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The Russian ultimatum

By M. Alkhazashvili
Thursday, August 14
The Russian leadership has fulfilled its dream. It has defeated Georgia militarily and is now trying to derive the utmost benefit from doing so.

This, in essence, was what the document brought to Tbilisi by French President Sarkozy demonstrated. It revealed that the Russian leadership is following the same line of reasoning as NATO did in Serbia during that conflict. It is appealing to international law by claiming that the Kremlin carried out a “peace imposing” operation against Georgia. It was merely protecting its citizens and peacekeepers. History records that when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia he also claimed to be merely “protecting his citizens.” Here is revealed the true nature and purpose of such claims.

In 1968 when The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia there was a joke which ran: “What are Soviet tanks doing in Czechoslovakia? They are looking for the man who invited them!”

The scale of the Russian aggression and its subsequent ultimatum to Georgia demonstrate what Moscow’s real aim is. Russia is not satisfied with merely controlling Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it grabbed through its proxies more than a decade ago. Its aim is to control the whole of Georgia by one means or another.

Russian leaders want President Saakashvili of Georgia to be removed from office and dragged through international courts for initiating this short-lived conflict. This action is proposed by Prime Minister Putin, who is washed with the blood of the Chechen people and killed in Beslan and at the Nord Ost performance without a care for the welfare of the people he was appointed to serve.

Levan Gachechiladze, who was a candidate for the Georgian Presidency on January 5 this year, has stated that changing Georgia’s President is Georgia’s business, not Russia’s. Most probably the Georgian leadership will now have to answer many awkward questions. But these questions are none of Russia’s business.

In the ultimatum produced by Moscow Georgia’s territorial integrity is not confirmed. Indirectly this omission means that the issue is no longer how the warring parties resolve their conflict, but when the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will be integrated into Russia. We do not yet know all the details of the document, but from a Georgian point of view it seems to be very tough. We do know however that the Kremlin is demanding the demilitarization of sovereign Georgia. This will create yet another threat to the country and its territory. Whether any of these measures have anything to do with trying to resolve a conflict, only time will tell.

The TV images of Sarkozy’s meeting with Medvedev were distressing. The Russian President looked strangely confused, despite trying to present himself as a victorious emperor. We could all see how nervous he looked when he insisted that peacekeeping in the Caucasus is traditionally carried out by Russia. That country’s old assumptions and presumptions remain. Will the world swallow this or has it already swallowed it?

Just before the French President arrived, Saakashvili announced that Georgia is withdrawing from the CIS and that Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are now regarded as occupied territories and the Russian army as an occupation force. The Georgian population and the political opposition have long demanded that these steps be taken, but neither the Shevardnadze administration nor the present one has previously dared to do so. Parliament has to go through a formal process of ratifying this decision and the President has to sign the subsequent decree. But if this happens Russia will no longer be able to claim it is automatically the regional peacekeeper, however much the Kremlin continues to declare otherwise, without of course consulting those whose peace it presumes to keep.

Moscow will object to Georgia’s actions, and will put on the table certain documents signed during the Shevardnadze period which it can interpret for its benefit. Georgia joined the CIS because its national security doctrine had the wrong priorities, or the correct ideas were incorrectly implemented. Like any other party to a contract signed fifteen years ago, Georgia is entitled to change its mind in the light of bitter experience.

Georgia needs to express its gratitude to the foreign leaders who arrived to Georgia on Tuesday evening, and in reality created a “human shield” for the capital. If not for this heroic act, the country would have been occupied totally. But the effort to assist Georgia should not end here.

The world must unite to stop Russia for one simple reason: who is next? Russians live all over the world, Russia is happy to “protect the peace” of whomever it claims to be its citizens, whichever country they actually live in. One thing we do know however. Georgia existed before Russia, and as everyone will see, it will continue to exist after it.