President made his statement

The recent interview with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was a remarkable one from several points of view.

The President sent a clear message to both Russian citizens and foreign countries. In this article we will try to analyze the President’s statement in details.

On Saakashvili: “I wouldn’t shake hands with him”

Answering questions from Georgian journalists, President Medvedev said that there will be no dialogue with the present-day Georgian authorities. He declared President Saakashvili responsible for deaths of hundreds of Russian soldiers, including peacekeepers. That’s Saakashvili, who is the only one responsible for August 2008 war. Medvedev thus dissociated himself with accusations that the USA forced Georgia to start a war with Russia. However, he believes that Saakashvili could have misunderstood something in the US position. When asked whether the United States was deliberately encouraging
Georgia to pursue a conflict, Medvedev answered: “No, I don’t think so. The United States is a very large country, headed by pragmatic people. But in politics, connotations and nuances are very important. (…) As it is, I don’t believe the Americans had urged Georgia’s president to invade. But I do believe that there were certain subtleties and certain hints made - statements like “It’s time to restore constitutional order,” or “It’s time to be more assertive,” -
 which could effectively feed Saakashvili’s apparent hopes that the Americans would back him in any conflict, that they would stand up for Georgia and even go to war with the Russians.”


On the decision to interfere: “I convened the Security Council and explained why I ordered to start a military operation”

 It’s quite evident that in this interview Dmitry Medvedev was trying
 to underline that it was he who made all decisions. Being
 commander-in-chief he ordered to start an operation without consulting
 Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev always says “I” and never “we”
 in order to dissociate himself from Putin, to show that he is a
 self-sufficient politician. With the presidential elections upcoming
 this is quite understandable.

 On the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan: “The plan is fulfilled 100 per cent”

 Russia won’t retreat from Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan has already been fulfilled. Answering the question, why the plan is not going to be fulfilled by the Russian party, President Medvedev underlined that the Russian forces won’t retreat, no matter whether European partners are satisfied with such a decision or not. “In spite of all the criticism we won’t withdraw our forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Medvedev said. The conflict itself no longer seems interesting for the international community: “The issue is no longer on the agenda. We simply do not discuss it with our partners in Europe.” At the same time the President didn’t comment on the leak, according to which the US Central Investigation Agency proved that Russia is responsible for recent terrorist attacks in Georgia, including one on the US Embassy.

 On the Nagorno-Karabakh: “Better to conduct endless negotiations than to start a war”

 “We realised it was better to conduct seemingly endless negotiations on what will happen to Nagorno-Karabakh, whether the region will ever have a referendum and what the peace treaty would look like than go through five days of war,” this statement was criticized vehemently by Azerbaijani experts. Some of them have even said that Russian President is no longer trying to look as a peacekeeper.
On the one hand, it’s clear that the Russian President is trying to preserve the status quo. It may seem that he is trying to the parties from starting a new war. At the same time all these remarks about “endless negotiations”, in such a case, would look strange.
On the other hand, it’s clear that Russia would have to intervene if a conflict eventually starts. In such a case, Russia’s image would be badly damaged, as happened during the August 2008 war with Georgia. In fact, interference in such conflict as that in Nagorno-Karabakh would be even more dangerous for Russia’s position in the international community. In such a case Russia would have an even more dubious argument than it had in August 2008. If Russia recognized Nagorno-Karabakh as Armenian territory and interfered as a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, it would raise an immediate international outcry and the country’s reputation would be completely ruined.
After Russia lost such a valuable regional partner as Georgia, it would be disastrous to lose such a partner as Azerbaijan, a country with which Russia has established successful economic, political and cultural cooperation. That is why Russia is not going to support one of the parties: the country is not ready to cancel its relations with another one.
However, Russia is not interested in maintaining the status quo either. The question is how to settled the conflict and increase the country’s influence on the region. Before the Russian authorities manage to find the answer, they prefer to keep waiting.

 Orkhan Satarov, the head of the European Office of the Vestnik Kavkaza news agency

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