The Russian press used the phrase ‘Georgian-South Ossetian conflict’ for the first time to describe the war
On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, who was president during the war, gave a lengthy interview to Kommersant.
The unavoidability of the war
No, there was no unavoidability. My assessment remains the same: if it had not been for the irresponsible, amoral and criminal behaviour of Saakashvili and his minions, there would not have been any war.
The origins of the conflict
The root of the problem goes back to the 1990s, and the decisions made by the authorities in Tbilisi in those years which were neither accepted by Abkhazia nor by South Ossetia. As a result, the conflict arose, and peacekeepers were introduced.
Up until 2008, it was possible to balance these negative processes, statements and displays of aggression which would periodically flare up.
But in 2008, the government of Georgia gave the green light to aggression, and what happened, happened. This was not ‘unavoidable’. This was, without a doubt, the subjective choice of Saakashvili and his cohorts.
On relations with Mikheil Saakashvili
When I first assumed the presidency, he said that he would like to restore relations, that he expected to be friends: he generally said a lot of pleasant words. I listened to this and said: you want to develop a relationship, let’s do it. Somewhere from the beginning of July 2008, he stopped communicating. I think by that time he had already held full-scale consultations with his patrons – in this case we are talking primarily about the United States of America.
How the decision concerning the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was made
I had been thinking for a while and came to the conclusion that nothing would be better than to recognise the independence of these two entities. I was guided first of all by the idea of preserving a lasting peace for the future, maintaining stability in the South Caucasus and maintaining stability in our region. And this, in my opinion, was the only possible step.
After a while I talked with Prime Minister Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. He also supported me in this.
Why Russian troops did not advance further
The goal was not to crush Georgia or execute Saakashvili. I believe that I did the right thing when I decided to show restraint and not to force further actions.
Ultimately, this gave us the opportunity to calm the situation not only in Georgia, Ossetia and Abkhazia, but also to have a fairly calm relationship with the European Union and other countries.
Differences between Georgia and Ukraine
These are different situations. Although, let’s put it bluntly, the position of the Russian side is that, as applied to the events that happened in Ukraine, if our partners had shown greater cooperation … if they had not tried to immediately point at the Russian Federation and had shown better balance, as was the case for example in 2008, the situation would be much easier.
On Georgia’s accession to NATO
NATO expansion is an absolute threat to the Russian Federation. And this is definitely a challenge.
Relatively recently, another decision was made that Georgia is expected and will be admitted to the North Atlantic alliance. How can this be commented on? This is an absolutely irresponsible attitude. It is a threat to the world. We all understand that there is a certain tension on the territory of Georgia … that Georgia considers neighboring territories, or, in our view, states, as their own. Hence, there is an unsettled territorial conflict, regardless of the position we are in. And such a country, such a state is to be admitted into a military bloc? Do we know just what that might threaten?
This can lead to a potential conflict, beyond any doubt, because for us, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are independent states with which we have friendly relations, and states in which our military bases are located. And we understand that if another country views them as its territory, it can lead to very serious consequences. Therefore, I hope NATO will still have the smarts not to do anything more in this direction.