The West encouraged Georgia’s reckless assault
By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV
Published on 8/17/2008
Moscow – The past week’s events in South Ossetia are bound to shock and
pain anyone. Already, thousands of people have died, tens of thousands
have been turned into refugees, and towns and villages lie in ruins.
Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning
The roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia’s separatist
leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy. This turned out to
be a time bomb for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Each time
successive Georgian leaders tried to impose their will by force – both
in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, where the issues of autonomy are
similar – it only made the situation worse. New wounds aggravated old
Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution. For
some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The
peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians
fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live
close to each other, found at least some common ground.
Through all these years, Russia has continued to recognize Georgia’s
territorial integrity. Clearly, the only way to solve the South
Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means. Indeed, in a
civilized world, there is no other way.
The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.
What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The
Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali
with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas.
Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against `small,
defenseless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of
Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision
whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different
nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this
only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more
powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S.
instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a
number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership,
emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with
a `blitzkrieg’ in South Ossetia.
In other words, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was expecting
unconditional support from the West, and the West had given him reason
to think he would have it. Now that the Georgian military assault has
been routed, both the Georgian government and its supporters should
rethink their position.
Urgent steps must be taken to help the victims and to rebuild the
devastated towns and villages. It is equally important to start
thinking about ways to solve the underlying problem, which is among the
most painful and challenging issues in the Caucasus – a region that
should be approached with the greatest care.
When the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia first flared up, I
proposed that they be settled through a federation that would grant
broad autonomy to the two republics. This idea was dismissed,
particularly by the Georgians. Attitudes gradually shifted, but after
last week, it will be much more difficult to strike a deal even on such
Old grievances are a heavy burden. Healing is a long process that
requires patience and dialogue, with non-use of force an indispensable
precondition. It took decades to bring to an end similar conflicts in
Europe and elsewhere, and other long-standing issues are still
smoldering. In addition to patience, this situation requires wisdom.
Small nations of the Caucasus do have a history of living together. It
has been demonstrated that a lasting peace is possible, that tolerance
and cooperation can create conditions for normal life and development.
Nothing is more important than that.
The region’s political leaders need to realize this. Instead of flexing
military muscle, they should devote their efforts to building the
groundwork for durable peace.
Over the past few days, some Western nations have taken positions,
particularly in the U.N. Security Council, that have been far from
balanced. As a result, the Security Council was not able to act
effectively from the very start of this conflict. By declaring the
Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American
continent, a sphere of its `national interest,’ the United States made
a serious blunder. Of course, peace in the Caucasus is in everyone’s
interest. But it is simply common sense to recognize that Russia is
rooted there by common geography and centuries of history. Russia is
not seeking territorial expansion, but it has legitimate interests in
The international community’s long-term aim could be to create a
sub-regional system of security and cooperation that would make any
provocation, and the very possibility of crises such as this one,
impossible. Building this type of system would be challenging and could
only be accomplished with the cooperation of the region’s countries
themselves. Nations outside the region could perhaps help, too – but
only if they take a fair and objective stance. A lesson from recent
events is that geopolitical games are dangerous anywhere, not just in
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress