Jan Cienski
Financial Times
August 21, 2008

Georgia did not believe Russia would respond to its offensive in South Ossetia and was completely unprepared for the counter-attack, the deputy defence minister has admitted.

Batu Kutelia told the Financial Times that Georgia had made the decision to seize the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali despite the fact that its forces did not have enough anti-tank and air defences to protect themselves against the possibility of serious resistance.

“Unfortunately, we attached a low priority to this,” he said, sitting at a desk with the flags of Georgia and Nato (to which Georgia does not belong) crossed behind him. “We did not prepare for this kind of eventuality.”

The Georgian military felt there was only a low probability of a massive Russian counter-attack, despite the bloody way in which Russia destroyed Chechnya, on the other side of the Caucasus mountains, in two wars during the 1990s and the fact that separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia had Russian backing.

Georgian forces were unprepared when the Russian counter-strike came, Mr Kutelia said. “I didn’t think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this,” Mr Kutelia said.

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