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The best overview of the war available,
This review is from: A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West (Hardcover)
Having been intimately involved with the events leading up to the war as well as with the war itself, as a counsellor to the Georgian Government, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Asmus captures all of the essential information in a clear, synthetic manner, and is particularly good at drawing the links between the West's recognition of Kosovo's independence and the Russian decision to push back by making an example of Georgia.
Reviewers have correctly noted the lack of a Russian perspective. This was not for lack of trying on Asmus' part, as he makes clear in the book. To my eye, the book suffers from a single significant weakness: it largely overlooks the importance of the battle for the world media's attention and sympathy before, during and after the war. Georgia's initial media victory, secured in the days following Russia's invasion, was manifest. It helped deliver significant Western political and financial support. But it didn't last: it was eventually undone in November 2008 with a NYT piece purporting to prove that the Georgians started the battle for Tskhinvali, a view largely endorsed by the EU's Tagliavini report. It became clear later on that this seeming endorsement of the Russian position was unsupported by serious factual evidence. A key witness, OSCE observer Ryan Grist, has reportedly disavowed his NYT interview.
The perception that "Georgia started the war" has now become received wisdom. This is a clear victory of Moscow's ongoing effort to undermine the legitimacy of the Georgian leadership. But it must be understood for what it is: a propaganda victory, not a victory for the truth of what happened. To learn that, Asmus' book is the best place to turn.
The war has so far found no finer pedagogue than Ron Asmus. For anyone who wants to understand what really happened, and why, this book is crucial.