Leaders debate Georgian War and Russian Relations
On September 1, the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) held a debate entitled "The war in Georgia and relations with Russia: What happened and what now?" in Brussels, Belgium just before an emergency European Summit began. This debate was intended to give the European audience an opportunity to ask questions of leading people on the issue. The five panelists were: Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish Foreign Minister; Matthew, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs; Temuri Yakobashvili, Georgian Minister for Reintegration; Vladimir Chizov, Russian Ambassador to the European Union; and Eckart Von Klaeden, Foreign Policy Spokesman of the CDU/CSU in the German Bundestag. The debate was moderated by Ronald Asmus, Executive Director of the Transatlantic Center and Strategic Planning at GMF.
The debate began with each panellist being asked a question by the moderator. Minster Yakobashvili, asked about the origins of the conflict, said he had seen the conflict coming for a long time, but that Georgia only intervened when the situation on the ground had become intolerable and they were informed that Russian forces and armour were moving into Georgia through the Roki tunnel. "All indications including a military buildup show that this war was very well prepared," he said.
Sikorski and Byrza both acknowledged the rising tension but insisted that Georgia had made a mistake in responding militarily. "I personally told Georgian officials: 'You are being provoked. Be careful, because if you do allow yourselves to be provoked, you'll not find much real support," said Sikorski. Bryza said the U.S. cautioned against getting into a war with Russia. "There is no military solution to this conflict, this is an unwinnable battle," he said. Chizhov denied that Russia had been planning this conflict, and instead said they had tried to resolve it diplomatically following all international rules. "The use of force was minimal in the circumstances," said Chizhov.
Looking forward Sikorski raised that another Cold War was not out of the realm of possible scenarios "This has implications that go far beyond the caucuses. We have reached a cusp of history. If we do enter a new cold war, I have no doubt who will win," he said. Chizhov challenged the assertion of a new cold war saying the ideological differences which were the base of that time in history were no longer there. "The debate over a Second Cold War is misplaced," he said. "With the original Cold War, there was a clash of ideologies more than anything else. Von Klaeden emphasized that Russia's occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia had broken international law and that such actions need to have "consequences" or else "law had no meaning anymore." Sikorski and von Klaeden both stressed that if Europe does not take a united action against Russia, it will not work. Sikorski went further to say that credibility of the European Union is at stake here.