Yesterday morning I went to a journalists’ breakfast in London with Mikheil Saakashvili, the president of Georgia. The last time I spoke to Saakashvili was for a “lunch with the FT” in April, 2008. A few months later, in August 2008, his country was briefly invaded by Russia – and something like 20% of Georgian territory remains under Russian occupation. So it was understandable that the Georgian president seemed a little more careworn and less ebullient than when I last met him.
Still, Saakashvili was bullishly insistent that the Georgian economy is bouncing back. He remains convinced, however, that the Russians are determined to overthrow his government, one way or another. As far as he is concerned, a further attack remains entirely possible. So the Georgians are extremely concerned by the proposed French sale of tanks and warships to Russia. Saakashvili said that the new armaments would make any future Russian invasion of Georgia much faster and more dangerous.
Exactly what happened in August, 2008, remains a subject of bitter dispute. So I have greatly enjoyed reading the painstaking reconstruction of events, by Ron Asmus, in a recently published book called, “A Little War that Shook the World” (Palgrave Macmillan). Asmus’s sympathies clearly lie strongly with the Georgian side. But his research seems to be impeccable.