Monday, November 17, 2008


Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, wanted to depose Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian leader, and hang him "by the balls" following Russia's invasion of Georgia in August but was deterred by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president.

That is the version of events related by Jean-David Levitte, Mr Sarkozy's chief foreign policy adviser, to a French magazine yesterday, an account that helps the French leader's claim that he averted a Russian military dash to occupy Tbilisi, the Georgian capital.

According to Mr Levitte, when Mr Sarkozy flew to Moscow on August 12 for emergency talks with Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, and Mr Putin a few days after the conflict began, Mr Putin told him: "I want to hang Saakashvili by the balls."

"Hang him?" a startled Mr Sarkozy interjected.

"Why not," Mr Putin replied. "The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein."

"But do you want to end up like [George W.] Bush?" Mr Sarkozy asked.

Mr Putin apparently paused, and said: "Ah, there you have a point."

Mr Levitte told Le Nouvel Observateur that this exchange helped to persuade Mr Putin to refrain from a full invasion of Georgia.

Other accounts of the meeting say the French president was appalled at Mr Putin's use of foul language in talking of Georgia and Mr Saakashvili, and threatened to walk out of the lunch and return to Paris if he did not calm down. Mr Putin then moderated his language.

Mr Sarkozy, who as holder of the European Union's rotating presidency led western efforts this summer to secure a ceasefire in the Georgia conflict, has been accused of ceding too much ground to the Kremlin. "Sarkozy 'soothed' Putin's Rage," in the Financial Times, 14 November,

French President Sarkozy, in endeavoring to defend before European 'civil society,' his and indeed the European Union's current policy of realpolitik vis-`a-vis Moskva, has as per the above article in the FT allowed his Elysee foreign policy adviser Jean-David Levitte, to create wholesale a fictitious lie about what took place during the Russo-Georgian War. Stung by criticisms by such honored 'public intellectuals' (in the Habermasian sense) as Henry-Bernard Levy and Vaclav Havel, of his and France's role in the Georgian War, Sarkozy has either lambasted such critics by saying that he rather than the USA was the true defender of Georgia and freedom in the Kavkaz region, as in the following:

"Lorsque le 8 août, il a fallu partir pour Moscou et pour Tbilissi, qui a défendu les droits de l'Homme ? Est-ce que c'est le président des Etats-Unis qui a dit 'c'est inadmissible' ? Ou est-ce que c'est la France qui a maintenu le dialogue avec M. Poutine, M. Medvedev et M. Saakachvili ?", "Sarkozy critique
ouvertement Bush," in Le Nouvel Observateur, 14 November 2008, in

Or, allowed Levitte to spin a tale which on the face of it, cannot be substantiated one way or the other. On the surface at any rate, there does not appear to be any verifiable proof for Levitte's claims: neither he or Sarkozy speak Russian or any other Slavic language. Putin does not speak French. Nor does Sarkozy speak the only West European language that Putin does speak: German. Nor would it appear does Levitte. Consequently, how would Levitte know that the translator replicated the 'tu' form of address that Sarkozy allegedly used in their conversation. And, since the entire conversation was being translated back and forth, than the immediacy of the flow of the same, could not by its very nature, have been what Levitte claims it to have been. The pauses and the lags as one translator picks up and transmits the conversation to 'his' head of state, while the other does the same, would rob it of the electrical spark that the article in Le Nouvel Observateur claims it that it had. Make no mistake: I believe that it is Monsieur Sarkozy, rather than his critics who are on the side of the angels over the EU policy towards Moskva. It is just that by embellishing and weaving a tale of outright falsehood, Sarkozy will I feel make his task in the future of reconciling the EU to Russia, more not less difficult.


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