The War in Georgia Is a War for the West ("The Wall Street Journal",
This war is not of Georgias
making, nor is it Georgias
As I write, Russia
is waging war on my country.
Friday, hundreds of Russian tanks crossed into Georgian territory, and Russian
air force jets bombed Georgian airports, bases, ports and public markets. Many
are dead, many more wounded. This invasion, which echoes Afghanistan in
1979 and the Prague Spring of 1968, threatens to undermine the stability of the
international security system.
war? This is the question my people are asking. This war is not of Georgias making, nor is it Georgias
Kremlin designed this war. Earlier this year, Russia
tried to provoke Georgia
by effectively annexing another of our separatist territories, Abkhazia. When
we responded with restraint, Moscow brought the
fight to South Ossetia.
this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a
war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war
over the kind of Europe our children will live
in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.
country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating
democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy
This is precisely what Russia
seeks to crush.
conflict is therefore about our common trans-Atlantic values of liberty and
democracy. It is about the right of small nations to live freely and determine
their own future. It is about the great power struggles for influence of the
20th century, versus the path of integration and unity
defined by the European Union of the 21st. Georgia has made its choice.
government was swept into power by a peaceful revolution in 2004, we inherited
a dysfunctional state plagued by two unresolved conflicts dating to the early
1990s. I pledged to reunify my country not by the force of arms, but by
a pole of attraction. I wanted the people living in the conflict zones to share
in the prosperous, democratic country that Georgia could and has become.
similar spirit, we sought friendly relations with Russia,
which is and always will be Georgias
neighbor. We sought deep ties built on mutual respect for each others
independence and interests. While we heeded Russias interests, we also made it
clear that our independence and sovereignty were not negotiable. As such, we
felt we could freely pursue the sovereign choice of the Georgian nation to
seek deeper integration into European economic and security institutions.
worked hard to peacefully bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia
back into the Georgian fold, on terms that would fully protect the rights and
interests of the residents of these territories. For years, we have offered
direct talks with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so that we could
discuss our plan to grant them the broadest possible autonomy within the
internationally recognized borders of Georgia.
But Russia, which
effectively controls the separatists, responded to our efforts with a policy of
outright annexation. While we appealed to residents of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia with our vision of a common future, Moscow increasingly took control of the
separatist regimes. The Kremlin even appointed Russian security officers to arm
and administer the self-styled separatist governments.
any circumstances, Russias
meddling in our domestic affairs would have constituted a gross violation of
international norms. But its actions were made more egregious by the fact that Russia, since the 1990s, has been entrusted with
the responsibility of peacekeeping and mediating in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Rather than serve as honest broker, Russia became a
direct party to the conflicts, and now an open aggressor.
Europe expanded its security institutions to the Black Sea,
my government appealed to the Western community of nations particularly
European governments and institutions to play a leading role in resolving our
separatist conflicts. The key to any resolution was to replace the outdated
peacekeeping and negotiating structures created almost two decades ago, and
dominated by Russia,
with a genuine international effort.
Europe kept its distance and, predictably, Russia escalated its provocations.
Our friends in Europe counseled restraint,
arguing that diplomacy would take its course. We followed their advice and took
it one step further, by constantly proposing new ideas to resolve the
conflicts. Just this past spring, we offered the separatist leaders sweeping
autonomy, international guarantees and broad representation in our government.
offers of peace were rejected. Moscow
sought war. In April, Russia
began treating the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia as Russian provinces. Again, our friends in the West asked
us to show restraint, and we did. But under the guise of peacekeeping, Russia sent
paratroopers and heavy artillery into Abkhazia. Repeated provocations were
designed to bring Georgia
to the brink of war.
this failed, the Kremlin turned its attention to South
Ossetia, ordering its proxies there to escalate attacks on
Georgian positions. My government answered with a unilateral cease-fire; the
separatists began attacking civilians and Russian tanks pierced the Georgian
border. We had no choice but to protect our civilians and restore our
constitutional order. Moscow then used this as
pretext for a full-scale military invasion of Georgia.
past days, Russia has waged
an all-out attack on Georgia.
Its tanks have been pouring into South Ossetia.
Its jets have bombed not only Georgian military bases, but also civilian and
economic infrastructure, including demolishing the port
of Poti on
the Black Sea coast. Its Black
Sea fleet is now massing on our shores and an attack is under way
at stake in this war?
obviously, the future of my country is at stake. The people of Georgia have spoken with a loud and clear voice:
They see their future in Europe. Georgia is an ancient European nation, tied to Europe by culture, civilization and values. In January,
three in four Georgians voted in a referendum to support membership in NATO.
These aims are not negotiable; now, we are paying the price for our democratic
Second, Russias future
is at stake. Can a Russia
that wages aggressive war on its neighbors be a partner for Europe?
It is clear that Russias
current leadership is bent on restoring a neocolonial form of control over the
entire space once governed by Moscow.
If Georgia falls, this will also mean the fall of
the West in the entire former Soviet Union and
beyond. Leaders in neighboring states whether in Ukraine, in other Caucasian states or in Central Asia will have to consider whether the price of
freedom and independence is indeed too high.
Mr. Saakashvili is president of Georgia.