MADAM SECRETARY CLINTON IN TBILISI: A COMMENT.
"And I want to say publicly what I have said privately. I came to Georgia with a clear message from President Obama and myself. The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States does not recognize spheres of influence. President Obama and I have also communicated this message directly to our Russian counterparts, most recently during our meetings in Washington on June 24th.
We continue to call for Russia to abide by the August 2008 cease fire commitment signed by President Saakashvili and President Medvedev, including ending the occupation and withdrawing Russian troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia to their pre-conflict positions. We also stressed the need for humanitarian access to the territories. And we will continue to work toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict through established international mechanisms and constructive non-violent channels....
We are committed to supporting Georgians, Georgians who are working to build a future that is freer, more democratic, more prosperous, and more secure. And I personally am looking forward to watching Georgia's continuing progress. And I thank you, Mr. President, for these very constructive discussions....
Now, we are engaging with Russia bilaterally, in talking to Russian leaders about our concerns. But we also are engaging multilaterally through the Geneva process and in OSCE. We have expressed our concerns about the Russian Government's construction of permanent military bases. We have made clear that we consider such construction to be in contradiction to Russia's 2008 cease fire commitments. And we continue to call on Russia to fully comply with the cease fire agreement that they signed, including the withdrawal of their troops to the pre-conflict positions, and humanitarian access to the separatist regions....
Well, we would, of course, like to see action immediately. And that is one of the reasons why, as I responded to the young woman's question, we engage with Russia in many different settings, one of which is in Geneva. We believe that the Geneva discussions are an important international forum to try to enhance transparency, to help decrease tensions, to promote regional stability. And we welcome the openness of various parties toward using the incident prevention and response mechanism, the so-called IPRM. And we strongly urged South Ossetia to immediately resume use of the IPRM. Similarly, we have asked Russia to encourage South Ossetia to return to that mechanism.
Now, for several rounds, the Geneva discussions have focused on a non-use of force agreement. And during the June 8th discussions, the most recent ones, we underscored and emphasized the fact that the August 12, 2008 cease fire agreement signed by the Georgian and Russian leadership, mediated by French President Sarkozy, already establishes both sides' commitment to the non-use of force. Full implementation of that agreement by Russia renders an additional non-use of force agreement unnecessary.
So, we are calling on the Russians to enforce the agreement that they signed back in August of 2008. The United States believes that another such agreement is something that may perhaps be positive, but only if it includes the Russian Federation and meets the concerns of all the parties, and includes meaningful implementation measures, and does not politicize the status issue.
And the United States reminded the Russian delegation this past June 8th again that any unilateral steps that Russia has taken, such as its recognition of these regions as independent, do not relieve Russia of the commitments President Medvedev made in the August 12th cease fire agreement....
Well, first, with respect to Russia's claims to any sphere of influence, the United States flatly rejects that. We are living in a time when independent sovereign states have the right to make their own decisions about organizations they wish to join, to make determinations that are in the best interests of their own people and how they see their own future. And it is an important part of the ongoing historical movement that Georgia's independence is part of to reinforce that fundamental human right to one's own destiny.
Why does the United States care about Georgia? Because, number one, we respect and honor the sacrifices that the Georgian people have made throughout a very long history of a lot of very difficult challenges. The resilience and resolve of the Georgian people has come through time and time again. The Rose Revolution inspired Americans. It was an uprising that was very much in keeping with our own founding ideals. We just celebrated the 234th anniversary of our declaration of independence. We had to conduct a revolutionary war against then our colonial power. You did it much more peacefully, all things said and done, and we admire that....
So, we admire what Georgia has accomplished, and we are Georgia's friend. We are Georgia's partner. We are Georgia's supporter in both word and deed, because we want to see Georgia's independence and territorial integrity, democracy, and prosperity succeed".
Secretary Clinton quoted in "Joint Press Availability With Georgian President Saakashvili, in Tbilisi, Georgia, 5 July 2010, in www.state.gov/secretary.
"Georgia and South Ossetia should sort out their relations themselves, not seek solutions from third-party countries, such as the United States.”
Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, 6 July 2010, quoted in www.en.rian.ru.
"I don't want you to think as the French do that the Americans are impossible."
Dean Acheson, 20 November 1952, quoted by Sir Charles A. E. Shuckburgh, Descent to Suez: Diaries 1951-1956, 1986, p.55.
One is at a complete loss to understand the rationale for the American Secretary of State's diplomatically speaking maladroit comments in Tbilisi. Given the mostly positive state of Russo-American relations in the past couple of months. A state of affairs which was the result of approximately a year of hard work, and repositioning of American policy in places as different as Georgia, Ukraine, Central Asia and even Poland, one is hard put to explain the behavior of Mme. Clinton. Indeed, the common presumption prior to these statements being made was that the American Secretary of State would (in the mots of the Financial Times, published on the 3rd of July) "tread lightly in Russia's back yard" (Sic! See: Roman Olearchyk, "Clinton treads lightly in Russia's back yard," 3 July 2010, in www.ft.com). The usage of the term 'occupation' to characterize the Russian presence in South Ossetia and Abkhazia was for all intents and purposes a red flag, in a positive sense to the regime in Tbilisi, and in a negative sense to Moskva. Ergo Grazhdanin Putin's irate statement in response. And, while one may very well argue that the Clinton statements were mere eyewash to appease the the discontented and previously ignored Saakashvili ruling clique in Georgia, the fact that Moskva chose not to regard her language in these more benign terms is enough to my mind to question both her motives and her language (for the view that Clinton's language was in essence diplomatically innocuous, see: Andrei Fedyashin, "Hillary Clinton in Russia's zone of privileged interests," 6 July 2010, in www.en.rian.ru). And, make no mistake: in any grossmachtpolitik sense, there are no real American or indeed Western interests worthy of the name in Georgia. And, much the same could be said for Ukraine. Indeed, the only sense to be derived from the entire tour is her visit to the Aliyev family kleptocracy in Baku. Where it can be plausibly argued that for reasons of both its presence on the border of Persia, its supplies of oil and natural gas, and its role as an increasing important transit route for American and Allied forces in Afghanistan (on the importance of Baku to the American strategy in the region, see: George Friedman, "Geopolitical Weekly: The Caucasian Cauldron," 7 July 2010, in www.stratfor.com). With that being said, one only hopes that the USA will allow the Kavkas return to its prior non-important level of interest. Otherwise one fears the negative repercussions on Russo-American relations.