Gorbachev gives the lie to Western claims about South Ossetia

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I wrote a blurb on the Georgia-Russia struggle on my blog. But I wanted to add a blurb here from Mikhail Gorbachev’s Op-Ed in today’s Washington Post. His viewpoint stands in great contrast to the punderati of Washington. Framed in a real understanding of Russia, Gorbachev speaks a truth that no one in Washington is hearing.

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The past week’s events in South Ossetia are bound to shock and pain anyone. Already, thousands of people have died, tens of thousands have been turned into refugees, and towns and villages lie in ruins. Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning to all.

The roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia’s separatist leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy. This turned out to be a time bomb for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Each time successive Georgian leaders tried to impose their will by force — both in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, where the issues of autonomy are similar — it only made the situation worse. New wounds aggravated old injuries.

Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution. For some time, relative calm was maintained in South Ossetia. The peacekeeping force composed of Russians, Georgians and Ossetians fulfilled its mission, and ordinary Ossetians and Georgians, who live close to each other, found at least some common ground.

Through all these years, Russia has continued to recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity. Clearly, the only way to solve the South Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means. Indeed, in a civilized world, there is no other way.

The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.

What happened on the night of Aug. 7 is beyond comprehension. The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas. Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against “small, defenseless Georgia” is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity.

Mounting a military assault against innocents was a reckless decision whose tragic consequences, for thousands of people of different nationalities, are now clear. The Georgian leadership could do this only with the perceived support and encouragement of a much more powerful force. Georgian armed forces were trained by hundreds of U.S. instructors, and its sophisticated military equipment was bought in a number of countries. This, coupled with the promise of NATO membership, emboldened Georgian leaders into thinking that they could get away with a “blitzkrieg” in South Ossetia.

– Mikhail Gorbachev, Washington Post, A Path to Peace in the Caucasus

Please read the post in its entirety on the Post website.

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