Der Spiegel has supposedly obtained confidential documents written by the EU team led by Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini that is investigating the war last summer. There are quite a few interesting little nuggets in Der Spiegel's write-up. Here are a few:
The confidential investigative commission documents, which SPIEGEL has obtained, show that the task of assigning blame for the conflict has been as much of a challenge for the commission members as it has for the international community. However, a majority of members tend to arrive at the assessment that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili started the war by attacking South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. The facts assembled on Tagliavini's desk refute Saakashvili's claim that his country became the innocent victim of "Russian aggression" on that day.
The experts found no evidence to support claims by the Georgian president, which he also mentioned in an interview with SPIEGEL, that a Russian column of 150 tanks had advanced into South Ossetia on the evening of Aug. 7. According to the commission's findings, the Russian army didn't enter South Ossetia until August 8.
But the report apparently doesn't let Russia entirely off the hook. From Hamburg-based international law expert Otto Luchterhandt, another commission member:
Georgia's attack, Luchterhandt argues, constitutes a breach of this agreement, thereby giving Russia the right to intervene. Nevertheless, he writes, the Kremlin, with its overwhelming intervention in western Georgia, can be accused of "violating the principle of proportionality."
And then there's the war crimes accusation:
The commission also cited many serious attacks on Georgian civilians by South Ossetia militias. According to a report for the commission by Swiss legal expert Théo Boutruche, militia members, most of them young men, looted and burned down several villages inhabited by Georgians, beat civilians and murdered more than a dozen Georgians. According to the Hague Convention on Land Warfare, the Russian occupying force was obligated to reestablish public order. But it did almost nothing to prevent the atrocities, which a commission dossier classifies as "war crimes."
Finally, the closer:
But Tagliavini's team won't be questioning any Americans. According to one member of the commission, "our director and the EU apparently lack the courage" to take that step.
While Der Spiegel insists that the leak it has is legitimate, Tagliavini's office denies that it ever had any contact with Der Spiegel on the matter. According to an email exchange between her office and the state-owned Russia Today:
"Spiegel's article is not based on information provided by... Ambassador Tagliavini, or any other authorized sources.... There has been no interview, background briefing or any other way of communication in order to provide information for the article. The report... shall be presented to the EU Council of Ministers by 31 July 2009 and comes under the sole and exclusive responsibility of Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini, and not under the responsibility of the Mission's experts or the majority of its experts."
Now, as we get our knives sharpened and ready, there's just one more thing. Recently shot interviews are up on YouTube now in which Svante Cornell of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute of John Hopkins University, Paul Goble, former State Dept. official and blogger at Window on Eurasia and David Satter of the Hudson Institute speak about motives, tactics and implications in Russia-Georgia relations.
Timothy Post | June 21, 2009 7:35 PM |
...This report must really chap you guys. For ages you've been pushing the line that poor little Georgia was invaded by Russia.
Well..... reality sucks when it explodes your little myths.... eh?
The point that many of us are making is not that Georgia isn't a wonderful country with wonderful people but rather, that Mr. Saakashvili made a monumentally stupid mistake when he unilaterally initiated a military attack on two republics which have had a long and painful relationship with Georgia.
The proper strategy should have been for Mr. Saakashvili to pursue a constructive dialogue with the two republics in an effort to find a mutually agreeable solution. But, unfortunately, he had an impetuous decision to attack on August 8th.
Nobody denies that there were rebels in South Ossetia who used military force against civilians in Georgia proper. These actions of their part are reprehensible and deserved a proper response. However, the proper response was not to start a ground war against everyone in South Ossetia.
We all understand that you guys have a direct mandate to spin this conflict between Russia and Georgia in Georgia's favor. You have your job to do and this report will make it that much harder for you to spin it so as to implicate the Kremlin. The very fact that this report blames Saakashvili even a little is quite amazing considering the vested interests Europe has with Georgia. Nonetheless, blame Saakashvili the report, supposed, does.
The question everyone who is interested in this topic needs to ask is whether at the end of the day Saakashvili's response to sporatic rebel attacks was proportionate. Apparently, you guys behind the anonymous anti-Putin project will now find yourselves with less supporters.
PS: You still have produced no supporting evidence to your radical thesis that Russia's ultimate goal is to take over Georgia in a military attack and throw out Saakashvili. The fact is that had Russia really wanted to topple the Saakashvili government by force and annex Georgia and turn it into the southern-most krai/oblast it would have, and easily could have, done so last August.
The fact that Russia pulled back into South Ossetia and Abkhazia blows a huge hole in your thesis.