Russian action against Georgia justified: Gorbachev

August 14th, 2008 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS  

RIA Novosti
Moscow, Aug 14 (RIA Novosti) Russia had no choice but to launch a counterattack to Georgia’s offensive in breakaway South Ossetia, but it is still possible to find a political solution to the crisis, said former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “What happened on the night of Aug 7 is beyond comprehension,” Gorbachev said in an article The Guardian published Wednesday. “The Georgian military attacked the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali with multiple rocket launchers designed to devastate large areas.”

“Russia had to respond. To accuse it of aggression against ’small, defenceless Georgia’ is not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity,” he said in the article.

“Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution. Clearly, the only way to solve the South Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means. The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle,” Gorbachev, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said.

Gorbachev told the paper that the Georgian authorities could only undertake the offensive “with the perceived support” of a much more powerful force - an apparent reference to the US, which has trained Georgian troops and backed the country’s bid to join NATO.

Now that the military assault has been routed, Gorbachev said, “the Georgian government and its supporters should rethink their position”.

Some Western nations’ positions prevented the UN Security Council from acting effectively at the start of the conflict, he said.

By declaring the Caucasus region that is thousands of miles from the American continent a sphere of its “national interest”, the US made a serious blunder, Gorbachev said.

“Of course, peace in the Caucasus is in everyone’s interest. But it is simply common sense to recognise that Russia is rooted there by common geography and centuries of history. Russia is not seeking territorial expansion, but it has legitimate interests in this region,” The Guardian reported him as saying.

Gorbachev said the international community should in the long term seek to create a sub-regional security system to make the possibility of crises impossible, which requires cooperation with regional countries and fair and unbiased stances of nations outside the region.

“A lesson from recent events is that geopolitical games are dangerous anywhere, not just in the Caucasus,” he said.

“Already, thousands of people have died, tens of thousands have been turned into refugees, and towns and villages lie in ruins. Nothing can justify this loss of life and destruction. It is a warning to all,” Gorbachev said.

Georgia and Russia agreed Tuesday to a modified version of a French-brokered interim peace plan, which requires an immediate ceasefire and the pullback of forces to their previous positions. The European Union approved the plan Wednesday.
RIA Novosti

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