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Who will be guilty of a new Russian aggression?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, February 24
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London has caused some discussion. Saakashvili declared that further Russian aggression against Georgia is expected and accused the West of not reacting appropriately to this. However in Georgia analysts and political forces have called the President's own statement a provocative step.

Saakashvili said that the international community has not adequately assessed Russia's actions in 2008. “Today we still face a threat from Russia because the world has not told Russia that its actions during the 2008 war were inappropriate and impermissible,” Saakashvili said. He also talked about the probable consequences for the West of Georgia returning to Russia’s sphere of influence. He said that regional markets would be closed for the West and it will no longer have access to Central Asian energy resources, meaning that in a cold winter Russia will close its tap in order to freeze Europe into obeying it.

The Georgian President also criticised France for selling the Mistral to Russia. Saakashvili described the Mistral deal as “strange and risky”. There is a big threat of direct confrontation between the Mistral and NATO forces in the Black Sea, he said. “Deploying the assault warship in the Black Sea could further aggravate the situation and cause new conflicts,” Saakashvili noted. “With its actions France might endanger the stability in the Caucasus region. Selling an assault ship to Russia is unexpected and very risky, and selling armoured vehicles is a 10 times more serious problem,” he added.

Some political analysts and politicians have criticised Saakashvili for making such a speech. Ramaz Sakvarelidze has said that if Saakashvili had not made these statements there would have been a chance to influence France and Russia, but now Russia will be more stimulated to buy the Mistral even though it has not yet officially confirmed that it will do so. Saakashvili has precluded resolving this issue by ‘diplomatic lobby talks’ by making this statement, he said. However we should not forget that Saakashvili was expressing the general astonishment of the Georgian public at the West’s failure to take more action against the Russian aggression.

It should be also noted that Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze has recently stated that Georgia should do its best to ensure that international organisations use the term 'Georgian occupied territories' when referring to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in official documents. Former Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili thinks this is a positive step, as at present these documents only mention violations of agreements by the Russian side and the use of excessive force, not occupation. Only the Tagliavini Commission report has stated with any accuracy what sort of role Russia has played over the years in the conflict regions of Georgia.

Some of the opposition compare this statement to the Government's recent address to the North Caucasus nations. The Democratic Movement-United Georgia says that Mikheil Saakashvili does not want to be thrown out by his people, and is therefore provoking an attack on him so that he can leave the country and become President in Exile. Certainly his appeal to the North Caucasus nations which are part of the Russian Federation can be seen as an encouragement of the same sort of separatism he is complaining about in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the President must know that Russia will not tolerate such interference in its internal affairs by him of all people. Whatever the merits of creating an informal union of North Caucasus nations, it will only increase the threat of the Russian aggression Saakashvili warned about.

As the elections approach strong statements will be made about foreign policy and the various sides will accuse each other of damaging the country. The one clear thing about the present situation is that Georgia has no security guarantees nowadays.