“Russia has received the main thing — world”
Dmitry Medvedev, told “Kommersant” about the 2008 war that could lead to a new conflict in the region.
On the night of 7 to 8 August 2008 in South Ossetia, the war began. Georgian troops entered Tskhinvali, and then was knocked out of him by the Russian army, which stopped near Tbilisi. The outcome of the war was Moscow’s recognition of independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, who was then President, told the special correspondent of “Kommersant” Vladimir Solovyov on why the Russian tanks did not enter the Georgian capital that Moscow has won the recognition of the two republics, and that could provoke a new conflict in the region.
— The August war of 2008, there was a feeling that the inevitable, even before it started. You have those feelings in that period was?
— No, the inevitability was not. And my grades remain the same, if not irresponsible, immoral, criminal behavior of Saakashvili and his henchmen, no war would have happened. Yes, there in that period was a high degree of tension. It is, in fact, did not occur in 2008 and in 1991. And these tensions between the individual constituent parts at that period the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic was felt even before that period.
I remember how in 1990 from Sochi arrived for the first time on the territory of Abkhazia — then, respectively, in Georgia. And during a conversation with ordinary people in some restaurants, somewhere else, I felt that they have a very complex relationship to those processes, which in the Republic had by then gained momentum, and by the representatives of the relatives of ethnic groups.
That is, the tension was already felt at the household level. For me it was quite unusual, because it is still neither in Moscow, nor in Leningrad did not felt any signs it was not.
Therefore, the root of the problem, of course, is that it was in 1990-e years, in those decisions that were adopted in the 1990-ies the government in Tbilisi, which were not accepted neither in Abkhazia nor in South Ossetia. As a result, a conflict was introduced to the peacekeepers. But until 2008, was able to balance all of these negative speeches, even violence that broke out sporadically.
And in 2008 the government of Georgia led by the President gave the green light to aggression, and happened what happened. It was not inevitable. This, of course, is the subjective choice of Saakashvili and his entourage.
But at some moment it seemed that your relationship with him develop quite well. At what point does something go wrong? You met, talked.
— Yes, it initially looked good, and during the first meeting, when I took office as President, he said he would like to restore the relationship that hopes to be friends in General, said a lot of nice words.
This is all I listen to and say want to develop a relationship — let’s develop it. We need a normal, friendly relationship with our neighbor — Georgia, we are ready.
We understand what your internal conflict is, we understand that the country is divided, but we are ready to help — slowly, gently contribute to the convergence process, ultimately in order to preserve the possibility of the existence of the state in these boundaries, be it Federation, Confederation, whatever.
This could be the choice of all peoples living in Georgia in the period that is, and themselves Georgians, and Ossetians and Abkhazians. He said, “I’m ready”. Then we several times crossed paths, including, I remember, in Astana. He, too, it showed every desire to discuss, develop, and then somehow disappeared.
Something we agreed on some appointments, contacts, and I distinctly remember that somewhere in the beginning of July 2008, he left with respect. I did not attach much importance, but now inclined to believe that it was already worked out a line.
He, on the one hand, they hoped that the new head of the Russian Federation will occupy some other position in the relationship with his government and him personally. In other words, simply will not intervene in the processes that will be there to go, no one would respond to actions that may be taken against our peacekeepers, and, most importantly, Russian citizens who lived in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia. But on the other hand, I think by that time he already held a full consultation with their patrons — in this case we are talking primarily about the United States of America. As you know, he was visited by Condoleezza rice, at that time as Secretary of state of the United States of America. Prior to that, he had contacts with Mr. fried (Daniel fried was assistant Secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia from 2005-2009.— “B”), which dealt with relations with the former Soviet Union. He is a Sovietologist, who has always had a very Russophobic position.
And, in my opinion, Cheney (dick Cheney, Vice-President of the United States in the years 2001-2009.— “Y”) then, too, came. That is, everything has had to be noted. And by that time, I think Saakashvili has formed a rigid belief that Americans will support him in any scenario.
— That happened what happened. And then you make the decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I heard that this decision was not undisputed that there were opponents, those who thought otherwise that it is not necessary to do this. As all this was happening, how did it all began?
— I can tell you how it was made, nothing supernatural here. Every decision must be thought out, and every decision requires what is called weighing the positive and negative aspects. After the military part of the campaign to “force Georgia to peace”, the question arose “what next?” of course, first of all in front of me, as the head of state.
I some time thought and came to the conclusion that there is nothing better than to recognize the independence of these two entities, in all probability, it is impossible to offer. I have kept foremost in order to secure lasting peace for the future, to maintain stability in Transcaucasia, to maintain stability in our region. And this, in my opinion, was the only possible step. After a while I spoke with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He, too, in that supported.
Then the question was put to a meeting of the security Council. We discussed, of course, all the nuances of this decision, knowing what kind of reaction we would get. But in this case, and other colleagues on the security Council, I also supported. The decision was made.
I have signed a decree on 26 August 2008 on the recognition of the state independence, sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And from now on these territorial entities began a new life.
— No discussion on this subject was not unanimously adopted was the decision?
Debate was, is and will always be, it’s perfectly normal for any civil society. Discussion was then sufficient to raise the press of that period, the Internet to see what was the discussion. But if we talk about the position of the highest political leadership, the position was United.
— Me just now in the Russian state structures across people who say that maybe ought not to admit it, but “hang on”, to send troops, but leave the opportunity for further conversation on the subject with Georgia for the restoration of a relationship with her. You like this view?
— You see, any suspended solution has probably some meaning, because you can really to discuss, as you say. But, unfortunately, it does not solve the main issue. It leaves a field or space for military action.
If it is an independent territorial entity, if the state with which we have contracts and with whom we have agreements about the deployment of our military contingent, then everything is clear, no one against them will not do. Everyone understands that more contact with Russia than to enforce some utopian ideas. And if it is a hung situation, then you can periodically any provocation to commit, to rely on the fact that the result of some stupid military campaigns we can work something tear, and so on.
And given the fact that the head of Georgia in that period was so unbalanced psychologically people like Mikhail Saakashvili, another option is simply not there.
Maybe if there was a different leadership, could have something to discuss. But I am sure that other leaders simply would not accept this outrageous decision to attack the elderly and children, the attack on Russian peacekeepers and, in fact, the Declaration of war of the Russian Federation.30фотографий30фотографий30фотографий
— I at the time was in Georgia and I remember the Russian tanks stopped a few dozen kilometers from Tbilisi. And why not go further?
— Because the goal was to knock out Georgian troops from Tskhinval to restore order. And to prevent further escalation of violence, i.e. military actions.
The goal was not to defeat Georgia, or to punish Saakashvili. I think I did the right thing when he decided to exercise restraint and not to force further action.
Ultimately, it gave us the opportunity to calm the situation not only in Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia, but also to go out at a fairly relaxed relationship with the European Union and other countries. If you remember, during that period, despite the rather harsh reaction, ultimately we fairly quickly were able to negotiate, and the result of the work of the Commission of Heidi Tagliavini (the Swiss diplomat who headed an international Commission to investigate the causes of the conflict in South Ossetia.— “Kommersant”) was the statement that a military strike was caused by the Georgian side and they started the aggression.
There were, of course, certain judgments and to our address — about the proportionality of the use of force and so on, but this is a value judgment. Most importantly, it was concluded that the aggression launched by Georgia. And this is from history does not erase.
But I do not think is correct this degree are the so-called opposition to support. That’s why I like Supreme commander, it was decided to deploy troops and bring them back to our country.
— Then indeed many were surprised how quickly normalized relations between Russia and the West. There was a “Partnership for modernization” with the EU, there was a restart with US, your relationship with US President Barack Obama was quite warm.
— Yes I have even with George Bush right after that was perfectly normal relationship. We met him just at the end of 2008. It is during our last conversation (when the global crisis began, all of our conversation focused on the economy) didn’t even mention the situation in Georgia and the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
And now we are seeing another crisis in relations between Russia and the West, is associated first and foremost with Ukraine, or which began with Ukraine. So why in that period the consequences were so quickly overcome, and now still can not do that and Russia and the West are in the clinch?
— This is a different situation. And there are other people already working: our partners a completely different position. But, most importantly, it’s just a fundamentally different story. Although, frankly, the Russian position is that in relation to the events that happened in Ukraine, if our partners have shown great fact if they hadn’t tried once to move the arrow to the Russian Federation, and would show a better balance, as it was in 2008, the situation would have been much easier.
— If we return to the recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia: what has Russia gained by acknowledging these two republics? What are the benefits in strategic, geopolitical terms?
— Russia received the main thing — peace. We were able to protect their citizens — many of them Russian citizens who live in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia.
And we are not sick mind that at some point there will be another attack, we will have to intervene to protect our citizens, protect our security, to give any answer.Dmitry Medvedevputin-Minister
The result is simply in the region is clear. And most importantly.
— You have already mentioned in connection with the actions of the then Georgian leadership the United States. And then you have repeatedly said that Georgia actively helped US. One way of looking at this situation is that Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, broke the game of the West in the region. This refers to the attempt to accelerate Georgia’s integration into NATO. And it is a widespread belief that it is linked to the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the subsequent deployment of military bases and everything that is happening today. Is this true?
— I’m not going to explain it in terms of “whose game”, “break this game”, I will say something else. We have witnessed how the Soviet Union collapsed and the Warsaw Pact. At the same time preserved NATO, which from all sides, trying to encircle the Russian Federation. It’s not that someone like Russia’s political leadership or don’t like, it’s not some ideological principles or the difference in values, and the case in the simple things, obvious to any normal person.
Now there is a situation when there are two blocks in a state of confrontation, in direct, in fact, the conflict as it was during the existence of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. But NATO continues to operate. And NATO not only continues, it expands and an increasing number of countries are trying to involve the North Atlantic Alliance. We can not remain indifferent, because it has not been canceled nuclear parity in the world, has not been canceled that for military commanders is extremely important to understand the relationship between the strategic nuclear forces of the various States.
And NATO States that whatever is said by our colleagues from the Alliance, still consider the Russian Federation as a potential enemy. And obviously, their military capabilities, including nuclear triad, aimed at the Russian Federation. This is, unfortunately, a fact.
Accordingly, we have to understand that I can oppose this situation. And when the ring around our country begins to shrink — and the number of countries that belong to NATO, all increases and increases, is we can not disturb. Because in this case we are not talking only about strategic nuclear forces, but tactical nuclear weapons, which, when approaching the borders of the Russian Federation acquires the quality of strategic nuclear weapons and non-nuclear means, which at the moment, given the fact that they are precision in nature, can cause tremendous damage.
In other words, NATO expansion is an absolute threat to the Russian Federation. And it is an absolute challenge.
Recently made another decision that Georgia welcome and accepted in the Alliance. How can you comment on that? It is absolutely irresponsible position. It’s just a threat to peace. We all know that in Georgia there is a certain tension that Georgia considers contiguous territory, or, from our point of view, of the state as their own. So, there are unresolved territorial conflict, regardless of what position we are in.
And such country, such a state will be in a military unit? We understand, than it threatens? This may provoke severe conflict. It is unclear why this is necessary. If it’s just a diplomatic trick, such as “we accept you, don’t worry”, but in fact will not do anything, is another story. Then let our colleagues from NATO will look more at the sides, something else will come up with clever. You can, for example, and Kosovo to take the North Atlantic Alliance. You can, for example, the Republic of Northern Cyprus to take the North Atlantic Alliance. This will improve the situation in the world?
— You anticipated my question. I would like to clarify: although the time no one in NATO meant, just said “Yes, accept”, theoretically, if you imagine that this will happen is that Georgia admitted to NATO without Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the situation is now, is a potential conflict with Russia?
This can lead to potential conflict, no doubt, because for us Abkhazia and South Ossetia is an independent state with which we have friendly relations, and the state of our military bases. And we understand that if the other country regards as its territory, it can lead to very serious consequences. I therefore hope that the leadership of NATO would get all the same intelligence to do nothing in this direction.
— None of those considered to be allies of Russia, did not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I mean first of all the allies in the CSTO. Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan keep on this theme of silence. Who do you think is the real allies of Russia? Sometimes one gets the impression that this is just Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria and now DPR and LPR.
— I understood how difficult the topic for discussion. When this happened, not remember what the event, which brought together my colleagues in that period, I said I understand how difficult the choice, therefore, I, dear friends, do you have to offer, you are free to do what you think is right. Because it was our decision, it’s not your decision. Continue our commitments within the CSTO, but it’s a totally different story. Actually, this was based the relationship on this occasion with our partners.
— Before the war in Georgia, you went out with the initiative of signing a European security Treaty, and after the war there was a draft agreement, but the case has gone nowhere. What do you think, given how much talk about the need to develop rules of the game in international politics, this initiative is buried or still possible to revive it?
— Nothing in international life is not, that is, forgotten forever, all you can revive, it would wish.
Then we really have come a long way. And despite the conflict of August 2008, could rise above these problems. With the European Union. To a certain extent with the United States of America — there was Agreement on the limitation of strategic arms (start-3), dealt with various forms of new agreements on security in Europe. We entered the “Partnership for modernization” with a dozen countries.
I don’t think this situation will be eternal. I think the realization that friends is still better than endlessly explain what’s not right, he comes to our neighbors from Europe.
I hope that in the United States of America, their leaders, eventually also this kind of realization will come. So the door is not closed. Especially that we didn’t start the sanctions campaign, any kind of restriction, expulsion of diplomats, the imposition of economic measures. In this sense, the ball that is called is always on their side, they can have some to make moves that would indicate the desire to restore the relationship. We are ready for it.
— Speaking of Georgia, recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia permanently closed the possibility of rebuilding relations with the party? Because for them it is a stumbling block.
— I think that this is not an issue that forever shaped the nature of relations between Russia and Georgia. I remind you, there is now another government. And speaking of career Saakashvili, it is, in all probability, in Georgia completed, which I think is very good for Georgia. And with the new leadership (regardless even of how their names, what their party affiliation), we are ready to build relationships. Diplomatic relations can be restored, we are not destroyed. If the Georgian colleagues are ready to restore them, we naturally will not object.
In recent years there has been a significant intensification of trade-economic cooperation, tourism communication, planes fly, people come to Georgia to relax. Overall, everything is definitely a plus. Ultimately, I hope this will contribute to the normalization of political contacts, and resume full-fledged dialogue between Moscow and Tbilisi.
Interview by Vladimir Solovyov