British The Times newspaper reveals the inside story of PR war won by Georgia. Other than that, it’s total defeat for Saakashvili’s adminstration and disaster for people in the region.
via The Times /emphasis mine/:
[...] President Saakashvili, who came to power in the Rose Revolution, never lacked for a punchy warning about the threat to world order. Comparisons with Soviet interventions in Hungary (1956) and Afghanistan (1979) were liberally sprinkled with appeals for aid in the hope of galvanising public opinion in the United States and Europe to demand action from their leaders.
Mr Saakashvili was flanked by the Georgian and European Union flags, even though Georgia is not a member. The message was clear – Georgia was aligning itself with the West against its former Soviet master.
As foreign correspondents poured into Tbilisi a team of Belgian PR advisers launched a slick operation to keep them updated with e-mail alerts detailing the latest alleged aggressions by Russia and the Georgian Government’s reaction. On Sunday, for example, more than 20 e-mails went out to shape Georgia’s message that Russia had launched an invasion.
Some of the claims veered into outright exaggeration – such as stating that Russian jets were “intensively bombing Tbilisi” or that Russian troops had taken Gori – but the 24-hour news culture meant that many organisations repeated them without independent verification.
Russian officials were made to look defensive and clumsy, but their ace card was Vladimir Putin, who was intent on demonstrating that actions speak louder than words. Stern-faced, while dressed in casual street clothes, Mr Putin’s action-man persona transmitted a determination to prevail.
State-controlled TV gave coverage to the grief of Georgia’s victims in South Ossetia, while glossing over Russia’s actions. The aim was to maintain support for the Kremlin at home, with little thought for the international message. Viewers saw one woman claiming that Georgian troops had set a building with people inside on fire. “They drove them in like animals, closed the house and set it alight,” she said. “We saw in another place how a tank ran over an old woman, running away with two children.”
At the end of the military campaign Mr Saakashvili was photogenically surrounded by a huge crowd of supporters in a sea of Georgian flags. It was a message of defiant unity for the cameras, even though the outcome in South Ossetia and Abkhazia has been disastrous for Georgia. Mr Putin needed no props. Russia’s Army had already delivered his message directly into Georgia.
Victors and vanquished
— Vladimir Putin: he made it clear to the world that Georgia had been the aggressor and that his soldiers were intervening to stop “genocide”
— Dmitri Medvedev: he announced the end of the war to coincide with the arrival in Moscow of President Sarkozy, providing him with a diplomatic coup
— Russian military might: as a contest it was Russia 10, Georgia 0
— Mikhail Saakashvili: the picture of the Georgian President cowering from a Russian helicopter said it all
— The Georgian people: thousands paid with their lives or had their homes destroyed because of their Government’s misadventure
— Nato membership: Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary-General, insisted that the war did not mean that Georgia had sacrificed its chance of joining the alliance, but it will not have improved its chances
— Western leaders: despite the diplomatic efforts and statements of outrage, they were outmanoeuvred by Moscow, unable to offer even a hint of military combat assistance for the would-be Nato member