-Russia relations, Prime Minister Putin alleged on August 28, 2008, that the United States may have orchestrated the conflict in Georgia to disguise its economic and foreign policy problems and boost the prospects of a presidential candidate. He also alleged that the United States not only failed to dissuade Georgia from operations in South Ossetia on August 7-8, but armed the Georgians and directed them to attack. Then-White House press secretary Dana Perino responded that the allegations were "patently false" and "not rational," and that "it is a time for the countries who believe in sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity to band together to fight against" Russia's violation of such principles.97 President Medvedev later repeated the allegations that Saakashvili had received "direct orders, or [at least] silent approval" from the United States to launch an "idiotic action" against South Ossetia.98

Then-Vice President Cheney visited Georgia on September 4 to assure that "America will help Georgia rebuild and regain its position as one of the world's fastest growing economies. [Saakashvili] and his democratically elected government can count on the continued support and assistance of the United States." He also stated that the United States was coming to the aid of Georgia, as it had aided Georgia after the 2003 "rose revolution" that had brought Saakashvili to power, to help Georgia "to overcome an invasion of your sovereign territory, and an illegitimate, unilateral attempt to change your country's borders by force.... We will help your people to heal this nation's wounds, to rebuild this economy, and to ensure Georgia's democracy, independence and further integration with the West."99 He visited Ukraine on September 5 to similarly reassure the country of U.S. support for its sovereignty and independence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Georgia and Medvedev's assertions of a Russian sphere of influence in Soviet successor states and special interests in the fate of Russian "citizens" abroad.

In a speech in Italy on September 6, 2008, that appeared to mark deepened U.S.-Russian tensions, former Vice President Cheney stated that "Russia has violated the sovereignty of [democratic Georgia]; made and then breached a solemn agreement, in a direct affront to the EU; severely damaged its credibility and global standing; and undermined its own relations with the United States and other countries."100 Then-Secretary Rice delivered a speech on September 18 that similarly strongly excoriated Russia for its aggressive foreign policy behavior, including the invasion of Georgia. She stated that "Russia's leaders had laid the groundwork" for "what by all appearances was a premeditated invasion" of Georgia "months ago, distributing Russian passports to Georgian separatists, training and arming their militias, and then justifying the campaign across Georgia's border as an act of self-defense." However, she did not call for U.S. or international sanctions on Russia, and stated that "the Sochi declaration signed earlier this year provided a strategic framework for the United States and Russia to advance our many shared interests. We will continue by necessity to pursue our areas of common concern with Russia."101 In a retort on September 22 to then-Secretary Rice's speech, the Russian Foreign Ministry asserted that Russia's military response to Georgia's "attack on Russia" had been proportionate.102

The major Bush Administration action was the September 8 withdrawal of consideration by Congress of the U.S.-Russia Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation, submitted to Congress in May 2008. In his letter of withdrawal, former President Bush stated that his decision was in response to "recent actions by the Government of the Russian Federation incompatible with peaceful relations with its sovereign and democratic neighbor Georgia." He added that "if circumstances should permit future reconsideration of the proposed Agreement ... the proposed Agreement will be submitted for congressional review."

U.S. Reaction to Russia's Recognition Declaration

On August 26, former President Bush condemned Medvedev's decision to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as "inconsistent with numerous U.N. Security Council Resolutions that Russia has voted for in the past and ... with the French-brokered six-point ceasefire agreement.... We expect Russia to live up to its international commitments, reconsider this irresponsible decision, and follow the approach set out in the six-point agreement."103 Then-Secretary Rice expressed "regret" that Russia had violated a provision of the six-point peace plan that calls for international talks on the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. She stated that any attempt by Russia to bring the matter of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence before the U.N. Security Council would "simply ... be dead on arrival." The State Department also hinted at possible "consequences" for U.S.-Russia relations.104

The U.S.-Georgia Charter

The former Bush Administration's strong support for Georgia was reflected in the U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed in January 2009, which states that "our two countries share a vital interest in a strong, independent, sovereign, unified, and democratic Georgia." The accord is similar to a U.S.-Ukraine Charter signed in December 2008 and a U.S.-Baltic Charter signed in 1998 with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. In the security realm, "the United States and Georgia intend to expand the scope of their ongoing defense and security cooperation programs to defeat [threats to global peace and stability] and to promote peace and stability." Such cooperation will "increase Georgian capabilities and ... strengthen Georgia's candidacy for NATO membership." In the economic realm, the two countries "intend to pursue an Enhanced Bilateral Investment Treaty, to expand Georgian access to the General System of Preferences, and to explore the possibility of a Free-Trade Agreement." Energy security goals include "increasing Georgia's energy production, enhanc[ing] energy efficiency, and increas[ing] the physical security of energy transit through Georgia to European markets." In the realm of democratization, the two countries "pledge cooperation to bolster independent media, freedom of expression, and access to objective news and information," and to further strengthen the rule of law. The United States pledged to train judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and police officers.105

Before the signing, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze hailed the accord as a "stepping stone which will bring Georgia to Euro-Atlantic structures, to membership within NATO, and to [the] family of Western and civilized nations."106 Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryza stressed that the charter does not provide security guarantees to Georgia. He also stated that U.S.-Georgian defense cooperation programs were still being developed.107 According to some observers, the Charter aimed to reaffirm the United States' high strategic interest in Georgia's fate, after it had appeared that the United States (and the West) in recent months had acquiesced to increased Russian dominance in the South Caucasus.108

While these goals have received support from most policymakers, some observers have called for a re-evaluation of some aspects of U.S. support for Georgia. These critics have argued that many U.S. policymakers have been captivated by Saakashvili's charismatic personality and pledges to democratize and have tended to overlook his bellicosity. They also have suggested that the United States should not have unquestionably backed Georgia's territorial integrity, but should rather have encouraged reconciliation and the consideration of options short of the reintegration of the regions into Georgia.109

U.S. Assistance

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reported on September 5 that USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department had provided $38.36 million in direct humanitarian assistance to Georgia. Of this amount, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) reported that its air transportation costs were $15.4 million for 59 flights to Georgia.110 Among U.S. Navy and Coast Guard deliveries, the USS McFaul docked at Georgia's port of Batumi to deliver nearly 80 tons of humanitarian assistance on August 24; the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas docked at Batumi to deliver 34 tons of assistance on August 27; the USS Mt. Whitney docked at Poti to deliver 17 tons of aid on September 5. The Defense Department announced on September 8 that with the USS Mt. Whitney aid delivery it had completed its role in delivering urgent humanitarian supplies.

On September 3, then-Secretary of State Rice announced a multi-year $1 billion aid plan for Georgia. According to the State Department's Deputy Director of Foreign Assistance Richard Greene, the Administration envisaged that over one-half of the funds could be allocated from FY2008-FY2009 budgets, and that the remainder for FY2010 could be appropriated by "the next Congress and the next administration." The Administration envisaged that its proposed $1 billion aid package would be in addition to existing aid and requests for Georgia, such as FREEDOM Support Act and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funds. The added aid was planned for humanitarian needs, particularly for internally displaced persons, for the reconstruction of infrastructure and facilities that were damaged or destroyed during the Russian invasion, and for safeguarding Georgia's continued economic growth.111

Besides the envisaged aid, the White House announced that other initiatives might possibly include broadening the U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with Georgia, negotiating an enhanced bilateral investment treaty, proposing legislation to expand preferential access to the U.S. market for Georgian exports, and facilitating Georgia's use of the Generalized System of Preferences. White House encouragement also was central to the elaboration by the IMF of a $750 million aid package for Georgia (as described above, in the "International Response" section).112

Congress acted quickly to flesh out the Administration's aid proposals for Georgia. The Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009 (H.R. 2638/P.L. 110-329), signed into law on September 30, 2008, appropriates an additional $365 million in aid for Georgia and the region for FY2009 (beyond that provided under continuing appropriations based on FY2008 funding) for humanitarian and economic relief, reconstruction, energy-related programs and democracy activities. In October 2008, Congress authorized $50 million for security assistance for Georgia under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2009 (P.L. 110-417; the so-called "Section 1207" authority).

At the EU and World Bank-sponsored donors' conference on October 22, 2008, USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore announced that the United States would "make available by the end of 2008 approximately $720 million of the $1 billion we have pledged." Of this $720 million, $250 million would be provided for direct budget support, $100 million for urgent civilian reconstruction and stabilization needs, and up to $80 million for economic reconstruction. Also included in the $720 million are funds "already redirected to assist Georgia: $100 million in new funding for Georgia's Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact [and] $150 million in Overseas Private Investment Corporation support to make affordable mortgages available." She also pledged more humanitarian aid for the winter.113

Although U.S. officials stressed that the early U.S. aid response focused on humanitarian and economic assistance, EUCOM sent a team to Georgia in early September to assess defense needs (this EUCOM effort was separate from the earlier EUCOM humanitarian assistance assessment effort). In October, Congress authorized $50 million for FY2009 for security assistance for Georgia (see below).

The State Department announced in early December 2008 that $757 million of the pledged $1 billion in new assistance had been provided or was in the process of being provided to Georgia, with the balance of $243 million to be appropriated by the next Congress.114 Already, $60 million had been provided in humanitarian assistance for food, water, bedding, and medicine, and $250 million had been made available to the Georgian government for fiscal stabilization and urgent governmental expenses, including pensions for government retirees, healthcare, allowances for displaced persons, secondary education, and salaries for government employees. Among in-process funding, the MCC was providing $100 million to Georgia to support existing programs, including road rehabilitation, water supply and waste water projects, gas pipeline repairs, and energy sector studies. The Defense Department was providing $50 million for urgent reconstruction and stabilization assistance,115 and OPIC was providing $176 million for mortgages and commercial and residential property development. Another $121 million was planned to be allocated for economic reconstruction, assistance to displaced persons, energy security-related programs, and strengthening Georgia's democratization.

Georgia and the NATO Membership Action Plan

Some observers in Georgia and the West have argued that NATO's failure to offer Georgia a Membership Action Plan (MAP) at the April 2008 NATO summit emboldened Russia's aggressiveness toward Georgia. Others consider that NATO's pledge that Georgia eventually would become a member, as well as Georgia's ongoing movement toward integration with the West, spurred Russian aggression.116 Saakashvili argued on August 10 that Russia wanted to crush Georgia's independence and end its bid to join NATO. France and Germany, which had voiced reservations at the April 2008 NATO summit about extending a MAP to Georgia, may argue even more forcefully against admitting Georgia, citing both the higher level of tensions over the separatist regions, Georgia's military incursion into South Ossetia, and the danger of war with Russia. Although the United States strongly supported a MAP for Georgia at the April 2008 NATO summit, recent events may have dimmed this prospect.

An emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors on August 12, 2008 reiterated "in very strong terms" support for a sovereign, independent Georgia, and "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force," according to a report by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. He termed Georgia "a highly respected partner of NATO," and stated that the question of a MAP for Georgia remains "very much alive" and may be decided in December 2008. At the same time, there was evidence of hesitancy among some NATO members about moving forward with a MAP for Georgia at the December 2008 session.117

NATO foreign ministers met in emergency session on August 19 in the face of Russian delays in withdrawing from Georgia. The day before the meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko had warned that "Russia is fairly carrying out its obligations, including within the framework of our partnership with NATO. We continue to help NATO in Afghanistan, give transit opportunities and maintain cooperation in counteracting terrorism and the WMD non-proliferation. But if NATO tries to keep covering for Georgia we may have problems with the alliance."118

At a press conference following the session, NATO Secretary General Scheffer announced that "NATO-Russia Council meetings would be placed on hold until Russia adhered to the ceasefire, and the future of our relations will depend on the concrete actions Russia will take to abide by the peace plan."119 However, seeming to reflect disagreement within NATO about how to treat Russia, the final statement did not specifically state that NATO-Russia Council meetings would be suspended, although it did warn that "we have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual."120 It also stated that a new NATO-Georgia Commission would be set up to a body to oversee cooperative initiatives, including repairing Georgia's military capabilities. Russia responded by suspending most cooperation with NATO, although Russia's emissary to NATO stated on September 3 that Russia would continue to cooperate with NATO on trans-shipment of supplies to Afghanistan.121

The inaugural meeting of the NATO-Georgia Council was held in Tbilisi on September 15 as part of a visit by the North Atlantic Council ambassadors and Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. A communique adopted at the inaugural meeting reaffirmed NATO's commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity, raised concerns about Russia's "disproportionate" military actions against Georgia, and condemned Russia's recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The ambassadors stressed that NATO would continue to assist Georgia in carrying out the reform program set forth in Georgia's IPAP with NATO. In a separate statement, de Hoop Scheffer reportedly indicated that it might prove difficult to resume meetings of the NATO-Russia Council until Russia drew down the number of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to pre-conflict numbers.122 On September 18-19, a meeting of NATO defense ministers further discussed Georgia's rebuilding needs and the implications of Russia's actions for Euro-Atlantic security. While the defense ministers were meeting, Russian President Medvedev accused NATO of "provoking" the August Russia-Georgia conflict rather than guaranteeing peace.123

At a NATO foreign ministers meeting in early December 2008, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appeared to acknowledge allied concerns about Georgia's readiness for a MAP by embracing a proposal to defer granting a MAP. The allies instead agreed to step up work within the NATO-Georgia Council to facilitate Georgia's eventual NATO membership, and to prepare annual reports on Georgia's progress toward eventual membership.

At the February 20, 2009, meeting of the NATO-Georgia commission, NATO and Georgian defense ministers discussed recovery assistance to Georgia and Russia's construction of military bases in the breakaway regions. Addressing an associated meeting of NATO defense ministers, Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer stated that "we have seen [Russia's] recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We see [Russia's] intention of establishing bases there.... And it is crystal clear that we do not agree with Russia there. We fundamentally disagree. Does that mean that this measured reengagement with Russia should stop for that reason? There my answer is, 'No it should not.' Because we should use the NATO-Russia Council ... to discuss these things where we fundamentally disagree."124 U.S. Defense Secretary Gates similarly endorsed exploring improved NATO ties with Russia, although he averred that the Obama Administration "has not yet looked comprehensively at its policies with respect to Russia, and so I think our position on that [on resuming NATO-Russia Council meetings], on what that ought to happen, is not yet settled." He stressed that the United States has "a continuing security relationship with Georgia. We're involved in training. We are involved in military reform in Georgia. So this is an ongoing relationship and it is a relationship that we are pursuing, both bilaterally and within the framework of our NATO allies."125

Congressional Response

Congress has long been at the forefront in U.S. support for Georgia, including humanitarian, security, and democratization assistance as well as support for conflict resolution. Among recent actions, the Senate approved S.Res. 550 (Biden) on June 3, 2008, calling on Russia to disavow the establishment of direct government-to-government ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Congress had begun its August 2008 recess during the height of the Russia-Georgia conflict, but many members spoke out on the issue. Several Members also visited Georgia after the ceasefire. Among the initial statements were:

  • On August 8, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman urged all parties to cease fighting and for Russia to withdraw its troops and respect Georgia's territorial integrity.126
  • On August 8, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's then-Chairman Joseph Biden called for U.S. officials and the U.N. Security Council to facilitate negotiations between the conflicting parties and stated that "Moscow has a particular obligation to avoid further escalation of the situation."127
  • On August 8, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen stated that Russia's invasion of Georgia caused little surprise, given Russia's other increasingly aggressive foreign policy actions, and called for an international peacekeeping force for South Ossetia.128
  • On August 10, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin averred that the United States does "not have much impact, I believe, in terms of [Administration] declarations anymore," but should work with Europe to make clear to Russia that its action "is way out of line" and to convince it to halt aggression in Georgia.129
  • On August 12, then-Senator Biden warned Russia that its aggression in Georgia jeopardized congressional support for legislation to collaborate with Russia on nuclear energy production and to repeal the Jackson-Vanik conditions on U.S. trade with Russia.130
  • On August 12, the bipartisan leadership of the House issued a statement strongly condemning "the recent Russian invasion of the sovereign state of Georgia," and calling for the "world community to re-engage in negotiations to end the conflict and restore stability in this region [and] ensure that the needs of ... the Georgian people are met."131
  • Senator John McCain, the Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who had previously visited South Ossetia, condemned the Russian military incursion on August 8 and warned Russia that there could be severe, long-term negative consequences to its relations with the United States and Europe. He also stated on August 12 that he had phoned Saakashvili to offer support.
  • Then-Senator Barack Obama, Chairman of the Senate Europe Subcommittee, on August 8 condemned the Russian military incursion into Georgia, called for Georgia to refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and urged all sides to pursue a political settlement that addresses the status of the regions. Both Senators McCain and Obama have urged NATO to soon extend a MAP to Georgia.132

Upon ending its recess, the 110th Congress convened several hearings and instigated other legislative actions dealing with the Russia-Georgia conflict.

  • On September 9, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the Current Situation in Georgia and Implications for U.S. Policy. That same day, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on U.S.-Russia Relations in the Aftermath of the Georgia Crisis.
  • On September 10, the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe held a hearing on Georgia and the Return of Power Politics.
  • On September 17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Russia's Aggression Against Georgia: Consequences and Responses.
  • On September 27, 2008, the Senate approved S.Res. 690 (Kerry), which expressed the sense of the Senate that irrespective of the origins of the Russia-Georgia conflict, the disproportionate military response by Russia was in violation of international law and diminished Russia's standing in the international community. The resolution also called on the United States to provide rebuilding aid and support democracy in Georgia, and to reaffirm that Georgia would eventually become a member of NATO.
  • On September 30, 2008, a congressional appropriation of $365 million in added foreign assistance for Georgia and the region for FY2009 was signed into law (H.R. 2638; P.L. 110-329).
  • On October 7, 2008, a congressional authorization of $50 million in defense support for Georgia for FY2009 was signed into law (S. 3001).

In the 111th Congress, H.Con.Res. 61 (Ros-Lehtinen), introduced on February 25, 2009, expresses the sense of Congress that Russia's continued membership in the G-8 should be conditioned on its compliance with its international obligations. The resolution adduces that Russia's military invasion of Georgia in August 2008 violated Georgia's territorial integrity, caused tens of thousands of persons to be internally displaced, and inflicted massive physical destruction. The resolution criticizes Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent and Russia's establishment of military and naval bases in the regions.

Figure 2. Military Conflict between Russia and Georgia, August 2008

Sources: Digitized base map extracted from United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR; and "The Guardian" (; Statfor (

Note: Produced by Jacqueline V. Nolan, GIS Cartographer, Congressional Cartography Program, Library of Congress—Washington, DC—08/18/08



Munich Security Conference. Vice President Joseph R. Biden: Speech at the 45th Munich Security Conference, February 7, 2009.


Open Source Center. OSC Report: Georgia: Officials, Observers Praise Biden's 'Clear Message' to Russia in Munich, February 12, 2009.


Pavel Felgenhauer, "Russia's Coming War with Georgia," Eurasia Daily Monitor, February 12, 2009. The EU Monitoring Mission and the Georgian Defense Ministry signed an agreement in January 2009 providing for transparency of and limits on Georgian military deployments near Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


PACE. Resolution 1647: The implementation of Resolution 1633 (2008) on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, January 28, 2009.


Vladimir Socor, Eurasia Insight, November 20, 2006.


CEDR, October 7, 2005, Doc. No. CEP-15001. CEDR, December 12, 2005, Doc. No. CEP-27204. South Ossetians who were citizens of Russia voted in the 2004 Russian presidential election, and a poster in South Ossetia afterward proclaimed that "Putin is our president." Many South Ossetians voted in the 2007 Russian Duma election and the 2008 Russian presidential election. CEDR, December 3, 2007, Doc. No. CEP-950289; February 28, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-4015.


CEDR, November 1, 2007, Doc. No. CEP-950449.


CEDR, July 18, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-548001; July 28, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-358017; Georgia National Guard, "'Immediate Response' Underway in Republic of Georgia," Army.Mil News, July 15, 2008; Capt. Bryan Woods, "Security Cooperation Exercise Immediate Response 2008 Begins with Official Ceremony in Republic of Georgia," Army.Mil News, July 17, 2008. According to one report, 130 U.S. troops were still in Georgia at the time of the outbreak of conflict on August 7-8. They were moved from the Vaziani air base to a Tbilisi hotel, and departed the country after the conflict. Roland Flamini, "War Games Too Close for Comfort," Congressional Quarterly Weekly, October 13, 2008, p. 2765.


CEDR, July 22, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950329; July 22, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950042.


U.S. Department of State. Press Release. Secretary's Remarks: Remarks En Route Prague, Czech Republic, July 8, 2008.


CEDR, August 8, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950325.


CEDR, August 12, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950226.


CEDR, August 18, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-349001; Stéphane Lefebvre and Roger Mcdermott, "Intelligence Aspects of the Russia-Georgia Conflict," Journal of Slavic Military Studies, January 2009, pp. 4–19.


Anne Barnard, Andrew Kramer, C.J. Chivers and Ellen Barry, "Clashes in Georgia Move Another Step Closer to All-Out War: Russian Bombers Strike Capital's Airport," The New York Times, August 11, 2008; Dario Thuburn, "Russia's Ragtag Volunteers Enrol for Combat," Agence France-Presse, August 10, 2008.


Agence France-Presse, August 10, 2008.


Interfax, August 10, 2008.


In July 2006, a warlord in the Kodori Valley area of northern Abkhazia, where many ethnic Svans reside, foreswore his nominal allegiance to the Georgian government. The Georgian government quickly sent forces to the area, defeated the warlord's militia, and bolstered central authority.


"Security Council Holds Third Emergency Meeting as South Ossetia Conflict Intensifies, Expands to Other Parts of Georgia," States News Service, August 10, 2008.


CEDR, August 10, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950192 and Doc. No. CEP-950191.


CEDR, August 10, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950216.


ITAR-TASS, August 12, 2008.


CEDR, August 12, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950208.


President Sarkozy—whose country had taken the rotating leadership of the EU in July 2008—had extensive phone consultations on August 10 with Saakashvili, Medvedev, Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other European leaders to work out the EU peace plan.


The Russian Foreign Ministry has asserted that the parties to the conflict covered by the peace plan are Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia signed the peace plan as a mediator of the conflict, along with France, signing for the EU. The OSCE might also sign as a mediator. CEDR, August 19, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950086.


Christopher Boian, "Russia Moves Toward Recognition of Georgian Rebel Zones," Agence France-Presse, August 20, 2008.


Bela Szandelszky and Mike Eckel, "Russia Moves Toward Pullback but Shows Strength," Associated Press, August 20, 2008.


"French-Funded Army Training Center in Georgia Threatened," Agence France-Presse,

August 20, 2008.


The Guardian (London), August 19, 2008.


CEDR, August 28, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950418.


CEDR, August 28, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950470.


Open Source Center. Central Eurasia: Daily Report (hereafter CEDR), September 28, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950425; CEP-950440.


Conor Humphries, "Russia Establishes Ties with Georgia Regions," Agence France-Presse, September 9, 2008; "Russia to Base 7,600 Troops in Georgian Regions," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, September 9, 2008.


James Blitz, "NATO Head Attacks EU's Georgia Deal," Financial Times, September 14, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Press Briefing at U.S. Mission Geneva by Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, October 15, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Press Conference With Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary Of State For European And Eurasian Affairs (As Released By The U.S. Mission In Geneva), February 18, 2009.


The World Bank. Georgia: Summary of Joint Needs Assessment Findings Prepared for the Donors' Conference of October 22, 2008 in Brussels, n.d.


"European Rights Commissioner Paints Grim Picture Of Georgian Conflict Zone," RFE/RL, September 30, 2008.


"Russia 'Punishing' Georgia for NATO Aspirations," RFE/RL, August 10, 2008.


Robert Kagan, "Putin Makes His Move," Washington Post, August 11, 2008. Russia hoped to achieve this latter goal either directly by occupying Georgia's capital of Tbilisi and killing or arresting Saakashvili, or indirectly by triggering his overthrow, according to these observers. They state that Saakashvili's survival is a major accomplishment of the diplomacy led by the EU that ended Russia's offensive. See U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Foreign Affairs. Hearing on U.S.-Russia Relations in the Aftermath of the Georgia Crisis. Testimony of Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, September 9, 2008. Saakashvili also highlighted this Russian aim during his testimony to the Georgian legislative commission investigating the causes of the conflict. See "Saakashvili Testifies Before War Commission, Analysts Comment," The Messenger (Tbilisi), December 1, 2008. Georgia's Ambassador to the United States, Davit Sikharulidze, argued that Russia's "aim was to overthrow the [Georgian] government and it would have come true but for the U.S. interference." Open Source Center. Central Eurasia: Daily Report (hereafter CEDR), December 1, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950233. Russia officially has denied such an aim.


The Russian Foreign Ministry asserted on August 18 that while Russia was ready for negotiations with Georgia over the South Ossetia crisis, "we do not regard Mikheil Saakashvili as a negotiating partner." Interfax, August 19, 2008.


CEDR, August 11, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-25028.


CEDR, September 12, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-25003; September 17, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950402.


Open Source Center. Europe: Daily Report, September 5, 2008, Doc. No. EUP-58009; ITAR-TASS, September 10, 2008.


CEDR, February 24, 2009, Doc. No. CEP-358005.


Michael Bronner, "When the War Ends, Start to Worry," New York Times, August 16, 2008; "Georgia: Organized Crime and the Conflict with Russia," Stratfor Today, August 11, 2008.


"Phone Taps 'Prove Georgia's Case,'" BBC News, September 16, 2008; C. J. Chivers, "Georgia Offers Fresh Evidence on War's Start," New York Times, September 16, 2008, p. A1.


CEDR, October 3, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950539. Illarionov also argues that ships of Russia's Black Sea fleet had been fully loaded before August 7 and set sail to Abkhazia at the same time that the Russian troops were entering South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel.


PACE. The Consequences of the War between Georgia and Russia, Resolution 1633, October 2, 2008.


According to Russian oppositionist Andrey Illarionov, most of the South Ossetian casualties were members of the separatist militia. CEDR, October 3, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950539; December 30, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-358002; ITAR-TASS, February 21, 2009. See also Human Rights Watch, Up In Flames: Humanitarian Law Violations and Civilian Victims in the Conflict over South Ossetia, January 23, 2009.


CEDR, September 15, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950334; Institute of War and Peace Reporting, September 25, 2008.


Laurence Peter, "Civilian emergency hits Georgia," BBC News, August 12, 2008; "15,000 Refugees Return to South Ossetia: Russian Ministry," Agence France-Presse, August 20, 2008.


The World Bank. Georgia: Summary of Joint Needs Assessment Findings Prepared for the Donors' Conference of October 22, 2008 in Brussels, n.d. Another 222,000 persons remain displaced in shelters, with host families, or otherwise vulnerable due to earlier fighting in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to the World Bank.


Magda Memanishvili, Georgia: Refugees Claim to Be Put at Risk, Officials Urging Displaced To Go Home, But They Say Their Villages Remain Dangerous, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, February 27, 2009.


International Court of Justice. Press Release. Georgia Institutes Proceedings Against Russia for Violations of the Convention On the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, No. 2008/23, August 12, 2008; Georgia Submits a Request for the Indication of Provisional Measures, No. 2008/24, August 14, 2008; Proceedings Instituted by Georgia Against Russia: Urgent Communication to the Parties from the President under Article 74, Paragraph 4, of the Rules of Court, No. 2008/26, August 15, 2008. See also News Conference with Legal Council for the Republic of Georgia Payam Akhavan, National Press Club, August 21, 2008.


Human Rights Watch. Georgia: International Groups Should Send Missions to Investigate Violations and Protect Civilians, August 18, 2008; Georgia: Civilians Killed by Russian Cluster Bomb 'Duds'," August 21, 2008; Up In Flames: Humanitarian Law Violations and Civilian Victims in the Conflict over South Ossetia, January 23, 2009. "Georgia Admits to Dropping Cluster Bombs," Associated Press, September 1, 2008. For mutual accusations by Russia and Georgia of human rights abuses during the conflict, see U.N. Office at Geneva. Conference on Disarmament. Conference Hears Georgia Say Russian Forces Guilty of Targeting Civilians; Russia Alleges Georgian Policy of Ethnic Cleansing, August 14, 2008.


Rikard Jozwiak, "Russian Cluster Bomb Killed Dutch Cameraman," European Voice, October 21, 2008.


Alexei Malashenko, quoted in Moscow Times, August 11, 2008.


Some observers pointed out that Russia and China dismissed arguments that Georgia was dealing with its own internal affairs in South Ossetia, while Moscow and Beijing reject international "interference" in how they deal with separatist problems in Chechnya, Tibet, and Xinjiang.


Agence France-Presse, August 10, 2008.


EDR, August 11, 2008, Doc. No. EUP-58004 and Doc. No. EUP-100019; August 12, 2008, Doc. No. EUP-58002.


Council of the European Union. Council Conclusions on the Situation in Georgia, August 13, 2008.


Associated Press, August 26, 2008.


"EU Condemns Russian Recognition of South Ossetia, Abkhazia: Presidency," Agence France-Presse, August 26, 2008.


Lisa Bryant, "West Slams Russian Recognition of Breakaway Regions," Agence France-Presse, August 26, 2008.


John Helprin, "Russia Says it Is Ready to Negotiate with Georgia," Associated Press, August 10, 2008. U.N. Security Council. Security Council Briefed by Political Affairs, Peacekeeping on Georgia Developments, Including 26 August Recognition Decrees on Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Press Release SC/9438, August 28, 2008.


Ariel Cohen, "The Russian-Georgian War: A Challenge for the U.S. and the World," Heritage Foundation Web Memo, August 11, 2008.


EUObserver, August 13, 2008.


European Parliament. European Parliament Resolution on the Situation in Georgia, September 3, 2008.


PACE. The Consequences of the War between Georgia and Russia, Resolution 1633, October 2, 2008. Russia had threatened to resign from the COE if its voting rights were suspended.


EU. Conclusions of the 2,889th session of the European Union's External Relations Council Meeting on 15 and 16 September 2008 in Brussels, September 16, 2008.


Interfax, February 12, 2009.


Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2008.


For one exchange of views on the comparison of Kosovo to Georgia's regions, see Noel Malcolm, "South Ossetia is not Kosovo," Standpoint Online, October 2008, at


It conditioned this by adding that "the Russians should not be allowed to get away with supporting breakaway regions within Georgia."


"Baiting the Bear: Georgia Plays Russian Roulette," Jane's Intelligence Review, September 2008 (article was available online on August 14, 2008).


Robert Kagan, "Putin Makes His Move," Washington Post, August 11, 2008.


Ronald Asmus, Christian Science Monitor, August 11, 2008; Ronald Asmus, "Black Sea Watershed," GMF News, August 11, 2008.


Open Source Center. Europe: Daily Report (hereafter EDR), August 12, 2008, Doc. No. EUP-25002.


Moscow Times, August 11, 2008.


Ahto Lobjakas, "EU, U.S. Conduct Two-Pronged Diplomacy In Caucasus," RFE/RL, October 1, 2008.


Agence France Presse, February 27, 2009.


"Red Cross Says Its Experts Heading for South Ossetia," Agence France-Presse, August 20, 2008. International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies. Russian Federation: Assistance to Refugees from South Ossetia, Operation update No. 1, February 27, 2009.


World Bank and the European Commission. Press Release: International Donors Pledge US$4.5 billion in Post-Conflict Support to Georgia, October 22, 2008.


The economic sanctions had been approved by the Commonwealth of Independent States in January 1996 at Georgia's behest as an inducement to Abkhazia to engage in peace negotiations with Georgia.


"Germany, Great Britain, France, U.S.A. and Germany Passed Communique," Black Sea Press, April 24, 2008.


Associated Press, August 11, 2008; Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2008. According to analysts Stéphane Lefebvre and Roger McDermott, "despite the presence of CIA and FBI agents in Tbilisi, at the outset of the [conflict] ... the U.S. government's grasp of the events, unfolding developments, and situation on the ground in the conflict zone is believed to have been very limited." "Intelligence Aspects of the 2008 Conflict Between Russia and Georgia," The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, January 2009, p. 16.


The White House. Press Briefing by Press Secretary Dana Perino and Senior Director for East Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder and Deputy National Security Advisor Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, August 10, 2008.


John Heilprin, "U.S., Russian Ambassadors Spar at UN over Georgia," Associated Press, August 10, 2008.


Stephanie Gaskell, "Cheney Warns Russia: Veep Says Attack on Georgia 'Must Not Go Unanswered' as War Expands," Daily News (New York), August 11, 2008.


The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. President Bush Discusses Situation in Georgia, August 11, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Office of the Press Secretary. Remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Situation in Georgia, August 12, 2008.


Kim Gamel, "U.S. Military Begins Flying Georgian Troops Home," Associated Press, August 10, 2008.


The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. President Bush Discusses Situation in Georgia, Urges Russia to Cease Military Operations, August 13, 2008.


Steven Lee Myers and Thom Shanker, "Aides to Bush Say Russia Offensive Jeopardizes Ties," The New York Times, August 15, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Secretary Rice Delivers Remarks in Brussels, Belgium, August 19, 2008; CBS News Transcripts, August 19, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Foreign Press Center. Briefing: The Situation in the Republic of Georgia and its Implications for the Caucasus, August 19, 2008. See also Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Hearing on Georgia and the Return of Power Politics. Testimony by Matthew J. Bryza, September 10, 2008.


The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. Press Briefing, August 28, 2008; Steve Gutterman, "Putin accuses U.S. in Georgia War," Associated Press, August 28, 2008.


Associated Press, September 8, 2008.


The White House. Office of the Vice President. Remarks by Vice President Cheney and President Saakashvili of Georgia After Meeting, September 4, 2008.


The White House. Office of the Vice President. Remarks by Vice President Cheney at Ambrosetti Forum, September 6, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Secretary Rice Delivers Remarks on U.S.-Russia Relations to the German Marshall Fund, September 18, 2008.


CEDR, September 22, 2008, Doc. No. CEP-950228.


The White House. Office of the Press Secretary. President Bush Condemns Actions Taken by Russian President in Regards to Georgia, August 26, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Remarks With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, August 26, 2008; Associated Press, August 26, 2008. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried has stated that without then-Secretary Rice's efforts, "we would have no ceasefire at all with which to push the Russians and achieve some stability. Second, Secretary Rice focused the initial outrage and anxiety felt in Europe into a unified front at NATO in support of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, and the ceasefire agreement." U.S. Department of State Official Blog. DipNote. Secretary Rice: Leadership Through Negotiation in Georgia, August 25, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership, January 9, 2009.


U.S. Department of State. Signing Ceremony for the United States and Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership:

Secretary Condoleezza Rice Remarks With Georgian Foreign Affairs Minister Grigol Vashadze in the Treaty Room, January 9, 2009.


CEDR, January 7, 2009, Doc. No. CEP-950092.


David J. Smith, "US-Georgia Charter is Historic," Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, January 12, 2009.


Alexander Cooley and Lincoln Mitchell, "No Way to Treat Our Friends: Recasting Recent U.S.-Georgian Relations," The Washington Quarterly, January 2009, pp. 27-41; Georgia-Russia War Discussion between Gordon Hahn and Johnson's Russia List, Russia: Other Points of View, October 17, 2008, at


USAID. Georgia: Complex Emergency Fact Sheet, No. 17 (FY2008), September 5, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Secretary Condoleezza Rice. Remarks On U.S. Economic Support Package for Georgia, September 3, 2008; Briefing On U.S. Economic Support Package for Georgia, September 3, 2008.


Venla Sipila, "IMF, U.S. Confirm Financial Assistance to War-Torn Georgia," Global Insight, September 4, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. U.S. Pledges $1 Billion in Assistance to Georgia, October 22, 2008.


U.S. Department of State. Office of the Spokesman. Taken Question At Tuesday, December 9 Daily Press Briefing: Georgia, $1 Billion Assistance Commitment, December 9, 2008.


In December 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Georgia announced that these funds were being obligated for rebuilding the police force ($20 million) and meeting priority food, shelter, and livelihood needs of displaced persons in the Shida Kartli region ($30 million). See U.S. Embassy in Georgia. U.S. Government Assistance to Georgia, press release, December 19, 2008. See also CRS Report RS22871, Department of Defense "Section 1207" Security and Stabilization Assistance: A Fact Sheet, by [author name scrubbed].


For background, see CRS Report RL34415, Enlargement Issues at NATO's Bucharest Summit, by [author name scrubbed] et al..


Robert Wielaard, NATO Extends Warm Support for Georgia," Associated Press, August 12, 2008; "Georgia Still on Track to Join NATO, Alliance Chief Says," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 12, 2008. Russia's NATO Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin denounced Scheffer's comments and demanded that NATO colleagues condemn Saakashvili.


ITAR-TASS, August 18, 2008.


"NATO Rebukes Russia as Hostilities Ease," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, August 20, 2008.


NATO. Statement: Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Foreign Ministers held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, August 19, 2008.


"Envoy Says Russia to Continue Cooperation with NATO on Afghanistan," BBC Monitoring International Reports, September 3, 2008.


NATO. NATO-Georgia Joint Press Statement on the Occasion of the North Atlantic Council Visit to Georgia and the Inaugural Meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission, September 15, 2008; James Blitz, "NATO Head Attacks EU's Georgia Deal," Financial Times, September 14, 2008.


Prashant Rao, "NATO Mulls Response as Russia Accuses it over Georgia," Agence France-Presse, September 19, 2008; "Medvedev Accuses NATO of Provoking Georgia War," Agence France-Presse, September 19, 2008.


"NATO Ministers Seek To Keep Door Open to Ukraine, Georgia," Radio Free Europe, February 20, 2009.


U.S. Department of Defense. Press Availability With Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Following the NATO Meeting, February 20, 2009.


"Statement by Congressman Howard Berman, Chairman of House Committee on Foreign Affairs, on Escalating Violence in South Ossetia," States News Service, August 8, 2008.


"Biden Issues Statement on Continued Violence in South Ossetia," States News Service, August 8, 2008.


"Ros-Lehtinen Comments on Outbreak of Violence in Georgia," States News Service, August 8, 2008. She stated that Russian aggression against Georgia was "another reason for the Administration to withdraw the nuclear cooperation agreement from consideration by Congress."


Ben Feller, "Bush Seeks to Contain Violent Conflict in Georgia," Associated Press, August 10, 2008.


"Op-Ed: Russia Must Stand Down," States News Service, August 12, 2008.


Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Republican Leader John Boehner, and Republican Whip Roy Blunt, Joint Statement on Russia's Invasion of Georgia, August 12, 2008.


Steven Hurst, "McCain: Today We're All Georgians," Associated Press Worldstream, August 12, 2008; Steven Hurst, "Obama Notes Georgian Role in Crisis," Associated Press Worldstream, August 12, 2008.