Georgian soldiers defend their territory in 2008. (Sergei Grits/AP)

In her Aug. 9 Thursday Opinion essay, “When Russia invaded Georgia, America acted,” Condoleezza Rice insisted that she warned Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili privately that he could not count on a military response from NATO if Russia invaded. But when Ms. Rice appeared beside Mr. Saakashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia, on July 10, 2008, she said, “Mr. President, we always fight for our friends.”

Officially, this was later interpreted as an expression of readiness to back Georgia’s ambitions for joining NATO’s Membership Action Plan, which was then controversially discussed among NATO members. But too much room was left for ambiguity. In an atmosphere heating up from tensions on the Georgian-Ossetian administrative border, this statement was interpreted by many in the region, Georgians particularly, as a firm U.S. pledge to assist in the military sense.  

Speaking about her work on the final agreement to end the August war, Ms. Rice mentioned that she co-initialed “important changes, including altering the geographical limits of where Russian troops would be allowed so that they could not threaten the Georgian capital.” The full truth is that the agreement turned out to stipulate that inhabitants from the town of Akhalgori, located only about 31 miles from Tbilisi and with an almost 100 percent Georgian population, found themselves on Ossetian, i.e., Russian-occupied, territory. From there, Tbilisi can be threatened by long-range conventional artillery.

Dieter Boden, Potsdam, Germany

The writer, a retired ambassador,
is a former special representative of the
U.N. secretary general in Georgia.