The messenger logo

British Report lays responsibility for August war on both parties

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, February 16
Russia’s use of force was a disproportionate response to provocative statements and military action by President Saakasvili, a report of the British House of Lords, EU Committee says. The report, which studies the results of the August war in the context of EU-Russian relations, was issued on February 12. It is based on the testimonials of British diplomats, including the Director General of Political Affairs at the British Foreign Office, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, and Sir Roderic Lyne, former United Kingdom Ambassador to Moscow, among others.

The report notes that responsibility for the conflict in Georgia should be shared by all the parties to the conflict. “Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had demonstrated some recklessness,” Grant is quoted as testifying. “On the other hand, the Russian response had been both disproportionate and unnecessary, in particular by moving their forces into Georgia, attacking installations and bombing towns. From the outset President Saakashvili had imprudently pursued a policy of provoking Russians,” the report reads.

The authors of the report say the George W. Bush administration is also to be blamed for the August war in Georgia. “The Bush administration in the United States had to bear a heavy responsibility, since it had had the greatest external influence on President Saakashvili,” the report notes, and quotes Sir Roderic as saying that “they clearly delivered very mixed messages to him [Saakashvili]. I think there is a big question as to why the Americans failed to restrain or deter Saakashvili from doing what he did.” President Saakashvili seems to have drawn unfounded confidence in confronting Russia as a result of receiving mixed signals from the US administration, the report says.

However, Sir Roderic told the Committee that the Russian military intervention had not been spontaneous but planned well in advance. “I think the Russian military were waiting for this time to happen. There was a deliberate intention on their party at some point when the opportunity presented itself to use force against Georgia,” Roderic said. “Combination of the actions of Saakashvili and the Russians had led to the build-up that had ultimately led to a conflict,” the UK report suggests. It says the origins of the conflict lie in both the distant and more recent history of the region, involving population transfers, national grievances, commercial, political and military interests. “Attempts at resolving the conflict will need to take account of these complex factors,” it reads.

The report also touches upon the issue of the EU French Presidency’s work to settle the conflict. The report hails its “rapid and reasonably successful” efforts to achieve ceasefire. It says Russia has not fully met its commitments under the six-point ceasefire document. “Full Russian compliance with the ceasefire plan should continue to be used as a measure of Russia’s behaviour, even though such compliance is unlikely in the near future,” the report states.

According to the authors of the report the war in Georgia had serious repercussions for relations between the EU and Russia. The report suggests that despite recent setbacks, “hardheaded, pragmatic and unsentimental engagement remains the way forward in the EU’s relations with Russia.”

Political analyst Shalva Pichkhadze shares the opinion of the authors of the report. He told The Messenger that it was clear to anyone, including Russia, that the Georgian Government was getting ready for war. “Since Saakashvili came into power the militarization of the country has begun, two military bases have been built close to Georgia’s two conflict zones, the military budget has been boosted, the reservists have been established and military rhetoric has been heard. What other indicators are needed to prove that the country was getting ready for war?” Pichkhadze said, adding, that “Russia was counting on us taking such an unwise step.”

Pichkhadze also agreed that the George W. Bush administration shares some responsibility. He said Washington was “closing its eyes to almost every misdeed of President Saakashvili, thus encouraging him to take further action.” Pichkhadze noted Washington gave Saakashvili a “syndrome of being unpunished” for any action.

The analyst noted that the August war damaged Russia too. Pichkhadze said Russia did things that “went beyond all limits” and gained the name of “aggressor” as a result. “Russia saved us with its stupidity,” he added.

Deputy State Minister for the Reintegration of Georgia, Elene Tevdoradze, denied the claims of the House of Lords. She said the Georgian President had no other option on August 7. “I would ask the Lords, if their citizens were being shot at and attacked constantly, every day, what would they do? I don’t think any head of their country would have enough nerves to stay cool. It was impossible to show any more patience,” Tevdoradze said, adding that “the President ran out of patience” as Georgian villages were being constantly shelled from Tskhinvali, including on August 7.

As for the allegations of the UK diplomats about “mixed signals” from the US administration, Tevdoradze said that “the US has always told us not to use force in any situation.” The Deputy State Minister told The Messenger that she will wait for the independent investigation led by the European Council. “I will draw my conclusions after their report is ready,” she said.