#39 - JRL 2009-147 - JRL Home
RIA Novosti
August 5, 2009
On South Ossetia
Sergei Markov, State Duma deputy and director of the Institute of Political Studies ­ August 5, 2009

On the closure of the border between South Ossetia and Georgia

“I would like to mention several points on this. First, the border between South Ossetia and Georgia was closed because of the escalating provocations and shelling by Georgia. There are apprehensions that Mikheil Saakashvili may resort to some abrupt moves on the eve of the conflict’s anniversary in order to dominate the international media. This is the main goal.

“Saakashvili may also try to escalate tensions in the district which Georgians call Akhalgori, and South Ossetians call Lenogori. Before the conflict, this district was controlled by Tbilisi, and inhabited by ethnic Georgians who fled from it during the hostilities a year ago. Western politicians have made repeated requests to Moscow to return control over this region to Tbilisi. Saakashvili is using the region’s proximity to Tbilisi for fanning the flames of the myth about the Russian military threat, thus scaring the Western public. But for him a provocation in this region is primarily an opportunity to consolidate the Georgian public, and to win the support of the domestic opposition, all the more so since it is easier to do this as the latter has become enfeebled.”

- About the anniversary of the conflict

“Now we are again going to witness information wars over the interpretation of the last August’s events. We remember that a real war flared up in the media a year ago. I am not talking about the Georgian media. During this war, war criminal Saakashvili was being misrepresented, and Russia’s view was being ignored for two months running. In fact, the aggression as such was being ignored, as well as the losses sustained by South Ossetians and Russian peacekeepers. They were all totally neglected.

“Since then the media have changed their tune. Western public opinion admitted that Saakashvili is primarily to blame for the war in South Ossetia, and acknowledged his numerous wrongdoings. But it prefers to qualify them as political mistakes, even huge political mistakes but not as war crimes.

“Despite this acknowledgement, justification of the Russian position took place in silence. In other words, the Western media prefer not to mention Russia in conjunction with the conflict, while tacitly admitting that it was right.

“In addition, Western countries’ accountability for the war in South Ossetia is not recognized altogether. Politically, the West, primarily NATO, supports Saakashvili, and this support made him confident in the success of his military venture. Moreover, during the war preparations and onset of combat, high-ranking officials in Washington did not answer their telephone calls although they must have been in the office at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. Moscow time. Our officials in the foreign and defense ministries made an announcement, but Washington was silent, apparently having given its consent. All this is being ignored. U.S. Congress did not make any inquiry into the conduct of Vice President Dick Cheney or presidential nominee John McCain during the start of the war.

“Furthermore, Georgian troops were equipped with NATO weapons, and trained in line with NATO standards. However, the West does not want to admit its responsibility for its role in the conflict up to this day. To repeat, the West is still trying to qualify Saakashvili’s actions as political blunders rather than war crimes.

“These are the main points in the battle of interpretations of what happened in South Ossetia. This battle is very important because future political decisions will be made proceeding from how one interprets the past. For instance, the understanding that Saakashvili’s actions were crude political mistakes rather than war crimes has made it possible to reequip this war criminal’s army, which can now be used against South Ossetia, or the domestic opposition at any moment.”

- On future developments

“I think now the situation will be more or less frozen. The majority of Western politicians agreed that the developments in South Ossetia and Abkhazia follow the same scenario as in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. One side of Cyprus has been recognized internationally, and is a subject of close cooperation ­ but the other one is not. Likewise, citizens [of South Ossetia and Abkhazia] will travel all over the world with Russian passports. However, as distinct from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, we still have to do much to achieve what it has done. Its president speaks at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), and it has permanent representatives at PACE and the Council of Europe, whereas representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not allowed anywhere, and we still have to work hard for these republics to receive at least the status of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

“Saakashvili may resort to military provocations but not with the aim of seizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He understands that this is impossible. His goal will be to influence the outcome of political struggle at home. I don’t think he will last till the next presidential term. He is likely to be overthrown. It appears that this will be done by force unless Americans act as mediators in the transfer of power from him to the opposition. In the meantime, South Ossetia and Abkhazia will continue consolidating their statehood, and developing their ties with Russia. Here the situation is more or less predictable.”

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