World
Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey

August 2008: Five Years since the Five Day War

Wars are launched for objective reasons. A rare exception is a will of the leader of the state, not entirely adequate, like Saakashvili, who five years ago launched a war against Russia. The people of Georgia assessed his achievements by leaving him without power. At the request of Pravda.Ru Russian experts assessed the consequences of the events of August of 2008.

Igor Korotchenko, National Defense Chief Editor:

On August 8, 2008, five years ago, Georgia attacked South Ossetia. Has the assessment of the events changed since then?

"There are no grounds to reconsider all the decisions and statements that the Russian leadership made five years ago. Russian peacekeepers have been the victim of unprovoked aggression on the part of Georgia, and in order to protect their lives and prevent mass genocide of the Ossetian population, Russia was forced to respond to the actions of the Georgian side and carry out an operation to force Georgia to peace. Our actions were completely legitimate, reasonable, and consistent with the international law. Naturally, further development was the recognition of the state independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
There have been similar cases, take, for example, the situation in the Balkans. Therefore we have to consider the existing realities, and they are such that the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic today has three independent formations: Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia."

How did the situation affect the government of Georgia?
"We see that the Georgian people are disillusioned with President Saakashvili and his reckless policies. Georgia is a country where by and large people live a tough life, and the elite, at least, when Saakashvili was in power, was irresponsible with regard to the interests and aspirations of their own people. We see the results of the recent parliamentary elections that showed that the opposition won a vote of confidence and it is obvious that a political collapse is inevitable, it has virtually occurred. But this collapse may result in the prosecution of President Mikhail Saakashvili after he resigns. Obviously, he will be pursued by the Georgian justice, as he will be charged with a number of official, state and war crimes."

Do you think it was it was Russia's victory or rather a defeat of the Russian diplomacy? What do these events mean for Russia?

"If an aggressor attacks, diplomacy is powerless here. We have tried to resolve the issue through diplomatic relations, tried to build good neighborly peaceful contacts with Georgia, but with Saakashvili it was absolutely impossible. In terms of his deceit and duplicity, he acted in the same way as Adolf Hitler. What happened on August 8, 2008 is in many ways reminiscent of the events of June 22, 1941, of course, the scale is different, but the tactics were completely identical between Hitler's Germany and Saakashvili's Georgia.

We say that Russia defended its peacekeepers to prevent genocide of civilians in the North Caucasus, and in principle it is a brilliant military victory. Of course, it is hard to say that there was such a war in the former Soviet Union. But if we are talking purely as professionals, of course, the Russian army defeated Georgia and the Georgian armed forces. They were defeated, despite the many years of training and support from the U.S. and other NATO countries. Georgia was actively armed by everyone, it was prepared to be a sort of an iron fist. And this fist cracked in contact with the Russian army. This is the main lesson, and for many, I think it served as a sobering signal. And of course it has strengthened the international prestige of our country."

  

Mikhail Leontyev, TV host and journalist:
"My opinion has not changed. First, I believe that our military involvement was absolutely necessary. The decision to fulfill the publicly assumed obligations was absolutely right, and nothing else could have been done. Rejecting this would mean the disappearance of Russia as a historical subject.

Second, the geopolitical result formed as a consequence of this situation, unfortunately, the only possible one in that context, is negative for Russia. It means that if before our enemies recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as de facto Russian protectorate, Georgia was not recognized as de facto American protectorate by Russia.
Now de facto our settlement and the so-called improved relations is built virtually on mutual recognition of de facto, not de jure U.S. protectorate of Georgia and Russian protectorate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, with all due respect and love for the Abkhaz and South Ossetian people which I think is mutual, is fiction. Independent states of this size and scale do not exist. So there is one of two things: either it is a pure formality, then this should be treated as such, or it is some form of reality, then this reality is absurd.

And the last thing: If Russia were to make a geopolitical line exclusively in its own interests, with an adequate understanding of its position in the world and in the post-Soviet space, the operation in South Ossetia could and should have been not an operation to force Georgia to peace, but an operation to push Georgia towards territorial unity. However, this territorial unity also includes Russia, because otherwise there cannot be territorial unity of Georgia.

This is exactly an example where the Russian government and Russia as a country has fulfilled its duty and saved itself. But generally, when viewed in a long-term context, the situation is, of course, absolutely unacceptable in almost all respects."

Vladimir Mamontov, Izvestia newspaper President:
"The situation has now become crystal clear, and if we talk in physical terms, its charge changed from positive to negative. If at first Russia looked as an aggressor due to the information warfare, including in the eyes of the international community, now it is clear to our friends and our enemies, and those who would like to know the objective truth that the reckless policy of Saakashvili is to blame. This became clear to the world community not five years later, but much earlier, a year or two after the conflict.
I believe that the diplomatic means, first of all, have been exhausted, and second, let's think whether diplomacy is possible when for whatever reason your counterparty intends to conflict with you, when the entire policy of the country is based on the goal to become a springboard against Russia.

Recently, Medvedev said that we smiled at Saakashvili as long as we could. But when he went against our people and against our peacekeepers in direct aggression, when Tskhinvali was shelled, what kind of diplomacy could we talk about?

This is a very important step for Russia. I do not know who made the decision, there are different interpretations. Whether it was Putin, Medvedev, then president, or both together who made this difficult and important decision, it does not matter. After all, Medvedev said that the president is the one who makes these decisions. There is a lot one can blame on Dmitry Medvedev, but I must say that this was a willful and tough decision to protect the interests of Russia by any means, including the unpopular military response.

It was this small domestic war that showed us and the world that when our interests are affected, the most unpleasant, most non-diplomatic means in order to protect ourselves and to defend the Russian state interests will be used."

Vyacheslav Nikonov, Chairman of the Duma Committee on Education, president of Fund "Politika":

"It was an obvious victory accompanied by complicated diplomatic consequences, but eventually, it allowed Russia to significantly increase its weight in the international arena. Russia was taken very seriously after these events.

This was also an event that led to a decline of authority, and in the end, the fall of the Saakavshili government, which also had a positive effect on the relations between Russia and Georgia, because it cannot be worse than under Saakashvili.
  

Now, of course, this created a situation where Abkhazia and South Ossetia are recognized by Russia as independent states, which would never be recognized by Georgia. But I think that the Georgian authorities should understand that decisions can only be made in line with the establishment of closer relations between Georgia and Russia, Georgia and the CIS, and in this context, problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be solved.

For example, in Europe now no one cares who owns Alsace and Lorraine, for which wars were fought over the centuries, simply because there are no borders. Also, if there are established relations between Georgia and Russia, the CIS and Georgia, no one will care who owns Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whether they are independent or part of some other state.

Konstantin Simonov, Head of Applied Political Science Department  at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation:
"We continue to believe that this was a deliberate aggression of the Georgian army who tried to take advantage of the moment. The logic was simple: to quickly seize South Ossetia and get the recognition of restoration of the territorial integrity of Georgia by the United States and major European countries. It is clear that strategically Georgia could not fight with Russia, they would be knocked out of Tskhinvali. But the idea was simple - to capture the territory and hide behind an international status. Naturally, if the U.S. had said that the integrity of Georgia was restored, it would have been risky to enter the tanks there.

Now Georgia is dismantling its political system. In October the presidential election will be held, and it is clear that Saakashvili has no chance, he already lost the government. Ivanishvili is coming to power under the slogan of removing everything that was associated with Saakashvili. But, nevertheless, he too cannot say that Saakashvili committed aggression. Georgia today has no political force that would suggest parting with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

What changed in the post-Soviet space? The key point is that the collapse of the regime of Saakashvili began on August 8, 2008. He made a strategic mistake and over five years lost everything. He lost his legitimacy, his government, and will soon lose his presidency."

Alexander Khinshtein, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption:

"There have been no changes to the assessment by Russia. There was an attempted invasion against fraternal Ossetia, and Russian peacekeepers have done their job under the terms of signed international agreements.     

As to the assessment by the West, it has changed. The assessment of Georgia has changed, too, because past events have shown that Russia did the right thing in this conflict. It is good to see that today the people of Georgia are reassessing their leaders. The power of Saakashvili who provoked this aggression is over, and the tension that Georgian politicians have tried to create in the relationship between our peoples has gone down. The events in South Ossetia showed the world and the post-Soviet states that Russia has its own strategic interests and intends to defend them, including by force."

Tatiana Barkhatova