Mikhail Delyagin on the Leassons of the War in South Ossetia

Briefing the media in Moscow the deputy head of the Institute of Globalization Studies Mikhail Delyagin analyzed the political and economic situation in South Ossetia in the immediate wake of the recent Georgian aggression there. He also outlined his vision of Russian and Western reaction to the problem.

I’m absolutely sure that no one gave the Georgian President Saakashvili any direct order to fire his big guns at peaceful civilians on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics, Mikhail said. This is not the way Americans do business. They prefer setting out the goals and then give you the free hand to attain these goals. Saakashvili was armed and promised impunity which is what I see as an open endorsement of genocide but not its organization, Delyagin said.

Russia showed its weakness during this conflict. First, even though the Georgians were making no secret of their military preparation, the attack came as a complete surprise. Second, Russia suffered a crushing defeat in the global information war. Our media was caught flat-footed by what happened and we failed to make our stand crystal clear to everyone… As a result, instead of showing us as defenders of our citizens against genocide we projected a totally different image to the West of some totalitarian monster suddenly deciding to trample underfoot the young Georgian democracy…

And, thirdly, our response was inadmissibly slow, weak and incomplete. Our leaders failed to officially declare the goals of this war that would effectively rule out a repetition of what happened in South Ossetia.

You want my opinion, I believe that, for starters, we should speak loud and clear about the genocide of our citizens. And then set out five simple conditions:

First, Georgia as a state must be declared an aggressor. Second, all those responsible for that genocide must be arrested and tried. Third, Georgia must fully compensate the material and moral damage it inflicted on South Ossetia and Russia. Fourth, Georgia, as an aggressor, must be demilitarized, that is effectively prevented from having armed forces of its own because it used them as an instrument of genocide. And fifth, the Russian leaders must recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. For the simple reason that the Georgian leadership does not see them as part of their country’s territory for no one in his right mind would deliberately destroy part of its own territory, like the Georgians did! We should also destroy all their infrastructure, above all the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, simply because it gives the Georgian leaders money to kill people on the territories of other countries. Therefore, the pipeline should be seen as an instrument of financing international terrorism. And if the international community, including the US, is really against terror they must fully endorse such an initiative…

It’s too late now to make such an ultimatum of course but we could present all this as our negotiating position so that the West compensates its rejection of any of these provisions by making concessions elsewhere….

What is also very important here is the changing balance of force between Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev who is now acting as a real, not fictitious, leader holding talks and making decisions, while Putin is managing the economy.

Which means that Medvedev now has a chance to take the place in big politics that was previously held by Putin.

As a result of what happened, Russia’s has tactically firmed up its position in the Caucasus where people traditionally have respect for power. Strategically, however, we’ve been weakened because we let ourselves be portrayed as the culprits, showed weakness and boosted Georgia’s bid to join NATO. Which means that this genocide of our people could happen again. At this particular point in time, though, Russia has passed the “statehood test” defending its citizens even though only partially and extremely belatedly too. And, most importantly, we are lagging behind the developed nations and now China too in the so-called “management technologies”.

The South Osstinan infrastructure in is tatters and must be restored, modernized and protected. But if Russia had allowed a complete massacre of its nationals there then it would have lost its very reason to continue as an independent state. With a global crisis now looming high this will help us attract foreign investments into this country….

[Source: The Voice of Russia, Moscow, 25Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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