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Waiting for Tagliavini Commission’s conclusions

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, September 24
The report of the EU fact finding commission headed by Heidi Tagliavini is due to be presented at the end of September. There is no doubt that this document will have great political resonance and it is very difficult to give an exact prognosis of what will follow.

German newspaper Der Spiegel has already tried several times to create a sensation by publishing preliminary information and recently published what it claimed were genuine extracts from the still-to-be-composed report. Many analysts have stated however that these pro-Russian ‘extracts’ were most probably written and/or financed by Russian company Gazprom and published simply to try and influence public opinion and Commission members.

Soon we will have the official version of this report, which has taken 9 months and more than a million euro to compile. Many analysts think that the Commission’s conclusions will be well balanced and that trying to achieve this balance was the reason the publication of the report was delayed in July. Some suggest that the report will state that Georgia started the war but Russia and South Ossetia did everything they could to provoke it, being ready to start a war and only waiting for an excuse. According to this view the Russians could have invaded Georgia without any serious attack taking place, merely at the sight of a bonfire or wedding fireworks in the area.

Some analysts suggest that the Commission could only ever have drawn balanced conclusions. If it puts all the blame on Russia this will further strain Russian-EU relations, and most EU countries, particularly the ones further west which did not experience Russian conquest and oppression at first hand do not want to upset Russia, regardless of what they actually think. If however the Commission blames Georgia for the conflict this is also not in the EU’s interest because this might encourage Russia to repeat its aggression and attack other countries too.

Der Spiegel puts all the blame for starting the war on President Saakashvili of Georgia, but the question arises as to when exactly a war starts. Georgia sent its troops to restore constitutional order on its territory, but prior to that there had been repeated bombing and shelling of Georgian villages by illegal military formations supported, equipped, trained and put there in the first place by the Russians. Before that we saw Russian railway troops ‘restoring’ the Abkhazian railways, Russia distributing Russian passports to the local population in an absolutely illegal and aggressive way and many other acts, stretching back over a long period. So which of these acts marked the beginning of the war? Why can the distribution of passports not be considered in this way?

Other facts could also be cited here: the atrocities which the Russian-supported separatists have conducted on the territories they control, the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population and so on. It will be crucial whether the Commission concentrates only on who started shooting or whether it will be more concerned about Russian forces invading the territory of a neighbouring country, occupying it, recognising the regions it occupies as independent states, conducting a crawling annexation of those territories, filling them with servicemen, arms and ammunition, destroying whole villages, depriving the local population of the right to stay in their homes and many more things, including preventing international organisations such as the OSCE and UNOMIG entering the occupied territories. If the international community does not take a principled stand against Russia there is a strong possibility that the type of aggression Georgia saw will be repeated against other country. Presumably the next in line is Ukraine. Its President Youshchenko has warned that what happened in Georgia it is not only a Georgian issue but a problem for the EU, as it could happen anywhere in Europe.

On September 22 The Guardian published a letter signed by Vaclav Havel, Valdas Adamkus, Mart Laar, Vytautas Landsbergis and other prominent East European figures. In this they ask Europe to protect Georgia and say that big countries will always find or create a reason to attack a neighbour whose independence irritates it. It warns the international community of the fatal consequences of turning a blind eye to injustice.

The Tagliavini Commission’s conclusions will certainly create serious debates and controversy, but it is premature to try and guess what these conclusions might be. However one thing is certain: Russia has not fulfilled the commitments it took under the Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire agreement and Georgia is being asked to keep ‘strategic patience’ over this and all the violations resulting from it. Is this a “balanced conclusion” to the war itself?