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Tagliavini points the finger

By Messenger Staff
Monday, May 3
The conclusion of the Tagliavini fact finding commission's report is a masterpiece of diplomacy. Both the conflicting sides in 2008, Russia and Georgia, observers and anyone else interested can find statements there which they can use to make their own case whilst ignoring other statements. Tagliavini herself has therefore received the utmost praise from everybody because each person could choose to believe that they were in the right based on the report.

On the one hand Tagliavini said that Georgia started the military actions in South Ossetia but she also mentioned that the conflict had actually started long before, citing the distribution of Russian passports to the Georgian population and other facts as examples of a continual Russian provocation. She also concluded that all sides of the conflict should share responsibility for it. The fact that Georgia started the military action is yet another nice present for Russia, but by mentioning the provocations of the Ossetian side, the passportisation of the Georgian population and the general tension in the country caused by inability or absence of will of the Russian peacekeeping forces to control the situation distributes responsibility for the events followed onto both sides.

Tagliavini also mentioned that Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent sovereign states is a violation of international law. She also rejected Russian allegations that Georgia had conducted a genocide of the Ossetian population, and on the contrary confirmed once again that an ethnic cleansing of Georgians had been conducted by Russian servicemen and Ossetian irregulars. But she still maintained that however serious all these accusations might be the military conflict was started by the Georgian Government on the night of August 7 when Tskhinvali was shelled by the Georgian side. Tagliavini stated that allegations by the Georgian side that a considerable number of Russian troops had entered Georgian territory before August 7 had not been proven by the available facts.

Columbia University Professor Lincoln Mitchell suggests that Georgia made a strategic mistake when making its case by saying that it did not start the war. It would have been better to confirm from the very beginning that it had started shooting but this had been forced on it by the threat to the country, he says. Consequently general international opinion now is that Saakashvili and his administration started the actual war, and what led up to it was not, or need not have been, part of the conflict. This has undoubtedly damaged Georgia and Saakashvili in a variety of ways in the eyes of the world.

Another question which the report raises is why Georgia’s leadership was so confident that it would be able to restore constitutional order in the separatist territory and why was it so sure that Russia would not intervene? What gave it grounds to think this? Were Saakashvili and his immediate environment that naive, or what? Did somebody give them guarantees that Russia would not interfere? Some suggest that Georgia might have had guarantees of Western assistance but this is unlikely to be true. Perhaps the whole affair was a mousetrap sprung by the Russians, who promised not to interfere and naturally did not keep their promise, as many people think.