Former German chancellor Schroeder sees Saakashvili as ‘gambler’

August 16th, 2008 - 6:11 pm ICT by IANS  

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Berlin, Aug 16 (DPA) Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has accused Georgia of provoking the recent hostilities with Russia by sending troops into South Ossetia and described President Mikheil Saakashvili as a “gambler.” “The moment that initiated the current hostilities was the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia,” Schroeder told German weekly Der Spiegel.

He declined to be drawn on whether Russia’s response was disproportionate, saying that military conflicts developed their own dynamic.

Schroeder’s successor, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Friday described the Russian reaction “disproportionate in some aspects.”

The former chancellor, who was a close friend while in office of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time, said Georgia’s bid for NATO membership was now further off than before.

“Imagine that we had been forced into military action on the side of Georgia as a Nato member, on the side of an obvious gambler, as one must describe Saakashvili,” Schroeder said.

Georgia and Ukraine, which is also seeking membership of the US-led Western alliance, had to resolve their internal difficulties first, he said in the interview published Saturday.

Schroeder said the West had make “serious errors” in its policy toward Russia, and Western views of Russia did not correspond with the reality there.

The former chancellor, who heads the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream, the Russian-German company building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to pipe Russian gas directly from Russia to Germany, dismissed talk of a new Cold War.

Russian leaders were not interested in conflict with the West. “I think little of demonising Russia, and I believe Moscow will soon see the need for greater integration into the international community,” Schroeder said.

No major global problem, whether Iran’s nuclear programme, North Korea, peace in the Middle East or climate change, could be resolved without Russia, Schroeder said.
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