The Battle of Kursk it wasn't ... The New York Times reports:
Just weeks after Georgia’s military collapsed in panic in the face of the Russian Army, its leaders hope to rebuild and train its armed forces as if another war with Russia is almost inevitable. ...
Georgia’s decision to attack Russian and South Ossetian forces raises questions about the wisdom of further United States investment in the Georgian military, which in any case would further alienate Russia. Not doing so could lead to charges of abandoning Georgia in the face of Russian threats. ...
“Our mission is to protect our country from Russian aggression,” Davit Kezerashvili, Georgia’s 29-year-old defense minister, said in an interview last week when asked what missions the military would be organized to perform. “...
Military rebuilding will take years, which means that long-term decisions about American support to Georgia will fall to the next presidential administration.
Republicans and Democrats alike have signaled strong support for Georgia.
Mr. Saakashvili has cultivated close ties to both the McCain and Obama campaigns. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee for vice president, visited Mr. Saakashvili last month, as did Cindy McCain, the wife of Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. Mr. McCain has been a vocal proponent of Mr. Saakashvili’s government, and a strong critic of the Kremlin. ...
Russia’s military, while able to overpower and scare off the inexperienced Georgian Army, went into battle with aging equipment, including scores of tanks designed in the 1960s, and armored vehicles that broke down in large numbers along Georgia’s roads. ...
But as Georgia and the West begin to discuss military collaborations, the conversation is informed by the events of last month, in which the Georgian military scattered under fire. ...
But interviews with Western military officers who have experience working with Georgian military forces, including officers in Georgia, Europe and the United States, suggested that Georgia’s military shortfalls were serious and too difficult to change merely by upgrading equipment.
In the recent war, which was over in days, Georgia’s Army fled ahead of the Russian Army’s advance, turning its back and leaving Georgian civilians in an enemy’s path. Its planes did not fly after the first few hours of contact. Its navy was sunk in the harbor, and its patrol boats were hauled away by Russian trucks on trailers.
The information to date suggests that from the beginning of the war to its end, Georgia, which wants to join NATO, fought the war in a manner that undermined its efforts at presenting itself as a potentially serious military partner or power.
Mr. Saakashvili and his advisers also say that even though he has no tactical military experience, he was at one time personally directing important elements of the battle — giving orders over a cellphone and deciding when to move a brigade from western to central Georgia to face the advancing Russian columns.
In the field, there is evidence from an extensive set of witnesses that within 30 minutes of Mr. Saakashvili’s order, Georgia’s military began pounding civilian sections of the city of Tskhinvali, as well as a Russian peacekeeping base there, with heavy barrages of rocket and artillery fire.
The barrages all but ensured a Russian military response, several diplomats, military officers and witnesses said.
After the Russian columns arrived through the Roki Tunnel, and the battle swung quickly into Russia’s favor, Georgia said its attack had been necessary to stop a Russian attack that already had been under way.
To date, however, there has been no independent evidence, beyond Georgia’s insistence that its version is true, that Russian forces were attacking before the Georgian barrages.
That's a big improvement over so much of the initial reporting in the American that made it sound like Russian takes rolled first over the de facto boundary of 17 years; but the NYT now sounds a little too overconfident in the opposite direction. Russia may have been trying to provoke Georgia into committing the casus belli. I don't know that Putin was trying to provoke Georgia's government of over-networked yuppie goofballs into starting this war, but he might have.
During the battle, one Western military officer said, it had been obvious that Georgia’s logistical preparations were poor and that its units interfered with each other in the field.
This was in part because there was limited communication between ground forces and commanders, but also because there was almost no coordination between police units and military units, which often had overlapping tasks and crowded one another on the roads.
One senior Western military official said that one of the country’s senior generals had fled the battle in an ambulance, leaving soldiers and his duties behind. Georgia’s Defense Ministry strongly denies this.
No one disputes that the army succumbed to chaos and fear, which reached such proportions that the army fled all the way to the capital, abandoning the city of Gori without preparing a serious defense, and before the Russians had reached it in strength. It littered its retreat with discarded ammunition.
The key strategic question not mentioned here is whether Georgia intends to build a military oriented toward the offense or the defense.
But you can't conquer the land you want by digging in on the land you already have. At this point, having tried to retake South Ossetia, Georgia finds itself with Russian sitting on land that Georgia controlled up until last month, so it is likely to even more want to go on the offensive to get the Russians out.
What's the solution? I don't know, but, it would be nice if Democratic Georgia had one of those democratic elections we're always hearing about and voted Saakashvili out for starting and instantly losing a war with Russia. Then a new government could start a defensive-oriented strategy, digging in to make it too costly for Russia to go further south, while negotiating to get Russia to pull back to its protectorates, leaving a demilitarized zone behind.