Caucasus ally hears mixed U.S. signals
Russian officials, who have long complained of Mr. Saakhashvili’s close ties to the West, charge that U.S. military and economic backing for Georgia led Tbilisi to overreach.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Georgia’s elected government as a “virtual project” of Washington.
“We understand that this current Georgian leadership is a special project of the United States, but one day the United States will have to choose between defending its prestige over a virtual project or real partnership which requires joint action,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters.
In an Internet chat organized by The Washington Times, Malkhaz Mikeladze, deputy chief of mission for the Georgian Embassy in Washington, said there was clear and consistent communication with the U.S. government before the fighting broke out in earnest.
“Everybody - Georgia and its Western friends - was actively trying to persuade Russia to put a stop to heavy shelling of Georgian villages near Tskhinvali,” he said. “There were no other plans but to proceed with peace negotiations.”
But some analysts say Mr. Saakhashvili and Mr. Bush were not on the same page when the war broke out, despite the strong and long-standing U.S. support for Georgia. Mr. Bush’s fervent and frequent statements of support for Tbilisi may have led the Georgian leader to miscalculate.
“Saakhashvili may have thought he could take Tskhinvali, internationalize the crisis and turn around and see the United States and the West at his back,” said Charles Kupchan, a European specialist at the Eurasia Group. “He turned around and there was no one there.”
• Jon Ward contributed to this report.