PRAVDA.Ru conducted an interview with Gennady Gudkov, a deputy of the Russian parliament and former counter-intelligence officer.
Question: Mr. Gudkov, what is happening in the Caucasian region? Is there another war coming?
Answer: The major elements of Russian policy in the Caucasus are the relations between Russia and the republic of Georgia. The latter plays a very important role in the relations with the former Caucasian republics (the current independent states) due to its geopolitical situation. I can tell you that the republic of Armenia is now under transportation blockade, taking account of its favorable relations with Russia. It is very hard to say when the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is going to be solved. There is the wish to achieve results, and there is a progress, but it is only a tendency so far.
Speaking about the relations between Russia and Georgia, we have a very serious problem here: President Eduard Shevardnadze. This is a person that works only for himself. He runs his policy on the ground of clan-type interests. This is the basic content of Georgia’s policy. Shevardnadze wants to strengthen his personal power for the sake of his interests, but he can do it only if Georgia does not depend on Russia. This is what Georgia's policy is all about: supporting armed groups in the Pankissky gorge, which is like a game, a countermeasure against Russia's policy in the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia.
Russia’s policy has not been thought out in this respect, for if Russia started to support Abkhazia, then it should have rendered such support until the very end. We signed the Istanbul treaty in 1999, in which we actually acknowledged that Abkhazia was a republic with a separatist regime. Moreover, we claimed that we would never cooperate with Abkhazia on the governmental, financial levels, ect. However, Abkhazia is our true ally on Georgia’s territory. Shevardnadze controls only a half of the country currently; he does not control the republic of South Osetia. The Armenian population of Georgia does not react very well to Shevardnadze’s initiatives, so Georgia’s nine different territories, or counties, are not controlled by the government.
There is Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, there is Tbilisi's policy, and the policies on the territories, which are beyond the control of Tbilisi, are seriously being changed. Shevardnadze is against Russia now, but, at the same time, there was the decision made to prolong the mandate of the Russian forces in Abkhazia. This was not done because of Shevardnadze’s passion for Russia that he suddenly felt. It was simply because of his unstable position: he realizes that if Russian peacemakers leave Abkhazia, then this will lead to another war. He is not ready for such a war. However, if he were ready, then he would immediately demand that Russian peacemakers leave, which would result in another armed conflict.
Why are there the Chechen guerrillas in Georgia? This is a game to counteract Russia on the Chechen issue. This is what originally came from the president and from his administration. Why did the conflict happen in Abkhazia? This is a very simple situation. The USA realized that the policy of double standards was not quite correct after the acts of terrorism in New York and Washington. Speaking frankly, terrorism was born in the USA. The United States supported several terrorist and extremist regimes in the world, and it was the United States that created Osama bin Laden. The double standard of supporting terrorists was becoming less and less favorable for America, so the policy had to be changed. I would not say that the Americans were commanding the republic of Georgia, but it is known that Georgia discusses its every step with the USA. Several top Georgian officials start their day at the American embassy. The ex-speaker of the Georgian parliament had 80 trips to the USA last year.
When the Americans gave up their double standard regarding terrorism, Shevardnadze found himself in a difficult position. On the one hand, there is Russia and the unstable situation in the country, the meetings, strikes. On the other hand, there is pressure from America for Shevardnadze to stop supporting terrorists. He was trying to do the following. He takes to the Chechen gunmen, about which he is informed very well, and orders to them out of the Pankissky Gorge. But where to? There is Abkhazia, in which there are problems that have to be solved. If the Chechen gunmen start to make the situation tense, then it would only be good for the official authorities of Georgia. So the way out is simple. The gunmen are taken out to the border of Abkhazia and aggravate the situation there. Then, if the gunmen are killed, Shevardnadze wins. If the gunmen win, Shevardnadze wins. Either way, he wins. This is a remarkable decision from the point of view of political cynicism. He does good for Americans, because he fights with terrorists, and he creates problems in Abkhazia and possibly in Russia too.
Shevardnadze does his thing, and he does not think about his people. The only thing he needs is to stay in power.
Q: Russia signed a joint treaty with Georgia to fight terrorism and separatism. What political reasons can there be behind this?
A: Russia was running a policy of betrayal in the Caucasian region when Yeltsin was in power. The document, which was signed in Istanbul, was about restrictions of the deployment of armament in Europe, and noone asked Yeltsin to take into account the Georgian issue. The Istanbul treaty, which Yeltsin signed, betrays Russia's interests in that region. Russia's policy is becoming more understandable. Mr. Kvashnin, chief of the Russian Army headquarters, signed a secret telegram about the immediate reduction of the Russian contingent in Tbilisi. As a matter of fact, this contradicted the current policy in the Caucasus. There is the position today, which has been developed by the Russian political authorities, pertaining to the terms of the gradual withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia republic. The word “gradual” means that Russia must provide apartments to its military men, station them on adequate army bases, and create the necessary conditions. It is impossible to withdraw everyone at once. However, Mr. Kvashnin signed a telegram in which it was ordered to withdraw everything and everyone from Tbilisi till July 1. I think that this is the continuation of Yeltsin's policy in the Caucasus.
Let’s look at the social aspect. Pursuant to this agreement, we were supposed to withdraw the military men to Russia, and the questions of dwelling and disposition were left aside. Secondly, we left 1.5 thousand Russian citizens there, people who became the citizens of Russia only because of the fact that they were working for Russian troops. In other words, we are leaving them to the mercy of fate. These people do not have a place to live, no job, no perspective, and they remain Russia's citizens in the alien country. This action will show our attitude to our citizens and the way that we care about them and protect their interests. It seems that Mr. Kvashnin wanted to make a report to the president to convince the president of the need of the reduction. Kvashnin wanted to show that he has everything arranged properly. As a matter of fact, he arranged everything in a very absurd way.
I wrote an inquiry devoted to this subject and sent it to Premier Kasyanov. Kasyanov did not look into the matter and did not commission anyone to do it. I received a reply, in which it was said that my letter was forwarded to the Foreign Ministry. However, I wrote three inquiries: to the Foreign Ministry, to the Defense Ministry, and to the government.
Q: So this territory will no be under America's control, and they will be able to deploy their soldiers there?
A: The Americans are already trying to show their energy in Georgia. Joint Georgian-American military exercises took place last year in Batumy, on territory in which the Russian army bases were located. America’s and NATO’s intentions are obvious.
Q: We know that criminality is always of an international character. Are there any connections between Russian and Georgian criminals?
A: Sure there are, but I do not know if they have enough of a political drive to realize their plans.
Q: What about the Home Ministry or the Federal Security Service?
A: Everybody is now blaming the Federal Security Service. This is not good. We made the FSB fall into pieces, and we weakened its mechanisms, which were working for decades, and now we claim that they are not doing anything now. Of course they can't do anything; they do not have the personnel, the financial means, or the authorities behind, the serious support. In spite of the fact that I treat President Putin in a positive manner, I have to say that the hopes of the special services have not yet come true. The special services do not have many opportunities in our country now.
Q: Do you think that Kvashnin has high-ranking patrons who can support the idea about the withdrawal of the troops?
A: I do not understand Kvashnin either as the chief of the army headquarters or as a Russian officer. How can he make such decisions, decisions that are very close to treason? I would like to look him in the eyes and listen to what he has to say on the manner.
Q: What must Russia do to strengthen its policy in the Caucasus and to prevent a third Caucasian war there?
A: I hope there will not be a war. We have to determine who coordinates Russia's policy in the Caucasus. For the time being, there are several mechanisms of Russian politics in this respect: The Russian Defense Ministry has its own activities, the Foreign Ministry has different activities, but the Defense Ministry has something different. There is not anything to unite and develop Russia’s policy. I do not positive tendencies so far. Vice Premier Ilya Klebanov is in charge of this issue, so let him answer why we made such decisions. If Mr. Klebanov knows what is going on, then let him tell everybody about it.
Gennady Gudkov was interviewed by Ilya Tarasov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov