Vienna, October 1 – Many in Moscow are celebrating the conclusion of the European Union’s commission that Georgia rather than Russia bears primary responsibility for the start of the August 2008 war as a vindication of the Russian government’s insistence then and now that it only responded to “Georgian aggression.”
But Andrey Illarionov, a former advisor to the Russian president who now heads the Moscow Institute of Economic Analysis, warns on his blog that the European Union “in essence is supporting the aggressor, by justifying the intervention that took place and offering quasi-legal support both for that aggression and future acts of aggression which alas are not excluded.”
The outspoken researcher says that his “first impression” of the document is that “this is a scandal.” The EU commission, he points out, is “a commission of investigators not of judges.” It is “not a tribunal” and its conclusions “are not a verdict but can serve as the basis for a verdict,” something Moscow has been prompt to suggest (aillarionov.livejournal.com/118326.html).
Illarionov continues that the report itself contains “many true observations and conclusions and also new materials” gathered on the basis of responses from officials in Moscow, Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Sukhumi, and it pointedly calls “many of the actions of the Russian powers that be and Russian forces illegal.”
But he continues, “the significant part of the Report cannot be called anything but scandalous,” and Illarionov offers five arguments to support that contention. First of all, he points out, “the Report to a remarkable extent adopts the version, terminology and chronology of events created (and falsified) by the Russian powers that be.”
Thus, for example, it speaks of “the five-day war” and says that “the war began with the shelling of Tskhinvali by Georgian forces,” thereby “ignoring “the colossal amount of publically available information which refutes that version, chronology and terminology.” Despite having “all these materials” in its possession, the Commission “nevertheless preferred the falsified ones.”
Second, the Commission “in fact ignored practically all the data about the penetration into the territory of Georgia and the location there long before the evening of August 7th of mercenaries from Russia and regular Russian forces.” The Commission had access to information on this point but apparently did not consider it relevant.
Third, Illarionov continues, the Report “did not recognize Georgia’s right to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by military means” against “aggression from abroad.” Instead, it “recognized as “legally based … the central part of the Russian official version [that Moscow acted to defend] Russian citizens and peacekeepers on the territory of Georgia.”
Fourth, “to the extent that the Report acknowledges as illegal the actions of Russian forces only when they occurred beyond the borders of South Ossetia, it in this way de facto recognizes the legality of the actions of Russian forces throughout South Ossetia … and thus the legality of the crossing of the international Russian-Georgian forces by Russian forces.”
And fifth – and this is the most serious danger that arises from the European Union report, Illarionov argues – “the Report in essence supports the aggressor, justifying the intervention that took place” when Russia invaded Georgian territory and thus offering a “legal” justification for “future acts of aggression which, alas, are not excluded.”
In this respect, Illarionov concludes, “the report of the European Commission [released today] represents a new edition of the 1938 Munich Pact which in the name of the European great powers denied to Czechoslovakia its right to defend itself against local bandits who were supported and inspired by a neighbor and aggressor,” Nazi Germany.
That was not the only victory Moscow appears to have won in Europe today. Despite the expectations of some, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe did not vote to deny Russia the right to participate in its sessions because of Moscow’s repeated refusal to live up to its commitments to that body.
As a result of both the report and that decision, some Moscow commentators are calling all this “a Russian triumph” (www.chaskor.ru/p.php?id=10871), while others are concerned that this “euphoria arising out of a sense of being beyond punishment” may open the way to more tragedies ahead (www.kasparov.ru/material.php?id=4AC467141C71A).