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Interview: 'Many Georgians Expected The West Would Intervene'

August 12, 2008

For the sixth time in a week, the UN Security Council on August 12 is scheduled to hear a debate on the military conflict between Georgia, Russia, and Russian-backed separatists over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. David Kakabadze, the director of RFE/RL's Georgian Service, spoke to the top Georgian representative in the prolonged and highly contentious talks, UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania.

RFE/RL: On August 11, a draft resolution was presented to the Security Council. How likely is it that it will be adopted?

Irakli Alasania: The Georgian side supports this draft. I can also say that, apart from the Western representatives at the Security Council, there were also others who expressed their support both for Georgia's position in general, and for this draft. Everyone asserted unequivocally that it was necessary to stop the fighting and resume negotiations. The Russian side was completely isolated during this meeting and the consultations. Unfortunately, Russia, as a permanent member, can veto this resolution at any time.

RFE/RL: So is there any reason to expect the resolution will go through?

Alasania: I think there's a chance, depending on whether the ongoing consultations will succeed in convincing Russia to agree to several points. But the Security Council represents one of the main arenas of international diplomacy. It's a place where the consultations themselves -- and the threat of tainting your reputation -- is sometimes seen as even more important than the adoption of a concrete document. So if Russia chooses to further isolate itself, and vetoes this document, this in itself will be a diplomatic achievement for us. It will be perfectly clear what kind of militaristic aims and what kind of intentions Russia had when it launched its intervention into Georgia.

RFE/RL: Are there any other steps under consideration?

Alasania: If negotiations in the Security Council become deadlocked, I don't exclude the possibility that Georgia will continue its diplomatic confrontation with Russia at the UN General Assembly [in September].

RFE/RL: On [August 11], U.S. President George W. Bush had unusually strong words for Russia, warning against an escalation of the crisis and suggesting that Moscow sought to unseat Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Some observers are saying that the statement was effective; others argue that Bush didn’t address what concrete consequences Russia might face if it failed to scale back its military actions. What do you think of Bush's statement?

Alasania: I think the statement was quite sharp, and it has already had an effect on the course of developments -- Russia today announced it was ceasing its so-called "peace-enforcing operation." When it comes to high-level relations between superstates, those words were sufficient to get the message across.

I think the United States and Europe clearly saw the danger created by the Russian Federation's actions. This danger threatens not only Georgia, but the entire region. You're well aware that it's the subjugation of the entire regions that's at stake here. The end result could be that the region becomes servile in determining its foreign policy priorities.

RFE/RL: This is what the Georgian side asserts.

Alasania: Not only. This perspective emerged very clearly during yesterday’s consultations at the Security Council. Britain, the U.S., France, Italy -- players who have significant influence on the international stage -- very clearly see the risk to modern international order in our region. It was noted that Russia is returning the world to the confrontational mentality of the Cold War.

However, I also understand the disappointment that many of our citizens feel at the lack of tangible support from the West. That includes military support -- I know that many Georgians expected the West would intervene. I think we should take this into consideration. From now on, any policy decision we make must be carefully thought through, with a cool head. Only then will we be able to really achieve the Georgian government's goals. We should never raise the expectations of the Georgian people -- or our own expectations -- too high, by thinking that the West is going to intervene militarily to resolve this conflict.

 

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org



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