Condoleezza Rice, former US Secretary of State serving between 2005 and 2009, published an article in The Washington Post last week in connection with the 10th anniversary of August 2008 Georgia-Russia War.
Condoleezza Rice: Don’t Say America Didn’t Respond
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 13
Rice writes that those in the George Bush administration did recognize the looming danger of Russian military action in Georgia in 2008.
“Beginning in the spring of 2008, the United States and Germany tried to negotiate a de-escalation of the growing tensions in the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The effort would have physically separated Russian peacekeepers from the Georgians and established much-needed “rules of the road” in how they operated. (There should never have been Russian peacekeepers in these breakaway regions, to begin with — but that is another story),” Rice says.
Rice claims that she told ex-Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili “privately” that the Russians would try to provoke him and that, given the circumstances on the ground; he could not count on a military response from NATO.
“I did not blame him for the crisis — and I still do not. This was simply a statement of fact in an attempt to temper the actions of the Georgians, whose passions were understandably inflamed,” Rice said.
Former US Secretary of State says that there was a threat to Tbilisi during the military hostilities.
“In a phone conversation days into the crisis, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told me there were three conditions for ending the war. First, the Georgians should sign a “no-use-of-force pledge” in the breakaway regions. Second, the Georgian forces had to return to their barracks. These were acceptable to the Georgian government and its allies. However, the third condition, which he said was “just between us,” shocked me. “Misha Saakashvili has to go.”
Rice said it was with the interference of the US that Georgia’s democracy survived.
“The United States is sometimes constrained in what it can do in the circumstances such as the Georgian conflict. We focused our energies on stopping Moscow from overthrowing a new democracy that then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hated with a virulence that is hard to overstate. America and its allies raised $1 billion in aid for the Georgians. Sanctions levied on the separatist regions remain largely in place, so Moscow foots the bill for its adventurism in territory that is difficult to develop economically.”
She says that the US could not deter Moscow in this case.
“But we did act, and Georgia survived. It is still a sad story — and perhaps Putin did take the wrong lessons from it. To deter him in the future, however, we need to first get the facts right about the past,” Rice says.
The conflict in 2008 resulted in hundreds of casualties, displaced thousands of civilians from their homes and marked the start of the devastating occupation of 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.