Rome '08 Workshop
Georgia's Role in Euro-Atlantic Security
His Excellency Giorgi Baramidze
Georgian Vice Prime Minister
I would like to use this opportunity to speak very openly in this very frank and open atmosphere to provoke a frank discussion. As our distinguished Turkish Minister of Defense said, I would like to speak about the pain in one of our bodys organs, a country that suffers from the challenges and problems, some of them objective, some of them artificially created, that we face today.
THE EFFECTS OF RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY ON GEORGIA
It is difficult not to agree with the theme of our workshop: Global Security in Crisis, the Urgent Need to Find Strategies That Work. Georgia today represents one of the challenges of global security, and unfortunately is on the front line of these crises. Russias recent foreign policy has adversely affected Georgia, but its policy goes far beyond our country. It is not simply aiming at annexing our territory, an unacceptable act in the 21st century, and at depriving Georgia of its democratic development and Euro-Atlantic integration. It is challenging the entire civilized international community, targeting the division of Europe, the defeat of democratic values, and the realization of imperialistic ambitions.
It must be understood that the Wests appeasement policy does not work. The only way to reverse the Kremlins extremely dangerous venture, which includes blackmailing, confrontation, provocation, and bullying, is a clear, united, firm, and active response from the European Union and the United States. Once Russia realizes that its aggressive policy will not be tolerated, it will become more pragmatic, therefore more constructive.
RUSSIAN ACTIONS AGAINST GEORGIA
In the spring of 2008, Russia conducted a series of increasingly hostile and illegal acts against Georgia. It has long maintained low-grade conflicts on our territory through the support of separatist rebels who conducted ethnic cleansing in the early 1990s, something that was recognized by the OSCE three times and by the United Nations.
However Russias goal clearly shifted after the NATO Summit in Bucharest. Despite agreement of the member-states to grant Georgia and Ukraine membership at some point in the future, the Russian Federation wrongfully interpreted NATOs refraining from giving Membership Action Plans to our countries as a sign of success of its blackmailing policy. It then used the time before the December ministerial as a window of opportunity to reinforce this success by shifting to a bluntly offensive strategy in Abkhazia Georgia, unambiguously aiming at de facto annexation of these Georgian territories.
If allowed to go further, Russia would redraw the map of Eastern Europe and risk an armed conflict. Rather than fulfill its role as a peacekeeper and a mediator in Abkhazia Georgia, Russia has become a party to the conflict. Withdrawing from the 1996 CIS embargo that banned weapons transfer to the separatist rebels in March; extending legal recognition to Georgias separatist territories with the April 16 presidential decree; shooting down in Georgian air space an unmanned and unarmed surveillance drone of the Ministry of Internal affairs of Georgia on April 20, which was confirmed by UNOMIG; and introducing the Russian Ministry of Defenses so-called railroad troops in May all offer clear evidence of Russias intentions.
Russia no longer even pretends to be performing peacekeeping duties. Instead, its new operation is of a clear military nature. Managed by the Russian defense ministry, the operation aims to enable large-scale military movements by reinforcing Russias military infrastructure in Abkhazia Georgia. Unfortunately, Russias actions have virtually eliminated the prospects of a peaceful conflict-resolution process, since they feed the separatists sentiments and ambitions. The more aggressive Russia has become in Abkhazia, the more rigid the separatist rebels are.
GEORGIAS HOPE FOR A RUSSIA-GEORGIA PARTNERSHIP
Georgia long has sought to constructively engage Russia in remaining an important partner for Georgia. But in 16 years, these efforts have failed to deliver any meaningful progress. Our government was hopeful that President Medvedev would introduce a new spirit into the relationship. However, within days of assuming office, he was responsible for policies that sharply escalated the tensions in Abkhazia Georgia, including an introduction of the so-called railway troops. Nevertheless, Georgia remained hopeful that the St. Petersburg meeting would allow us to overcome this deadlock. Again, however, President Medvedev refused to pledge to refrain from acts that clearly undermine Georgias sovereignty. On the contrary, after the meeting, Russias defense ministry cynically announced it would keep the railroad troops in place for at least two more months until their work was done.
Georgia has responded with restraint to Russias provocations, and has consistently thought to act in consensus with the international community. In accordance with its unambiguous legal right, the government of Georgia is offering a very clear alternative that can constructively lead to a final resolution: a joint international effort to finally establish viable peacekeeping and negotiating formats in order to resolve the conflict on its territories within a reasonable time frame and in an appropriate contemporary manner. Security on the ground and mediation at the negotiating table must be ensured by the international community. A non-military police operation in Abkhazia Georgia will create a solid basis for peaceful conflict resolution. However, Georgia remains open to alternative international arrangements if agreed upon during consultations.
WORKING WITH THE EURO-ATLANTIC COMMUNITY
In any new peacekeeping format, Georgia will seek to retain and reinforce the role of the United Nations. In addition, we strongly believe that Russia should be an active and constructive part of this process if it so chooses. The government of Georgia will continue to vigorously pursue a direct dialogue with the Abkhaz separatists in order to reach a consensus on how best to settle the conflict within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia. As per our President Saakashvilis peace plan, any settlement would be internationally guaranteed to provide as wide autonomy as possible for Abkhazia and to ensure the reintegration of the Abkhaz community into the unified Georgian state.
Finally, aggression against Georgia is a logical link in the chain, and we must not be blind to it: the murder of Litvinenko in the heart of London, the imposition of an economic embargo on Poland, the cyber-attack against Estonia, President Putins speech in Munich and his statement in the NATO-Russia Council about Ukraines statehood, energy blackmailing of the West, and so on. The Euro-Atlantic community is capable of preventing further developments like these, but to do so it is necessary to develop a common constructive strategy. Now is the moment of truthno matter how difficult it might be, we need to demonstrate how united and effective we can be in resolving global security challenges and defending our common values and principles.