Saakashvili: There will be no war

The following is a translation of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s televised address of July 9 2009:   

Of course we have been watching this meeting in Moscow closely, because we know how high the price of this geopolitical situation is for Georgia, for Georgia’s future, for the security of our citizens and for their welfare.

I think that at last everyone now understands what we have been saying – that Russia had been preparing for last year’s war for a long time. Unfortunately Putin’s government, which was ready to attack Georgia, received some very mistaken messages from the West and from our traditional partners.

Much of what happened did so simply because many people did not believe that this attack would take place. It is a fact that the refusal by some of our partners to grant Georgia a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) at last year’s Bucharest summit had very grave consequences; I think that they [Russia] drew ambiguous conclusions from the Sochi U.S.-Russia summit – that was not the intention of the U.S. side, and we are very well aware of that, but the conclusion they [Russia] drew was ambiguous. Their [Russia’s] provocation did not receive an adequate response from the West – and that was another factor which played a part in encouraging Putin to carry out the attack [on Georgia].

The attack, you will recall, was followed by a very strong reaction from the European Union and especially from the United States – although it came with several days of delay; and for several days we prevailed, thanks to the heroic resistance of our armed forces; the figures are now available – the enemy’s ground forces were twelve, fourteen times larger, plus 200 aircraft; in fact, we confronted an adversary which as hundred times stronger than us, and our armed forces allowed us to prevail for several days.

After that, the United States became involved, and this prevented the realization of Russia’s main goals – the collapse of the Georgian state, a move into the Georgian capital and the destruction of the Georgian army.

You will be aware that throughout this period Putin did not conceal his disappointment and loudly stated that there was “unfinished business” to attend to, claiming that he had yet to finish the job of taking complete control of Georgia, which in turn meant control of the Caspian region and the restoration of the Soviet Union; and on the other hand he wanted to completely destroy the Georgian armed forces, as the Russians view it as a serious challenge to them.

In this situation, of course, there was some risk – and frankly speaking a serious risk – of a military attack by Russia on Georgia and on the Georgian capital. But I think that the first serious signal sent by our partners was in the UN Security Council, when for the first time since 1993 Russia used its right of veto in respect of a regional conflict, which meant that Russia acted in complete isolation.

Russia failed to pass a resolution on an issue which was very important for Moscow. It failed to trade this issue for some other issues – the practice to which it has usually resorted in the past, including unfortunately in respect of Georgia as well.

Unlike last February, and unlike at the Bucharest summit, Russia has now received a serious signal in New York [at the UN Security Council] – and here I want to mention the good work of our mission at the UN. But we would have sent that signal alone, even without the very strong position that were taken by France and Germany, which were unusual, and without the very uncompromising position of the Americans, which was agreed with us.

Everyone was waiting for the [U.S. President’s] meeting with Medvedev in Moscow. Russia was ready to pay a high political price, to make deals on issues like disarmament, Afghanistan and Iran in exchange for Georgia. They were ready to engage in the classical kind of trading they adopted in the past, and to trade for control of Georgia other issues on which they were prepared to cooperate with the U.S. and its new administration.

If they had managed to succeed in that, or had received an ambiguous message [from the United States], there would have been a repeat of 1921 [when the Bolshevik Red Army occupied Georgia]. We should be under no illusion that that if we declare neutrality, Russia will calm down and give up its plan of controlling the Caspian, the regions of Central Asia and the energy transportation routes. It is not a question of what kind of relations Russia has with Saakashvili or with anyone else. When a country has imperial ambitious, it is a question of strategy.

Our new strategic partner, the United States, has responded to their [Russia’s] attempts to make a trade-off on Georgia with a firm “no”. There has been no trade-off. Georgia has not been sold.

Russia has failed to destabilize Georgia – attempts were made in this regard beginning in February and March this year, and especially of course in April [when a group of opposition parties launched street protests to demand Saakashvili’s resignation]./ It is an internal Georgian political problem, but [Russia] has been involved, and this involvement has included serious funding. But they have failed with this plan.

If this destabilization plan had been successful, it would have been very difficult to secure the support of our partners, because it is very difficult to support a country that is destroying itself and showing suicidal tendencies.

But the plan has failed. Hence today on the one hand we had this failed plan for the internal destabilization of Georgia and on the other hand the hope of a trade-off over Georgia – and this threat has now disappeared.

So today I can say it very boldly: all the fears and expectations connected with the threat have not been realized and all the hopes of revenge and the carrying out of a new military confrontation on the part of our aggressive neighbour, which of course wants to take over Tbilisi, have not been realized.

In Moscow they are very well aware that if the Georgian state survives and Georgia remains a partner of the democratic world, there is not even a one percent chance that Russia will be able to keep our occupied territories – this is the 21st century, when no one recognizes occupation.

Obama stated it clearly: firm support for Georgia’s territorial integrity; firm support for Georgia’s sovereignty over its entire territory, and the establishment of policy in this direction…

…As a result of last year’s aggression, Russia has received an enormous global foreign policy problem; our problem, which was of local [significance] and was not in fact of the first importance, has now become a primary concern of global politics.

So in fact at the expense of the tragedy of our villages [a reference to those areas of breakaway South Ossetia which were under control of the Georgian authorities before the August war], at the expense of the people who died [in the war] – of course those several dozen of villages are a serious loss for us, as they are temporarily occupied; at the expense of these small territorial gains – and for Russia it was a small territorial gain – Russia has received a serious international problem; Georgia will come out of all this even stronger than before.

And today I want to say boldly that all their aggressive plans for the near future have been foiled, and the war they have been planning and dreaming of will be no more.

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