Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili insists Russia's invasion of his country was in the works for "a long time," with Russian troops poised at his border long before the crisis exploded — an assertion drawing conflicting reaction from experts closely monitoring the region.
"Blaming the victim for the aggression (is not the right thing). We chose to resist,” Saakashvili told FOX News Friday. "This was clearly a very well thought-out, prepared plan.”
Ronald Suny, an expert on the region and a professor at the University of Michigan, disagrees, and points the finger at Saakashvili, saying he "absolutely started the crisis," by invading the breakaway region of South Ossetia in an attempt to draw American support into the Caucuses.
“I’m shocked. I watched him on several news conferences now," Suny said. "I’m stunned by the length he goes to create his own reality.
"You have to ask yourself, why did Saakashvili do this? What was he thinking?"
Gary Schmitt, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, disagrees. Schmitt, director of advanced strategic studies at the conservative economic and foreign-policy think tank, said blaming Georgia for Russia’s aggression is comparable to saying "a young girl gets raped in the street for wearing a miniskirt."
"The idea that this came out of the blue and that Russia wasn’t egging on Georgia is just ignoring the forest for the trees," Schmitt told FOXNews.com.
He said Russian shelling and flyovers of Georgian territory in the last six months — which Moscow claimed were accidental — were designed to provoke Saakashvili.
Suny said Saakashvili’s been feeding the U.S. media "a lot of misinformation" and that he invaded South Ossetia, a Russian protectorate for 16 years, to appease hard-liner Georgian nationals and retain his presidency.
Suny insisted the United States naively sided with a president considered erratic even by his fellow Georgians.
"Generally he’s known as a very rash, hot-headed person," he said.
Schmitt disputed this claim and insisted Georgia is a victim of more ominous Russian ambitions.
"When you step back and look at what Georgia has accomplished, going after the president’s character is just misleading," he said.