Archive for the ‘Georgian’ Category

Georgia’s President Defends Actions Prior to War With Russia

November 29, 2008

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Friday defended the decisions made in the run-up to the August war with Russia, telling a parliamentary commission that Georgia had responded to Russian “intervention.”

He also repeated assertions that his government had neither sought nor received advance approval of the Aug. 7 attack on the separatist region of South Ossetia, in particular from the United States.

Associated Press
“We didn’t ask for a green light from anyone,” he testified. “We were telling our friends that Russia was conducting these provocations, which were completely out of any sort of framework.”

Russia’s military response to the attack was overwhelming. It routed the Georgian military, inflicted severe damage on Georgia’s economy and aggravated already troubled relations between Moscow and Washington – a staunch backer of Mr. Saakashvili.

Opposition politicians have been increasing their criticism of Mr. Saakashvili over the run-up to the war.

Georgia’s former ambassador to Russia said Wednesday that Georgian officials perceived a July visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as encouragement for the use of force against South Ossetia. Former Ambassador Erosi Kitsmarishvili also said people in Mr. Saakashvili’s circle told Mr. Kitsmarishvili that Miss Rice “gave the green light” – something Miss Rice herself has denied.

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Russia’s Putin threatened to hang Georgia’s leader ‘by the balls’

November 19, 2008

Vladimir Putin threatened to overthrow Georgia’s leader and “hang him by the balls” during talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the height of the war between Russia and Georgia.

From The Telegraph, London
November 13, 2008

The Russian Prime Minister issued the threat against Mikheil Saakashvili as his troops rolled into Georgian territory and at one point threatened the country’s capital Tbilisi.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen here on November ... 
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen here on November 12, 2008, allegedly threatened to hang Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili “by the balls” during the August war in Georgia, a report not denied by Putin’s spokesman.(AFP/POOL/File/Alexey Nikolsky)

Mr Putin’s fury was overheard by President Sarkozy’s chief adviser, Jean-David Levitte during emergency cease-fire talks on August 12.

According Mr Levitte, interviewed in Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, Mr Putin exploded with rage when Mr Sarkozy warned him off toppling Georgia’s democratically elected government  and its President Saakashvili.

“I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” he said.

“Hang him?,” asked Mr Sarkozy.

“Why not?,” retorted Mr Putin. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy replied: “Yes but do you want to end up like Bush?”

Briefly lost for words, the Russian leader agreed: “Ah, you have scored a point there.”

Confronted by the comments on a French radio show yesterday (THURS), Mr Saakashvili laughed nervously.

Russia Warns Georgia Against Improving Military

November 18, 2008

Russia’s Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Tuesday he was concerned by what he called Georgia’s efforts to boost its military potential, adding this could have bigger consequences than August’s conflict.

“The Georgian side’s efforts to increase the military potential is causing concern and I think those initiatives could have bigger consequences than what we saw in August,” he told a news conference in Ankara. He did not elaborate.

In a five-day war in August, Russian troops launched a massive counter-attack and took control of large swathes of Georgian territory after Tbilisi had tried to retake its rebel South Ossetia region by force earlier in the month.

(Reporting by Zerin and Elci and Ibon Villelabeitia for Reuters)

Russia First With A Meaningful Test for Obama

November 14, 2008

If the new administration is thinking about relations with Russia, as it should be, a rare personal story of an American scholar’s recent talk with the Russian president offers some substantive insights.

Andrew Kuchins told a small group of us at the Center for Strategic and International Studies fall meeting about how President Dmitry Medvedev described his phone conversation with President Bush last summer during the nasty little war between Georgia and its former imperial power, Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Chief of Russia's ... 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, and Chief of Russia’s Nanotechnology Agency Anatoly Chubais seen during the 2008 EU-Russia Industrialists’ Round Table Annual Conference in Cannes, southern France, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008.(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)

Medvedev told the small group of scholars in the Valdai Discussion Club that Bush had asked him, “You are a young government — what do you need this war for?” And Medvedev told him, “George, you would have done the same thing, only more brutally. … And, remember, if you continue your support of the Georgian regime, you do so at our own risk.”

By Georgie Anne Geyer

Kuchins, a young Eurasian specialist at CSIS, then used this unusual opportunity of hearing what Russians really think to catapult to his deep concerns about American/Russian relations and Russian intentions today. “For years since the Cold War,” he said, “I have believed that the chance of war with Russia was close to zero. Today, that probability seems, while obviously difficult to quantify, between 2 and 3 percent — and rising. I never saw (Russian and American) narratives about the world so diametrically opposed.”

Then he recalled how President Medvedev also told them at the meeting, with unmistakable meaning, “We will not tolerate any more humiliation — and we are not joking!”

Now, I have covered the Soviet Union, and later the Russian Federation, regularly since 1967, and I can say that that one word, “humiliation,” plus the fear of it, are largely behind virtually all Russian actions and statements.

Gen. Brent Scowcroft, respected Russian specialist and co-author of the new book, “America and the World, Conversations on the Future of American Foreign Policy,” told us at the same CSIS meeting: “The Russians are still searching for their soul. Are they really Europeans, who didn’t enjoy the Enlightenment, or are they Asians? … We’ve never had a strategy for dealing with the Russians after the Cold War … (W)e left the impression that it didn’t matter.”

So, where are we now? Well, when Vice President-elect Joe Biden warned earlier this fall that the world would test the new president, the first to step up to the plate was Moscow. Within mere days of the election, that same Russian president had thrown out the first ball: With bristling words, he warned he would co-opt the Bush administration‘s plan to put missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic by saying that Moscow would respond by placing short-range missiles on Russia’s Western border in Kaliningrad. These were all “forced measures,” he said, in place of the “positive cooperation that Russia wanted to combat common threats.”

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NATO checks Ukraine progress amid Russia objections

November 13, 2008

NATO, meeting on Russia’s doorstep, held talks with Ukraine Friday to assess its progress toward membership of the alliance, but prospects for a promised entry action plan were dim.

Ukraine's Minister of Defence Yurii Yekhanurov speaks during ... 
Ukraine’s Minister of Defence Yurii Yekhanurov speaks during the informal high-level NATO-Ukraine consultations in Tallinn November 13, 2008.(Ints Kalnins/Reuters)

Russia deeply opposes Ukraine‘s efforts to join NATO, while opinion polls show only about a third of Ukrainians support it. Ukraine’s domestic political turmoil has made NATO hesitant, though the alliance has said Ukraine, and Georgia, will one day be members.

By Patrick Lannin and David Morgan, Reuters

“A country’s right to freely choose its security alignments is another important principle in this regard and a test for a Europe we all seek to build,” said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, referring to Russia’s objections.

The talks were being held in the capital of Estonia, another former Soviet state, which entered NATO in 2004, breaking away from its powerful neighbor to the east.

Speaking at the start of the talks in which NATO was to assess Ukraine’s security and defense reforms, the NATO chief also took a fresh swipe at Russia for recognizing breakaway Georgian regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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Lithuania, Poland Leaders Warn EU Against Russia Talks “Until Georgia Fully Protected”

November 3, 2008

The smaller countries with a history of bad experiences with Russia are telling the others to be more cautious….

Russian soldiers ride by an APC in the village of Nabakevi outside ... 
Russian soldiers ride by an APC in the village of Nabakevi outside the town of Gal. Russia Tuesday declared its opposition to deploying European Union monitors in Georgia’s rebel provinces, while Russian rights groups reported pillaging in Georgian border villages.(AFP/Ibragim Chkadua)

VILNIUS (AFP)–There should be no European Union talks with Russia until it fully respects the ceasefire with Georgia, the leaders of Lithuania and Poland insisted Monday.

In a joint statement, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and his Polish opposite number Lech Kaczynski, said they were “deeply concerned with the lack of will on the Russian side.”

Adamkus and Kaczynski highlighted a failure to respect ceasefire clauses covering the withdrawal of Russian troops to pre-conflict positions and on free access to humanitarian aid.

Both Lithuania and Poland are staunch allies of Georgia’s pro-Western leadership.

Adamkus and Kaczynski called for the ceasefire to be “internationally observed and verified” by both the E.U. and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Monitors should be given unfettered access to the Russian-backed breakaway Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow has recognized as independent states. E.U. monitors have so far been unable to gain access to the territories.

And they also drew attention to what they said were the increasing numbers of Russian troops in the region.

Although the E.U. brokered the ceasefire that ended the brief conflict between Georgia and Russia in August, the diplomatic aftermath has divided E.U. member states.

Some western member states, anxious not to antagonize Russia with a tough stance, have suggested that the current Russian pull-back has been sufficient.

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