Russian Aggression in Georgia Condemned by the Council of Europe
Much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense. This holds true for all kinds of massive and extended military action ranging from the bombing of the upper Kodori Valley to the deployment of armored units to reach extensive parts of Georgia, to the setting up of military positions in and nearby major Georgian towns as well as to control major highways, and to the deployment of navy units on the Black Sea. Furthermore, continued destruction (by Russia) which came after the ceasefire agreement was not justifiable by any means.
In other words, Russia did to Georgia exactly what it claimed Georgia did to Ossetia, validating Georgia’s actions even assuming they constituted aggression and reducing the entire matter to a question of might makes right.
But that’s only the beginning the Council’s analysis of the war. After that come a relentless series of denunciations of the Putin regime for wantonly violating both international law and the Council’s own requirements for member states.
The report also rejects Russia’s claim that Georgia committed any acts of genocide, as Russia has openly accused it of doing, but concludes that Russia did support ethnic cleansing of Georgians. It condemns Russia for preparing the ground for war to break out, in other words baiting and provoking Georgia into a trap designed to achieve imperialist conquest, by failing to stop military attacks, distributing passports and building up Russia’s military presence.
Most importantly, the report condemns Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and Ossetia as illegal, a violation of international law and a clear indication that Russia was not acting in a merely defensive posture, and it condemns Russia’s annexation of Abkhazia, where no military conflict had erupted, as flagrantly illegal.
Unsurprisingly, it acknowledges that the war would not have occurred without Georgia’s assault on the Ossetian town of Tskhinvali with heavy artillery, giving Russia exactly the excuse it wanted, and indeed hoped for, in order to assault Georgia. It also acknowledges, however, that Georgia was being attacked from Ossetia and had a right to respond. It concludes, however, that since Georgia was not being hit with heavy artillery it should not have responded with heavy artillery, and since the number of Russian troops moving into Georgia before the attack on Tskhinvali was small, Georgia should not have responded with a large expeditionary force.
The Council also released its report on the aftermath of the war. That scathing report states:
The Monitoring Committee deplores the fact that, one year after the tragic outbreak of the war between Georgia and Russia, little tangible progress has been achieved in addressing the consequences of this war, and that, in several areas, the situation has actually regressed. While Georgia has complied with most, albeit not all, demands of the Assembly, Russia has not complied with most of the key demands placed upon it. The Assembly condemns Russia and the de facto authorities of South Ossetia for not having brought resolutely to a halt and seriously investigated the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Georgians that by all accounts took place in South Ossetia during and after the war and for not having brought the perpetrators to justice. It recalls that, under international law, Russia bears responsibility for violations of human rights and humanitarian law in those areas that fall under its de facto control.
In other words, Russia not only flouted international law when it responded to Georgia, but it did so throughout the aftermath of the conflict. Simultaneously, the Council found Russia guilty of stonewalling access to its conquered territories in Abkhazia and Ossetia.
So let’s recap:
The Council condemns Russia for:
1. Violating international law by invading Abkhazia (where there was no conflict).
2. Violating international law by invading Georgia (including mass killings of civilians).
3. Violating international law by recognizing Abkhazia and Ossetia.
4. Violating international law by supporting ethnic cleansing of Georgians.
5. Lying about ethnic cleansing by Georgians.
6. Provoking Georgia by failing to curb attacks on it and issuing passports to Ossetians illegally, encouraging them to revolt.
7. Violating a written cease-fire agreement by continuing to attack Georgians under a white flag.
8. Flouting the Council’s post war demands regarding access to the disputed territories and post-war conduct, with which Georgia is in substantial compliance.
By contrast Georgia’s only fault according to the Council was in responding with heavy artillery when it had not been attacked by heavy artillery and by moving troops into Ossetia faster than the Russians did. Talk about praising with faint damns! In essence, Georgia’s only fault according to the Council was walking into Putin’s trap.
Suppose, just suppose, that some other country (let’s say America) had taken the seven steps that the COE found Russia guilty of in regard to some part of Russia what wanted to leave, like, let’s say, Dagestan, Chechnya or Ingushetia. What would Russia say about that? Your answer tells you all you need to know about who was at fault in the August 2008 war.
There’s really nothing new in this report, but the repeated condemnation of G-8 member Russia for flagrant and repeated violations of international law as it bludgeoned a tiny and largely defenseless neighbor in order to annex its territory is welcome news. Particularly important is the utterly scathing denunciation of Russia’s flouting of the Council’s authority in regard to the post-war environment, where Russia has behaved as nothing short of an imperial power which does not deserve membership in the Council of Europe. The strong language of denunciation used by the Council in this regard is truly stunning and indicative of the breathtakingly barbaric excesses to which the Putin regime has resorted in order to try to keep the lid on its Caucasus nightmare.
Once again, we condemn Russian imperial aggression against Georgia, and we call upon the Council of Europe to now put teeth behind its pretty words and impose serious sanctions on Russia for violating both international law and the regulations of the Council itself. If it doesn’t, we expect a repeat of the Munich debacle from World War II as Russia takes such action as a sign of weakness and an invitation to commit further acts of aggression and imperialism.