Tskhinvali, South Ossetia -- On the sunny afternoon of August 14, a Russian army colonel named Igor Konashenko is standing triumphantly at a street corner at the northern edge of Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, his forearm bandaged from a minor battle injury. The spot marks the furthest point of the Georgian army's advance before it was summarily crushed by the Russians a few days earlier. "Twelve Georgian battalions invaded Tskhinvali, backed by columns of tanks, armored personal carriers, jets, and helicopters," he says, happily waving at the wreckage, craters, and bombed-out buildings around us. "You see how well they fought, with all their great American training -- they abandoned their tanks in the heat of the battle and fled."
Konashenko pulls a green compass out of his shirt pocket and opens it. It's a U.S. military model. "This is a little trophy -- a gift from one of my soldiers," he says. "Everything that the Georgians left behind, I mean everything, was American. All the guns, grenades, uniforms, boots, food rations -- they just left it all. Our boys stuffed themselves on the food," he adds slyly. "It was tasty." The booty, according to Konashenko, also included 65 intact tanks outfitted with the latest NATO and American (as well as Israeli) technology.