Moments after President Bush appeared at the Rose Garden to say that the Pentagon would begin a humanitarian aid mission to support Georgia, Mr. Saakashvili was on the phone with a Western reporter, talking fast. “This is a turning point,” he said. Soon he appeared on national television, his tousled hair combed back flat and wearing a freshly pressed suit, assuring his country that the worst had passed.
No matter that Russian troops were 30 miles away, milling on the road outside the capital, meeting no resistance. Mr. Saakashvili was in cocky form in an interview later in the evening with reporters, expounding on Nazi propaganda, Orwell and the film “Dr. Strangelove.”
“Russians should see that this is not a demoralized, you know, nervous panicking capital that is just scared,” he said. “Shops are open. There are no lines for gas stations. Prices are not up.”
He added, “We will fight to the end, until the last Russian soldier leaves Georgian soil and this country is not going to be brought to the knees anymore. We are not surrendering, no matter what.”
Mr. Saakashvili’s latest show of bravado came only a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she and a special State Department envoy had explicitly and repeatedly warned him not to take any military action against Georgian separatists that might provoke Russia, cautioning that the United States was not prepared to back him militarily if he did. He also appeared to exaggerate the Pentagon’s planned relief operation, making it seem larger and further developed than it was.
“We already saw U.S. Air Force landing in Georgia despite Russians controlling the airspace,” he said, after a C-17 had touched down. “And we will see U.S. military ships entering Georgian ports despite Russians blocking it. That we will see.” He added, “These will be serious military ships.”
Q & A on Georgia