The EU-commissioned Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia did not go far enough in criticizing Western mistakes in the leadup to the war, which represented a failure of the European security system, according to a prominent proponent of Georgian membership in NATO and an architect of the enlargement of the alliance to eastern Europe. In an article in The New Republic, Ron Asmus, executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, describes the report's observation that conflict prevention mechanisms on the ground were inadequate as "surely an understatement" and criticizes it for glossing over "how Western policies actually provided Moscow with a pretext for war" and "the obvious flaws" in the peace agreement negotiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Asmus, who knows Mikael Saakashvili well enough to call him "Misha", believes the Georgian president sparked off the conflict because he was cornered: "His actions came after a long series of Russian threats, including those voiced by [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin himself, warning that Georgia would face consequences for proceeding on its pro-Western course." Saakashvili "engaged in a desperate response to what he believed was the imminent threat of ethnic cleansing against tens of thousands of Georgian citizens, plus the possible loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia once and for all, and even a Russian assault on Tbilisi itself... He believed he faced the choice of going down peacefully or fighting, and he chose to fight."
Asmus concludes that the war was a failure of the European security system, which was meant to end spheres of influence, prevent predatory behavior by great powers and guarantee the security of small ones, and create mechanisms to prevent war. And he warns that the conflict between Georgia and Russia remains unresolved: "Tbilisi still wants to go West, and Moscow still wants to stop it."