Michael J. Totten, who is in Tbilisi, has a long, illustrated report containing numerous interviews and other features, outlining the origins and sources of the Georgia conflict. Although Totten was guided by an advisor to the Georgian government, he was also able to check many details of what he was told with an independent observer, the Caucasus expert and academic Thomas Goltz, who is quite widely quoted in the text. In particular, Totten is at pains to point out that the present stage of conflict began not on August 7, but on August 6, when an attack by Ossetian forces backed by Ingush, Chechen, Ossetian and Cossack irregulars. This in turn was a sequel to a long series of incidents of Ossetian-organized violence, which coincided with Russia holding
the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they’ve held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war. They had all their elite troops there, all their armor there, all their stuff there. Everyone still foolishly thought the action was going to be in Abkhazia or in Chechnya, which is still not as peaceful as they’d like it to be.