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Kuchma: Georgia helped Russia solve its problems

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, March 6
Ex-President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma has criticized the Georgian Government for its “ineffective policy” which he says led to the August 2008 conflict.

Speaking at a video conference broadcast from the Russian RIA-Novosti news agency’s Tbilisi office on March 5, Kuchma accused the Georgian leadership of using force to resolve the problem of the territorial integrity of the country. “By starting military action in South Ossetia the Georgian Government helped Russia solve its strategic problems in the South Caucasus,” stated Kuchma, referring to the consequences of the August war, after which Russia recognized the ‘independence’ of Georgian breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia and decided to construct several large military bases in those regions, calling this the “protection of civilians from Georgian aggression.”

Kuchma stated that he has always upheld the territorial integrity of all countries, including Georgia. “Territorial integrity was one of the basic principles of the creation of the CIS [Commonwealth of the Independent States, an organization uniting ex-USSR states],” said Kuchma, adding that he is disappointed that the CIS has been unable to create working mechanisms for preventing military conflicts on post-Soviet territory. He refused to give any “advice” to the current Georgian Government expect for one thing – to ask the opinion of former Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who he referred to as the “most experienced politician in all the ex-USSR countries.”

Kuchma answered a question about weapons sales to Azerbaijan by Ukraine that have been the subject of strong protests by the Armenian side, which claims they imply that Azerbaijan plans aggression against Armenia. “It doesn’t matter who sells weapons to Azerbaijan. Even if we stop selling them military hardware, what will prevent them buying it from other countries, from the USA for example? The only thing that can prevent conflict in any region is agreement and negotiation, not a ban on selling arms,” Kuchma said.

The roots of the August 2008 conflict, according to Kuchma, can be found in the Balkans. “If you protest against the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, why did the world say nothing when Kosovo was gaining independence? It seems that one can do it and another can’t. By recognizing Kosovo the precedent was set, and the Abkhazia and South Ossetia case reflects that,” he added. However he also noted that by recognizing Georgia’s breakaway republics Russia “gave itself a lot of new headaches.” “This can be seen in the fact that not many states have followed Russia’s example of recognizing those regions,” he said. Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been supported only by Nicaragua and strongly condemned by the international community.

Leonid Kuchma commented on the future of the CIS. He stated that this organization was created with a very important task – to ease the collapse of the Soviet Union and help former Soviet countries cooperate economically. “Now I don’t see any point in the CIS, as it has been unable to prevent any conflicts. Also, at this time of economic crisis there has not been a single session of CIS leaders, not even at Minister level. This I would blame on Russia, which doesn’t want the former Soviet republics to find a common solution to their problems.”

Answering The Messenger’s question on the possibility of Georgia and Ukraine joining NATO, Kuchma stated that the cooperation of these two countries is “very important” and necessary to achieve this goal. He added however that there is “no sense” in any aspirations to actually join the bloc. “If in Ukraine the internal attitude hinders the country from integrating with NATO, in Georgia there are no big problems of this sort: however, NATO itself doesn’t want these countries to join it. The main reason for this is the instability of these countries. That became clear during the August conflict,” added the former Ukrainian leader. He also noted that the Governments in Ukraine and Georgia are both the “project of the USA,” and as time goes by it becomes clearer that “the project is failing and the USA is withdrawing its support from these republics.”

Leonid Kuchma was the second President of independent Ukraine, serving from 1994 to 2005. He left his position as a result of the so-called Orange Revolution, replaced by Victor Yushchenko, who accused the Kuchma Government of corruption and committing political murders.