Georgia ceasefire

Vanhanen: Finland needs "deeper ties" with Russia

Via Bloomberg (October 9):

The conclusion in Finland was that we have to deepen our relations to Russia and that we have to try in all ways to bind Russia better and better to Europe,” [Finland’s Prime Minister] Vanhanen said today in an interview at his office in Helsinki. “So, more cooperation with Russia; that was the conclusion we made after the Georgia war.”

Hat tip: Mari-Ann Kelam

Murder mystery

In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina discusses a murder with no killer:

Imagine Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot gathering the relatives of a murder victim together to reveal the identity of the killer and saying, “You know, all of you are such complex people, and you’ve all committed so many misdeeds, that the person simply died as a result of your collective wrongdoing.” If a murder has been committed, there must be a killer.

How can a commission come to the unbelievable conclusion that a person was murdered as a result of collective responsibility? Here is how:

According to the report, Georgia claimed that it gave notice of a large-scale concentration of Russian forces on Georgian territory prior to Aug. 7, when the five-day war began. Russia denies Georgia’s allegation, and the Kremlin asserts that Russian forces entered South Ossetia well after Georgia started military operations in the breakaway republic.

Who is correct? It might strike you as funny, but the commission doesn’t know. It couldn’t confirm that Georgia’s assertions “are well-founded,” despite the significant number of “witnesses, including Russian” witnesses who confirmed it.

Calling a spade a spade

Svante E. Cornell, writing in the WSJ about “what would be necessary for a spade to be called a spade” in the IIFFMCG report on the 2008 August war:

…the report is far more devastating in its dismissal of Russia’s justification for its invasion—in fact surprisingly so for an EU product. As will be recalled, Russia variously claimed it was protecting its citizens; engaging in a humanitarian intervention; responding to a Georgian “genocide” of Ossetians; or responding to an attack on its peacekeepers. The EU report finds that because Russia’s distribution of passports to Abkhazians and Ossetians in the years prior to the war was illegal, its rationale of rescuing its “citizens” is invalid as they were not legally Russian. It also concludes that Moscow’s claim of humanitarian intervention cannot be recognized “at all,” in particular given the Kremlin’s past opposition to the entire concept of humanitarian intervention.

The list goes on. The report finds Russian allegations of genocide founded in neither law nor evidence. In other words, they’re not true. And whereas the report does acknowledge a Russian right to protect its peacekeepers, it finds that Moscow’s response “cannot be regarded as even remotely commensurate with the threat to Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia.” On the other hand, it faults Russia for failing to intervene against the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from South Ossetia and Abkhazia that took place during and after the war. Finally, it castigates Russia’s recognition of the independence of the two breakaway territories as illegal, and as a dangerous erosion of the principles of international law.

Read it all.

Saakashvili: Russia’s aggression has now been proved

Remarks from an address by Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 2 [Civil Georgia, my stylistic editing]:

“I want to return to this topic again and again, because this is a very important issue.

This report has confirmed that everything we said about last year’s events was true.

We  said that Russia entered and was arming separatists and engaging in provocation– and it turned out to be true. We  said that the distribution of passports [by Russia to the residents of the breakaway regions] was ongoing and it has been confirmed. We said that [Russia] had no citizens in Georgia to protect and it has been confirmed. We said, and I have said – staking my reputation on it – that Russian regular forces entered Georgia before August 7 – hence a military aggression took place, and this has also been confirmed by the [EU-funded fact-finding] commission. The most difficult thing was to confirm it, because it [the introduction of Russian regular forces] was done covertly, but our teams and our friends did good work, and it was confirmed.

Of course, once these things were confirmed, the mission prepared an accusatory conclusion:  for the first time in history a permanent member of the UN Security Council has been directly accused of war crimes; it has been directly accused of ethnic cleansing – hence crimes against humanity – and of aggression.

It was a fact-finding mission; the commission’s task was not to make conclusions. But the mission made conclusions anyway and eventually said: yes,this is what happened, and although the Russian forces were already present in Georgia,  it was Georgia that fired the first shot, and that was a violation of certain norms.

I have law professors who may possibly be better versed in international law than some of the European experts who made this conclusion. But no professors are required, or even much knowledge – any first-grade student can tell you that when a foreign country’s army – the army of a country which has been openly threatening you with war for many years, and is in fact waging war – and the commission said that this conflict did not start yesterday, but when units of [Russian] paratroopers entered Georgia – it is called a direct military aggression by a foreign country.

But if that is so, it means that Europe ought to handcuff and arrest [the Russian leadership]; but they are unable to do that.

Some of our compatriots do not have the self-respect to acknowledge that this is so.

Our truth has been proved and we should be happy about it and struggle to rid our country of foreign occupation. The truth will find its road.

The aggression by Russia is now actually proved; ‘actually’ – because to give a full explanation of that would mean that the whole of Europe should stand up, but we are under no illusion that this will happen any day soon, because they have lot of bitter experience in this regard.

I want to say again with full responsibility – it was a sacred duty for myself and for all of us to respond with all possible resistance when a foreign country’s army entered our land.

We did it and I do not regret it a bit.

I am proud and it was proved that not a single woman and child were killed as a result of our operation – so much for the talk of “genocide”.

Our peaceful struggle rid our country of foreign occupation will continue until this struggle is finally over.

I want to ask those people who do not want to face reality – how would France have acted in this situation? how would Germany have acted?

As we know from history, the Spanish Armada invaded the British coast and the British were the first to fire at the Armada; so was it Britain that started the war or was it Spain? Is what is permissible for Europe not permissible for Georgia?

I think that everything that is done by civilized nations is exactly applicable to our country as well. So what if we are a small country? We are a small country but we have a history and a civilization, as well as a bravery that is greater than that of many other countries.

The fate of all freedom-loving nations, including Lithuania, is being decided in Georgia today. We have no illusions that they [Russia] will leave us alone, but we will not go back on our progress in creating a free and democratic state.”

On a separate occasion today, the President also said:

“We do not need to be taught by anyone. We are grateful to Europe for telling the truth… But we acted as England, Germany or France would have acted.”

“[In history] those who did not fire a shot have vanished from the map… Finland fired a shot and preserved its independence” [a reference to the Soviet attack on Finland in 1939]. “Our historic experience tells us that when an enemy invades your territory you should resist it, as Finland did.”

U.S. on IIFFMCG report

Civil Georgia reports that the U.S. State Department has said it intends to review the IIFFMGC’s 1000-page report on the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia:

“I think we recognize that all sides made mistakes and miscalculations through the conflict last year,” Philip J. Crowley, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, said on September 30. “But our focus is on the future and we hope that Georgia and Russia – we expect them both to abide by the agreements that they made under the ceasefire agreements in August and September of last year, and we expect them to live up to those commitments.”

“And In the meantime, we continue to express our strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity,” he added.

Cyber-attacks "came from Abkhazia"

A few Russian-language media are beginning to publish reports about the hacking attack against Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet services on August 6, making it clear that the Georgian Internet blogger was attacked for saying that he believed Russia began the conflict of August 2008, and had prepared for it in advance.  Some of the Russian-language news reports are also being hacked, like the one below, from RBC Ukraine. The page containing the news is accessible for a few seconds, but is immediately replaced by a blank page:

РБК-Украина 08.08.2009, Лондон 12:54

Атаки хакеров на популярные интернет-ресурсы Twitter и Facebook были направлены против одного пользователя. По сообщению Би-би-си, целью злоумышленников был грузинский юзер “сухуми”, известный и в “живом журнале”. Атака на его дневники и записи была настолько мощной, что отразилась на сервисах в целом…В своем последнем опубликованном тексте сухуми приводил данные о начале войны, которые, на его взгляд, свидетельствуют о том,что Россия заранее готовила нападение на Грузию. Сам блоггер уверен, что именно Россия стоит за хакерской атакой.

The New York Times quotes Bill Woodcock, research director of The Packet Clearing House, as saying there was evidence that the attacks had originated from Abkhazia, which is now, like South Ossetia, under the Kremlin’s control.

Georgian government report on August war

The Georgian government has released an official report (pdf) on the events that led up to the Russian invasion of Georgia last year.

Among other things, the report states that

In 2008, the Russian Federation launched a full-scale assault against a sovereign state—its immediate neighbor, Georgia. This incursion, systematically preceded by political and other provocations, was the violent climax of policies pursued by Russia against Georgia over many years. Rather than work to peacefully resolve the conflicts in Georgia, Russia systematically stoked them. Moscow interfered in Georgian politics, supplied separatist militias with arms, ignored its peacekeeping responsibilities, failed to prevent widespread ethnic cleansing of Georgians and, ultimately, sought to annex Georgian territories by means of military force. Russia’s main goals have been to annex Georgian territories, overthrow Georgia’s legitimate government, subvert Georgia’s independence, curtail Georgia’s sovereignty, and send a message to its neighbors and to the West that it is in control of what it calls its “sphere of privileged interest”.

The report also contains a summary (pdf) of Russia’s actions in the context of international law, which says that Russia’s use of force “constituted an egregious breach of Georgia’s political sovereignty and territorial integrity.”