Friday, January 22, 2010

BOOK RECENSION: Georgia and Russia- An American take on a war that fed conspiracies throughout Europe (

A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West. By Ronald Asmus. Palgrave Macmillan; 250 pages; $27 and £20.

TWO points about the war in Georgia in 2008 have stuck in outsiders’ memories. One is that it was quite unexpected. The other is that Georgia started it. Both, in Ronald Asmus’s view, are wrong.

The real cause of the war, he argues, was Russia’s determination to block Georgia’s American-educated and America-loving president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He had embarked on “a crash course to turn Georgia from a semi-failed state into a reform tiger that could become the catalyst for creating a democratic pro-Western corridor in the southern Caucasus…it was a breathtaking vision.”

Mr Asmus’s metaphors may be breathtakingly mixed, but his big point is right. Situated on the most promising east-west route for oil and gas, Georgia was becoming an economic and political success story under Mr Saakashvili, who took power in the “Rose revolution” of 2003. Its pluralism was a profound challenge to the authoritarian crony capitalism taking root in Russia under Vladimir Putin.

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