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Putin criticizes American military support for Georgia

By Ernest Petrosyan
FRiday, February 24
Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin claims that American military support for Georgia is “a huge mistake", and warns Tbilisi to restrain from repeating its "aggression" in the Caucasus.

At a meeting with Russian military representatives at a base in Alabino, near Moscow, Putin was asked by a Russian military commander deployed in breakaway South Ossetia about reports that an agreement had been reached between U.S. President Barack Obama and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili regarding a large-scale supply of arms to Georgia.

“I was not at the negotiating table [with Obama and Saakashvili] and I do not know what they agreed on. Though there may have been someone from [Russia] there and we will be told. Our American partners made a mistake. We constantly speak about it. I hope the Georgian party will be reasonable and the lesson that followed the adventurous action of the government of Georgia will not pass without leaving a trace, and the weapons will not be used for new aggressive actions,” Putin said. “Georgia’s current leadership carries out a clearly aggressive policy, and a supply of arms to the military of a country that implements aggressive policies always inevitably encourages it towards aggressive actions,” he continued.

Putin claims that Russia has been watching Georgia's military build-up. “We judge not based on words, but based on concrete actions, which are easily traced not only through foreign intelligence but through GRU [Russia's military intelligence service] too… Movement of vessels, volume of cargo... all these are controlled quite easily with the help of satellite and other means of surveillance. I have been shown some of these [means] here today,” he asserted.

“We are constantly raising the issue with [the U.S.]," Putin noted. "I very much hope that the Georgian side will have enough common sense and lessons learned... [that] these weapons will not be used for new aggressive actions,” he maintained.

A clement Putin once again reaffirmed love and brotherhood towards the Georgian people, saying that Russia differentiates between “the Georgian leadership and the Georgian people".

“I very much hope that [Georgians] ultimately realize that Russia is not the enemy, but that it is a friend, and relations will be restored,” Putin remarked, adding that the breaking of ties between the two countries was a result of a policy carried out by the Georgian government.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia commented on Putin’s statements, calling his “cordiality” merely a symbol of friendship and love towards the Georgian people, as not long ago his military commanders gave orders to brutally mistreat those same people.

“It’s hard to imagine who Mr. Putin means by saying 'the Georgian people'. There are many thousands of families living in Georgia who lost relatives as a result of Russian military aggression and multiple ethnic cleansings,” the statement reads. It notes that, as a result of the Russian government’s actions, hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homeland and were turned into refugees.

“Their houses are either destroyed by Russian military tactics, or illegally occupied by Russian militants and various criminals. Monuments of Georgian cultural heritage are being destroyed in the occupied territories of Georgia. Putin has very a strange method of expressing love for the Georgian people,” the Ministry asserted.

David Darchiashvili, Parliamentary European Integration Committee Chair, said that it contradicts democratic principles to divide leadership and people, as one represents the other.

Government MP Giorgi Gabashvili remarked that Putin can reconcile with the Georgian government only if that government is not elected by Georgians, but appointed by the Kremlin. He did note, however, that he does not believe that Russia has any designs in this direction.

Political analyst Tengiz Pkhaladze believes that the Russian leadership is operating in a different reality. He believes that Putin's statements are populist remarks directed at the Russian population in preparation for the upcoming election.