War in Georgia: What’s Happening?
One blog said, during the Russian-Georgian War that it was :”a little difficult to figure out precisely what’s happening in Georgia.”
Before the war Lili Di Puppo failed to get all the straight scoop from a Georgian official, but she got enough of it and drew the right conclusion as evidenced by her headline:“What is Happening in Georgia Is A Clear Attempt By Russia to Redesign Eastern Europe”
It’s not difficult to blog there, The Caucaz europenews. Before the war she conducted an interview with Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia’s State Minister for Issues of Reintegration which we will reprint:
You declared in Brussels that the risk of war with Russia is close. Was this declaration intended as a wake-up call for the European Union or is the Georgian government genuinely considering military action?
I made a longer statement and in this longer version I provided rationale to explain why I think we are close to war. The information I gave was that we know Russia’s behaviour very well. We are enormously alarmed when we see quite intensive anti-Georgian propaganda in the Russian media, when we see not only talk, but also very active actions from the Russian side such as illegally moving troops to Georgian territory and violating all sorts of agreements. For example, I do not know since when paratroopers are considered peacekeepers…
Russians refer to an agreement allowing them to have a certain number of peacekeepers on Abkhaz territory…
Yes, it is true that they have an opportunity to increase the number of peacekeeping troops to 3,000, but the first question is what sort of troops. Second, there is a procedure on how this troop increase should happen. Third, the equipment Russians can have is limited and none of the documents talk about having artillery. When we see Russian offense forces entering Georgian territory, it is a violation of all possible agreements. We see anti-Georgian propaganda in media, we see that these troops were deployed based on false information such as Georgia having increased its troops in the Kodori valley. It is not true and this information has been verified by the UN agencies. Of course, it is very alarming.
Is the Georgian government considering military action in response to these moves?
No, the Georgian government is not considering military action as a response to these Russian deeds. We showed our restraint, we will continue to show our restraint and we still have a lot of opportunities to avert war. In this regard, important steps should be taken not only in Georgia, but also outside of Georgia, particularly by Europe.
What were the outcomes of your discussions in Brussels? What concrete steps does Georgia expect from the EU?
These steps are under discussion. Generally, the most important thing now is to avert war and second to think about new forms of negotiations and new formats for negotiations. The EU has already endorsed President Saakashvili’s new peace plan, but we have to see more concrete developments. We believe that it would be very important to deploy another type of ground operation other than Russian peacekeepers. We have several ideas. All of them are under discussion and we will see which ones prevail.
Why do you think it is in the EU’s interest to support Georgia?
It is the EU’s job to support Georgia because we are talking about the European Neighbourhood Policy, the European Energy Security Policy and all other policies that are important for the EU. In this regard, what is happening in Georgia is a clear attempt by Russia to redesign Eastern Europe. This is why I think the EU cannot remain neutral on the sidelines.
At the same time because of energy interests, the EU refrains from adopting a confrontational position towards Russia…
They do not have to confront Russia. They just have to avert Russia’s irresponsible actions.
Do you see a link between Russian actions in Abkhazia and the fact that Georgia was not granted a NATO Membership Action Plan at the Bucharest Summit?
It is a combination of different factors. The question was not only concerning Georgia’s NATO membership, but also Kosovo, domestic Russian policy and definitely issues related to Georgia’s realistic peace plans with regards to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The combination of these factors is bringing about the Russian behaviour we are facing today.
Do you see the new Saakashvili peace plan as a good basis for negotiations even if the Abkhaz side does not see it this way?
I do not think the Abkhaz side does not see it this way, I think the peace plan has elements that were elaborated together with the Abkhaz side over the past eight years at least. So there is an Abkhaz ownership there and in these circumstances we have to find other negotiating formats besides the UN’s Group of Friends, where the Abkhaz can and should participate.
Since the war, here’s where we stand:
Frederick Kagan has been posting regular updates here In his update yesterday afternoon, he offered the following analysis:
• Russia has announced a unilateral ceasefire because its operations have achieved their aims.
• Medvedev and Sarkozy have drafted a document that encapsulates all of Russia’s demands in return for a ceasefire—but not a final settlement, which must still be negotiated [The so-called “final settlement” has not been drafted, but a settlement was signed by both Medvedev and Saakashveli which Russia has already broken. They are masters of deceit and should be thrown in jail.] Sarkozy is discussing that deal with Saakashvili right now.[As we know France’s Sarkozy did broker a deal, and Condi Rice of the U.S. participated and convinced Saakashvili to sign it. The deal requires all parties to go back to the positions they had before the war, which Russia has violated. In addition, Russia has voted to recognize Abkahzia and South Ossetia as independent countries, which is an illegal move. Russian troops, not peacekeepers, are stationed in those provinces which are legally still part of Georgia. In addition, Russia has brought in missiles and aimed them at Tblisi].
• So the situation on the ground now legally is that there are two unilateral ceasefires, although the Georgians claim that Russian forces continue their attacks, and the Russian military has laid the predicate for those and further attacks in public statements today [i.e., Tuesday]. The Russian military has also made plain that if a formal ceasefire agreement is not reached, then Russian forces will not withdraw from Ossetia or Abkhazia.
• The Russian military has clearly stated that the objective of its operations was to reduce Georgia’s overall military capability so that Georgia could not again conduct an operation similar to the one it launched in South Ossetia, and for that reason has been attacking targets throughout Georgia.
• Russian leaders repeatedly say that they will not deal with Saakashvili.[He doesn’t need to, as Georgia has severed all diplomatic ties to Russia and is dealing with Russia through a third party intermediary, which Russia reportedly disdains]
• The Russian Attorney General has announced that Russian law permits the trial of Saakashvili for crimes under the Russian Federation Criminal Code.[Yet it is Russia that invaded a soverergn nation, killing innocent people, displacing 160,000 Georgians from their homes. Georgians who had lived for centuries in South Ossetia were evicted from their homes, their homes and property confiscated by the Ossetians with big brother backing them up.]
• The Russian Foreign Minister has called for an investigation of Georgian war crimes and the punishment of those ultimately responsible by international tribunals, and has said that Russian citizens victimized by Georgians will be bringing individual actions in appropriate European human rights courts.
• The Russian aim is to force Saakashvili from power, preferably using international legal maneuvers (a la Milosevic), but possibly using Russian law instead or in addition.
• The Russians are maintaining their excessive forces in South Ossetia, and continuing to control Georgia’s airspace and conduct periodic attacks in a flagrant effort to compel an immediate Georgian agreement to their armistice terms, conveyed by Sarkozy.
• Russia will not permit South Ossetia and Abkhazia to return to Georgian control, and will move one way or the other to have their independence recognized, and probably soon.
Meanwhile, the U.S., NATO, the EU and the United Nations sit on their hands doing nothing. (The reason NATO does nothing is clear–they refused Georgia membership and, thus, they feel no responsibility. In the UN Russia holds veto power.
In the EU, Russia also holds veto power though they aren’t a member. It is in the form of oil. If the EU isn’t careful, their winter oil from Russia could be shut down. This is one of the tragedies of this war. That the superpower is doing little to marshal forces behind the tiny 7.5-million-people nation of Georgia (of which 2.5 million are Russian). If this is how we in the West deal with these kinds of Russian-caused crises, we are sending a message to Moscow–a green light, to go ahead and try the same in the Ukraine, where the dynamics are much different. There you have a NATO country of 60 million.
When will someone stand up and shout, STOP! Will it be after Russia has taken the tiny independent Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania?