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WSJ: Tbilisi Started '08 War, but Moscow Also at Fault, EU Finds

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  • Norbert Strade
    The Wall Street Journal Tbilisi Started 08 War, but Moscow Also at Fault, EU Finds By MARC CHAMPION BRUSSELS -- Both Russia and Georgia claimed vindication
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2009
      The Wall Street Journal

      Tbilisi Started '08 War, but Moscow Also at Fault, EU Finds


      BRUSSELS -- Both Russia and Georgia claimed vindication Wednesday after
      a nine-month European Union investigation into last year's war in the
      Caucasus found that Tbilisi triggered the conflict, but that Moscow
      acted illegally in the extent of its invasion of Georgia and allowed
      "ethnic cleansing."

      The roughly 1,000-page report, released on Wednesday by Swiss diplomat
      Heidi Tagliavini, found no evidence to support Russian claims Georgia
      committed genocide the night of Aug. 7-8, 2008.

      The conflict, which briefly brought the U.S. and Russia into Cold
      War-style confrontation, left hundreds of people dead and 35,000
      displaced, and severely weakened Europe's security agreements. Russian
      forces remain in occupation of two Georgian territories, Abkhazia and
      South Ossetia. Moscow has recognized them as independent states.

      Ms. Tagliavini's conclusions were nervously awaited by both sides, each
      of which has brought lawsuits against the other in international courts.

      While the report attacked Russia's efforts to enforce a sphere of
      influence among its ex-Soviet neighbors, the finding that Georgia shot
      first could undermine Tbilisi's push to join Western institutions such
      as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the EU.

      The hostilities themselves were the "culmination" of a long series of
      events, and neither side could be held solely responsible for the
      conflict, the report said.

      It appeared to criticize U.S. policy, noting that the U.S., Ukraine and
      Israel supplied large-scale economic and military aid to Georgia that
      allowed the country to double its military within a few years.

      Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to the EU, welcomed the report as
      "unequivocal confirmation of who started the war -- it was Georgia."The
      report said Georgia didn't act in response to a Russian invasion, as it
      has claimed. Russia's initial intervention in South Ossetia on Aug. 8
      was justified because its peacekeepers were being killed, the report said.

      South Ossetia and Abkhazia sought to break away from Georgia in the
      early 1990s as the Soviet Union collapsed, resulting in brutal wars.
      Ceasefire agreements left Russian peacekeepers in effective control of
      both territories, a situation that the report said became increasingly
      untenable as relations between Moscow and Tbilisi became openly hostile.

      "Almost all of the facts in the report do confirm the Georgian version
      of events," said Eka Tkeshelashvili, secretary of Georgia's National
      Security Council. She challenged the finding that Georgia shot first as
      mistaken "analysis," noting that the report confirmed that units of
      Russian regular troops, mercenaries and volunteers -- who, unlike the
      peacekeepers, had no right to be there -- entered Georgian territory
      before Aug. 7.

      "Under international law, what else can be considered an invasion?" Ms.
      Tkeshalashvili said in a conference call with reporters, adding that
      size isn't a determining factor. "Do we have to have [Russia Prime
      Minister Vladimir] Putin to go on air and announce that 'we are ordering
      our forces to invade Georgia?'"

      In a statement, Ms. Tagliavini was blunt. "In the Mission's view, it was
      Georgia which triggered off the war when it attacked Tskhinvali with
      heavy artillery on the night of 7 to 8 August 2008. ...In particular,
      there was no massive Russian military invasion under way," she said.
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      Ms. Tagliavini criticized Russian actions, including the mass conferral
      of Russian passports on Abkhazians and South Ossetians before the war;
      the widespread invasion of Georgia beyond South Ossetia; and the failure
      to prevent South Ossetian militia from committing atrocities.

      The report found that "ethnic cleansing was indeed practiced against
      ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia both during the war and after the
      August 2008 conflict." It said Russian forces either "would not or could
      not" control the South Ossetian militias.

      The EU report backed the positions of the EU and the U.S. that Abkhazia
      and South Ossetia have no right to secede.


      The EU argumentation is as outrageous as always. This time they wiped
      the central issue under the carpet - the fact that both Abkhazia and
      "South Ossetia", which, all other things equal, still are
      internationally recognized parts of *Georgia*, were conquered by Russia
      under the pretext of "liberating" them from the Georgian central
      government and subsequently have been occupied by Russia for almost 2
      decades now. They are also ignoring the fact that the mentioned
      aggression included large-scale ethnic cleansing, which e.g. in Abkhazia
      led to the killing and exile of more than half of the local population.
      From the point of view of international law, Georgia has all the rights
      to try and expel the aggressor from its territory - especially after the
      so-called international community made no attempt to solve the conflict
      and to restore Georgia's territorial integrity and the rights of the
      majority of the population in those areas. The legitimate grievances of
      the ethnic Abkhaz are an issue between them and Georgia and absolutely
      not between any of them and Russia, while "South Ossetia" is an entirely
      artificial entity established in Soviet times in order to divide and
      rule. Also, one can discuss Mr. Saakashvili's intelligence and abilities
      as a military leader, but his standpoint is certainly legitimate. And
      the EU is going totally schizophrenic by a) denying Abkhazia's and
      "South Ossetia's" right to secede and b) censoring Georgia for trying to
      end the secession (which actually is no secession at all but a Russian
      occupation, see above).
      With the EU now once again blaming the victim of a Russian aggression,
      the road is open for more of the same kind. I would like to look into
      the heads of the geniuses who each time come to the result that this
      approach is in the national interest of the EU countries. N.S.
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