Russia "testing reactions"

Georgia’s President Saakashvili has pointed to the irony of the presence of Russia’s President Medvedev at the recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall:

“What does it mean – welcoming the Russian President in Berlin as if he were a big democrat to mark the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Erich Honecker [the last leader of German Democratic Republic] was not doing even one tenth of what [Russia] is doing now; Honecker was eventually apprehended by the Europeans… And now they [the Europeans] have him [Medvedev] sitting smiling next to them; it won’t work – shaking one hand with them [Europeans] and capturing children with the other.”

By “capturing children”, Saakashvili was referring to the recent detention of four Georgian teenagers by South Ossetian forces. Saakashvili appealed to leaders of the countries of the EU to react more decisively to Russia’s provocative actions:

“The Russians are testing the reactions of others, what others will do in response to Russia’s provocations. What happens next will depend on cases like this.”

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.”

Saakashvili: IIFFMCG report a diplomatic victory for Georgia

From Civil Georgia:

“When in 1921 Russia attacked us and occupied us no international commission was set up then. When they imposed a civil war on us in 1992 and 1993 here no international commission was set up. When acts of sabotage were carried out in 2004, no international commission was set up. We achieved, first of all, setting up an international commission even on their conditions, as they composed the commission with the experts, which were acceptable for them, who had already blamed Georgia in advance. We closed eyes on it and agreed because we believed that they were Europeans and they would not lie.

They said even more truth than I could ever imagine. It is a great diplomatic victory for Georgia.

Some may say what is a conclusion – they say that Georgia did not observe everything and violated something. But it does not matter, because these are conclusions – this commission should have ascertained the facts, which would have been written in history.

Hundreds of thousands of our citizens were expelled from Abkhazia in 1992, and the European Union or more serious organizations have never said that it was ethnic cleansing. Now it is written [in the report] that there was ethnic cleansing.

We had no illusion that Europe – which is preparing for a cold winter and which needs Russian gas – would have said that ‘yes Russia carried out ethnic cleansing, it committed war crimes and Vladimir Putin is to be blamed for it’ – what would have happened in that case? Would they have arrested Putin when he had arrived in Brussels? I think that nobody had such illusion.”

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.

Saakashvili: we will integrate our country into the western, democratic world

Georgia’s President Saakashvili, in Lithuania for the Baltic republic’s Millennium celebrations, said in a televised statement on July 6, following U.S. President Obama’s first meeting with his Russian counterpart in Moscow:

In recent months we have been hearing from some [persons] – including from some of our compatriots, who are blindly repeating a lie thrown in by the Russian propaganda, that Georgia is in isolation, that Georgia has lost the western support because of this government.

But look, the only major issue, which was named [at the meeting] as the major source of disagreement between the United States and Russia was Georgia’s territorial integrity and the United States has unconditionally expressed support [to Georgia] at this very first meeting – usually showing disagreements at first meetings are shunned away.

We all should understand one thing: the occupants will fail to maintain our territories; we will win in our struggle with the support of rest of the world if we stand together and if we ourselves do not undermine [the country].

What we have been saying is now being confirmed: we have maintained the support; we will have even more support; we will integrate our country into the western; democratic world; we will get stronger and we, together with our friends, will definitely de-occupy our territories and definitely expel occupant forces from our territories.

I am absolutely sure in that and I am also absolutely sure that the democratic world will continue supporting us in this, if we remain wise and if we remain united. “

Via Civil Georgia

Red lines in Georgia

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking on China Central TV:

However needless to say that we are ready to and will discuss with our partners all the issues related to the whole security situation in the Caucasus, the issues of both humanitarian and economic nature, being prepared to do this in any venues. The only thing is that we have some kind of “red lines”. One of them I already mentioned- this is our decision to grant recognition. And the second one is our attitude to the present Georgian regime. It is our view that this political regime committed a crime and we shall have nothing in common with it. At the same time after elections that sooner or later will be held in Georgia we surely will be ready to resume deliberations on different issues if the Georgian people elect a new leadership capable of maintaining a friendly dialogue with Russia and with close neighbors of the Georgian state – peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Dangerous driving

In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina dissects the failed Georgian coup. Excerpt:

Before the recent events in Georgia unfolded, we heard warnings all across the Internet that Georgian opposition would take to the streets and that Saakashvili’s regime would fall on April 9. Meanwhile, Russia once again mobilized its forces along the South Ossetian border, as it had done in the weeks before the August war. Russian sent its tanks to Tskhinvali and dispatched its ships to patrol the Black Sea waters near Georgia.

In short, everything was pointing to an imminent coup. That is what happened in 1978, when Babrak Karmal and the Moscow-backed People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan overthrew the Kabul government. Moscow later installed Karmal as president of Afghanistan. But that scenario seemed unlikely for Georgia. After all, where would the Kremlin find a Georgian version of Karmal? But it did find one — and not just one but three: Kobaladze, Karkarashvili and Gvaladze.

The failed coup certainly looked like something from the “Keystone Cops.” The whole affair was rife with incompetence, if not idiocy, but this is no excuse. When plotting a coup, idiocy is an aggravating circumstance and not a mitigating one — like when an intoxicated driver is guilty of causing a severe accident.