Asmus is clearly well connected the Western / Georgian Foreign Policy machine, and the key players in it. His insights are translated well into this excellent history of Georgia's conflict with Russia (or rather, Russia's conflict with Georgia).
Asmus gives a good history of the the war, Georgia's aspirations, and Russia's growling frustration with it's neighbour. There are a few things that are startling from the book. First, the true extent of the weak western response and support given to Georgia. Sarkozy's shuttle diplomacy leaves the state with an ambiguous settlement & limited security. Further, one can't but wonder what lesson's Russia's other euro-philic neighbours (Ukraine) might read from the affair. Second - the determination of Russia to start a conflict. With the world's eyes on the Beijing olympics, Georgia fell into the trap many months/years in the making. Again, one cant but wonder what the outcome would have been had the Western world taken the Russian moves more seriously and given better (stronger?) advice to the Georgian premier.
The only weakness to the tale is the lack of 'Russian' perspective. It would be interesting to have had some view from the other side of the conflict.
That said, it is a excellent read and well worth considering for anyone attempting to better understand these two nations.
Good Points: Asmus is an insider and gives some potentialy interesting insights into what happened, who said what and why decisions were taken in the lead up to the war. His style aims to be accessible.
Disapointments: Poor editing undermines the book's value. The frequency of typos made it difficult to read with confidence. I regularly had to backtrack to check that the words on the page represented what I thought the author meant to say. Many quotes and insights are not directly referenced or attributed. So, althought there is a comprehensive list of sources at the end, I was left unsure about the validity or authority of many individual claims. Also, key points are tediously repeated.
For a much better all round, authoritative and quotable analysis I would recommend " The Guns of August 2008: Russian's War in Georgia" edited by Svante E. Cornell.
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.
A truly excellent book revealing the the mendacity of the West, and especially of Gerge Bush regarding the spread of democracy etc. Another Munich repeated 70 years later, this time a remote control agreement without signing any document. A sad book in a way making statements about a New World Order just a hypocritical blabbering.