September 8, 2008
Pg. 12 Opposing View
Russia is target of smear campaign by Georgia and its Western allies.
By Alexander Darchiev
Since Russia responded to a Georgian attack on South Ossetia a month ago, it has become the target of a smear campaign waged by Western PR agencies and lobbying firms hired by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Even more stunning is the U.S. administration's willingness to distort the truth.
It's worth noting that hostilities began after the Georgian government took a criminal decision to assault the defenseless capital of South Ossetia. Georgian forces indiscriminately shelled civilian districts and attacked a small, lightly armed Russian peacekeeping battalion.
Killing peacekeepers is a serious crime. Even more appalling, Georgian forces murdered more than 1,500 civilians in a country with a population of just 70,000. The Bush administration has kept silent about this. One may wonder what the U.S. reaction would be if U.S. citizens and peacekeepers were attacked.
Instead of condemning Georgia's behavior, the U.S. administration decided to give a pass to Saakashvili. It is unwilling to publicly recognize the serious mistake it made in betting on an unstable Georgian leader, presenting him as a successful champion of freedom in the South Caucasus. Instead, it presented "peace-loving Georgians" as being attacked by "a big and nasty Russian bear." This choice casts serious doubts on U.S. honesty and diplomatic integrity.
Nowadays, U.S. officials are trying to create an illusion that Russia somehow does not keep its word, violates agreements, is trying to seize an energy pipeline through Georgia and so on. This is all false. We repelled Georgian aggression. We provided safety in the region. We withdrew. We have started rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by the Georgian invasion. We are providing humanitarian aid to those in need, including ethnic Georgians. Our extended peacekeeping along the security zones in Georgia will wrap up as soon as there is an international monitoring force on the ground preventing a military threat to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
We would note that the U.S. administration beefed up Georgia's military capabilities even as it assured Russia that U.S.-trained troops would never be involved in conflict zones. Recent history has proved otherwise. Who doesn't keep its promises? Alexander Darchiev is Russia's deputy chief of mission to the United States.