Day: August 17, 2008

Russia imposed conflict on Georgia

Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Aug.’08 / 20:54

Saakashvili: a lie that Georgia started it;
Tbilisi ready for international investigation;
Merkel: no time for putting blame;

President Saakashvili has strongly brushed off any suggestion that it was his administration to blame for armed conflict with Russia and said Georgia was ready for international investigation to find out what led to the conflict.

At a joint news conference with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, President Saakashvili was asked to comment on allegations that he also was partially responsible for the crisis because of attacking breakaway South Ossetia.

Saakashvili said in a response that it was Russia which sent its troops to Georgia and Tbilisi just had to react. He also pointed out that Georgia had been telling the world about, what he said was, Russia’s preparations for invasion into Georgia for months.

“None of you did pay attention at it,” he said, “and now you come back to me and blame us? None of the mainstream European media paid attention at it; there were all the indications on the ground saying this; and people now might say: who fired first shots; well, if there are hundreds of tanks rolling into your country you have two choices – either to fire or surrender. I made it clear, no matter what, Georgia will never surrender. If tanks continue to roll we will not again surrender.”

He also said that Russia now tried to justify its action under the pretext of protecting its citizens in South Ossetia. He, however, said it was a Soviet-old tactics.

“Every time big Russia attacks some neighbor Russia is always blaming a neighbor. Give me one time in history when Russia said that their attack was unprovoked; they always said that it was provoked: it was provoked by Finland; it was provoked by Hungary; it was provoked by Czechoslovakia; it was provoked by Afghanistan,” Saakashvili said.

He acknowledged that it was impossible to stop “two thousand Russian tanks” that rolled into Georgia/

“But does it [the Georgian government] have the obligation to at least try? Yes we have,” he continued. “Should we’ve done it? Yes. Did we fail? I do not think so, because people got united and I think they will eventually get out of my country and allow people to develop in peace.”

He also said that Georgia was “open for international investigation of what led to the conflict.”

“We are the ones that immediately demanded access on the ground for international organizations and we were the ones to call for transparency,” he said.

He also said that Georgia was forced into the trap.

“It is lie that Georgians stepped into the trap, because frankly whether we would have wanted to step into the trap or not that did not matter, because that was decided for us for all of us and that happened,” Saakashvili said.

The German Chancellor Merkel told the news conference that it was not time for speaking about the origins of the conflict; she said ceasefire and fulfillment of six-point plan was the priority at the moment.

She said she expected a “very fast, very prompt” withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. She called it an “urgent matter.”

Saakashvili said Georgia was grateful for the support of the German Chancellor, whom he described as “very brave statesman.”

“We need immediate withdrawal [of Russian troops], we need verification of withdrawal and ceasefire preferably by EU and OSCE monitors; we needed humanitarian aid reaching everybody and in the end we need peacekeepers taking over the conflict areas and doing genuine post-conflict resolution in interest of all ethnic groups,” Saakashvili said.

“Georgia will never give up any square mile of its territory; no matter what happens we will never reconcile with the fact of annexation or separation of parts of territory from Georgia with the attempts to legalizing ethnic cleansing and with the attempts to bring Georgia to the knees and to undermine the democratic system,” he added.

Moscow invents a "provocation"

It looks as though tomorrow’s promised start of a pull-out of Russian forces from Georgia may not take place after all. Using a time-honoured KGB-approved method of disrupting such plans, Moscow is accusing Georgia of preparing a “provocation” in the city of Gori, thus signalling that it will intervene to prevent an action it has itself staged. Bascially, the idea is to blame the marauding, killing, burning, stealing and looting on Georgia. Sky News has the beginnings of the story.

The Telegraph has more here.

Estonians vent anger at Finland’s Lipponen over Nord Stream

Estonians vent anger at Finland’s Lipponen over Nord Stream

Friday, 15 August 2008 15:14

Paavo Lipponen’s decision to become an advisor for the undersea gas pipeline joint venture Nord Stream has incurred the ire of the Estonians, many of whom are strongly opposed to the project.

After [Finnish] national daily Helsingin Sanomat broke the story on Friday, two MPs belonging to government parties strongly criticised the move in Estonian paper Eesti Päevaleht, with one of them calling it a flagrant example of economic corruption.

Dozens of writers on the public area of the website of Estonian daily Postimees branded Mr Lipponen as a traitor and Finland as “Pipestan”.

The Nord Stream gas pipeline is to run from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Estonia has not allowed Nord Stream to even conduct surveys in its coastal waters.

Mr Lipponen, a former Finnish prime minister and speaker of Parliament, is to act as an intermediary between German-Russian Nord Stream and the Finnish decision makers in order to speed up the process for obtaining the environmental permits for the pipe.


Russia’s North Caucasus forces in Georgia are not "irregulars"

That the United States leadership does have some difficulty – one that’s perhaps exacerbated by geographical distance –  in being accurate about the situation on the ground in Georgia is underlined every so often the statements it issues, phrases of which are then seized on by the media and widely reproduced. Quite recently, for example, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza  referred to”the North Caucasus irregular forces that the Russian military inexplicably encouraged to enter South Ossetia to murder, rape and steal.” As Norbert Strade has pointed out,

these North Caucasian units aren’t “irregular forces”. E.g. the “Chechen” Vostok and Zapad regiments are *fully regular Russian units* under the command of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency. They don’t do anything without orders from – or at least the collusion of – their command in Moscow. If these units are murdering, raping and stealing in Georgia, they are doing so because they have been sent there in order to do so (as Mr. Bryza implies himself). Furthermore, this isn’t “inexplicable”. It’s the classical way to carry out an ethnic cleansing, and that’s what they are deployed for and what their gang leaders in the Russian administration want to get done. If anything is “irregular” here, it’s the Russian armed forces as such and the misunderstanding that they are a modern institution that does its bloody work according to the established rules of warfare. The world has such a short memory, it has already forgotten the Russian behaviour in Chechnya while the war is still on.

Moscow makes another nuclear threat

Having blithely threatened Poland with nuclear attack, the Russian leadership has apparently decided to follow this up with another such threat: the Sunday Times quotes a “senior military source in Moscow” as saying that “nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad”. This “press leak” is clearly intended for Western consumption, and should probably be treated with a modest dose of skepticism – given the current stance of the Russian government, the content of the statement is of less significance than its timing and form: it should – for the moment, at least – be read as one more effort by Moscow to show its contempt for world opinion.

Definitions of "withdrawal"

Day after day we read reports in the Western media that Russian forces have “begun to withdraw” from Georgia. It may be salutary to bear in mind that terminology is quite important here. The Russian word for withdrawal used in many official statments is “otvod” (as distinct from the more unambiguous “vyvod”, which can also be translated as “pull-out”) – and its dictionary meaning is certainly “withdrawal”. However, in such statements Russian foreign ministry and defence ministry spokesmen often use the term “otvod” rather freely, in the sense of “peredislotsirovanie”, which means “redeployment”.