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Pros and cons of EU commission’s report

By Messenger Staff
Friday, October 2
The 900 page EU fact finding commission report has already triggered hot debates and controversial readings on the very first day of its publication. It is obvious that thorough reading and analysis will further polarise opinions about the conclusions it draws.

Both sides of the conflict, Georgia and Russia, are trying to find in the document justifications for their actions and the basis for any future action. Moscow asserts that the Tagliavini commission answered the major question, who started the war, by blaming Georgia for it. Tbilisi reckons that there is no sentence in the document which actually says this. The commission does suggest that the start of the war itself was the big attack on Tskhinvali by Georgian troops which provoked Russia’s corresponding full scale aggression. However it also clearly says that this attack was preceded by the shelling of Georgian villages. No clear cut date and time for the starting of the war are given and neither side is directly accused of doing so.

The Georgian authorities highlight some other facts mentioned in the document, in particular the arguments the Russian side has used many times to justify its aggression. The commission does not certify that any ‘genocide’ of the Ossetian population had taken place, and moreover discounts the argument that Russia intervened to protect its own citizens. The Tagliavini report declares that the distribution of Russian passports was a preliminary act of aggression. It also confirms the ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population was conducted not by Russian Army units but Ossetian militia and North Caucasus formations, but does not absolve Moscow of overall responsibility for this.

Analysts think that the commission’s conclusions will have a more significant impact for Georgia than for Russia, because Georgia always listens to international opinion and mostly considers it whereas Russia ignores it, as it has been doing recently in several different forums.

The question is how the Tagliavini commission’s report will affect Georgia’s foreign policy. We can suggest that Georgia will not be isolated and most probably the international moral support it is receiving will continue. It is however hard to expect that Tbilisi will receive more than that from the international community, given that both sides were criticised and neither received the full confirmation of their position they were probably hoping for.

The report is more likely to have an effect on the internal situation in the country. Before its conclusions were aired some opposition members were suggesting that the commission would put the blame for starting the war onto President Saakashvili and he would thus be forced to resign, or desire to leave voluntarily. It would not now be realistic for the opposition to start campaigning for Saakashvili’s resignation on the basis of the commission’s report as its conclusions are very balanced and diplomatic and there are no arguments the opposition could make which could not be neutralised by counter arguments relying on the same document. If the opposition try to attack Saakashvili based on this document they would be accused of being pro-Russian again and this will decrease the popularity of any opposition member in the eyes of the population. Of course the administration will take every opportunity to do this, hoping to present itself as the rue and only saviour of the country from internal as well as external enemies and claiming international support for any position it takes.

As a very short time has been passed since the publication of this 900 page document extra time is needed to thoroughly read, analyse and draw conclusions from it. The document will doubtless be discussed in further details for some time to come, possible ending up with as many ‘versions’ as the ill-fated Sarkozy-Medvedev ceasefire agreement which ended the war, which has a different reading depending which side you are quoting.