Mikheil Saakashvili: Ask the Russians why Georgia hasn't been stable

Share
Related Topics

Nato last week signalled again that Georgia will join the alliance, and accelerated our membership preparations. The Georgian people welcome this as an important step in returning stability to our neighbourhood after Russia's August invasion.

My government is especially grateful for the UK's support and for David Miliband's encouraging words on our economic and political reforms. As President of Georgia, I will do everything necessary to meet the requirements of the alliance.

As we prepare for eventual membership, we are determined that the events of last summer in South Ossetia will not distract us from our reforms. We have been thoroughly open with the international community about the conflict, but are still having to correct several critical falsehoods.

Since Russia invaded Georgia last August, the international community seems stuck on one question about how the war started: did the Georgian military act irresponsibly to take control of Tskhinvali in the South Ossetia region of Georgia?

This question has been pushed to the centre by a fierce, multimillion-dollar Russian PR campaign that hinges on leaked, partial and misleading reports by a military observer from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). These claimed that Georgia responded militarily in South Ossetia without sufficient provocation by Russia.

Focusing on how the war started distracts from Russia's intense, blatant policy of regime change that has long aimed to destabilise Georgia through ethnic manipulation, and thus thwart our democracy, while stopping Nato's expansion. It has never been disputed that our forces entered South Ossetia: I have always acknowledged that I ordered military action, as any responsible democratic leader would have done, and as the Georgian Constitution required me to do in defence of the country.

I made this decision after being confronted by two facts. First, Russia had massed hundreds of tanks and thousands of soldiers on the border between Russia and Georgia in the area of South Ossetia. We had firm intelligence that these were crossing into Georgia, a fact later confirmed by telephone intercepts verified by The New York Times and others – and never substantially denied by Russia. Second, for one week Russian forces and their proxies engaged in a series of deadly provocations, shelling Georgian villages under my government's control; much of the artillery was located in Tskhinvali, often within sites controlled by Russian peacekeepers. On 7 August, Russia and its proxies killed several Georgian peacekeepers. Russian peacekeepers and OSCE observers admitted that they were incapable of preventing the lethal attacks. The OSCE had failed to prevent the Russians from building two illegal military bases inside South Ossetia during the preceding year.

So the question is not whether Georgia ordered military action. We did. The question is, rather: what democratic polity would have acted any differently while its citizens were being slaughtered as its sovereign territory was being invaded? South Ossetia and Abkhazia are internationally recognised as part of Georgia, and even some areas within these conflict zones were under Georgian government control before the Russian invasion. We fought to repel a foreign invasion. Georgians never stepped beyond Georgian territory.

Responding firmly to the Putin-Medvedev government implies neither the isolation nor the abandonment of Russia; it can be achieved in tandem with continuing engagement of, and trade with, Russia. But it does require holding Russia to account. Moscow must honour its sovereign commitments and fully withdraw its troops to pre-August positions.

We all hope that Russia soon decides to join the international community as a full partner. This would be the greatest contribution to Georgia's stability. In the interim, we should make sure that we do not sacrifice democracies such as Georgia, which are trying to make this critical part of the world more stable, secure and free.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Education Editor: This shocking abuse of teachers should be taken seriously

Richard Garner
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?