In August the Russians invaded the independent republic of Georgia, formerly part of the Soviet Union and currently a candidate for NATO membership. They claimed that they were defending the enclave of
South Ossetia, whose breakaway government the Georgian government was trying to crush by its own attack. The Russians described their troops as peacekeepers, and made much of the assault suddenly mounted by the Georgians. Not surprisingly, the small Georgian army was quickly defeated, and a Georgian missile boat was sunk. At this time one of the three battalions of the Georgian army was fighting in Iraq alongside U.S. and other Coalition troops; it was quickly airlifted home.