A letter from Moscow
Dear Mr. İbrahim Altay,
While in Moscow for a very short vacation – given the present state and condition of our bilateral relations, a Russian ambassador in Ankara cannot offer himself a luxury of a long one – I still follow the good habit of starting each morning by reading your newspaper. This is how on Aug. 7 I took notice of an op-ed in which my distinguished Georgian colleague Mr. Giorgi Janjgava commemorated the 11th anniversary of the August 2008 events.
Daily Sabah has always been valued for its ironclad commitment to objective coverage of events and opinions, demonstrating to the readers different and sometimes diametrically opposing points of view. So, I hope you will enable me to inform the Turkish public about what happened in 2008 as seen from Moscow.
First and foremost, let me say that I was really glad to read some of my fellow colleague's remarks. Glad because his article contained no mention of the presumed "Russian aggression" so popular now in some regional and even international media. The op-ed blames my country for many sins – "invasion and illegal occupation," "violating fundamental norms and principles of international law," etc. But not for "aggression." Why? Because, in fact, there was no act of aggression committed by Russia and here I have to praise the author's objectivity.
Indeed, it was the Georgian troops who, early on the morning of Aug. 8, 2008, started bombing and shelling the peaceful towns and villages of Southern Ossetia and the Russian peacekeepers in its capital, Tskhinval. It was Georgian soldiers and their commanders who, violating international agreements, broke the cease-fire and killed hundreds of Ossetians and dozens of Russian peacekeeping force staff members. By all norms and principles, this must be considered a war crime, and we still hope that those who gave the orders for such blatant aggression will be brought to justice.
Russia was obliged to retaliate – just to save the Ossetians from atrocities. And to support the Ossetian self-defense militia – brave but poorly armed and incapable of resisting the Western-trained Georgian military machine. Russia was obliged to intervene and to push the aggressor back, just like our grandfathers – mine and Mr. Janjgava's – did with the troops of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.
This is how it all happened, and this is how the Georgian leaders of the time created with their own hands a "new reality" in which South Ossetia was no longer a "Georgian region" but a newly born independent state, and the Ossetians themselves do not have the slightest desire to have anything in common with Georgia.
By the way, one of the reasons for such a stand (even putting the events of 2008 to one side) is the Ossetian people's unpreparedness to accept a "national choice," as Mr. Janjgava presents it, of NATO membership. Of course, this option may be shared by a majority of Georgians, and it is surely their inalienable right to believe in a wonderful Euro-Atlantic dream. But the Ossetians definitely do not support this choice, and it seems the more irreversible this path is for Tbilissi, the more irreversible it will be for Tskhinval's strive to distance itself from Georgia.
"Invasion," "occupation," "violation" – a classic example of a situation so brilliantly described in a phrase usually attributed to Winston Churchill: "Point weak. Shout louder."
And one more remark – also from the field of terminology. I would prefer one phrase of my fellow colleague to not go unnoticed: the one on "rules-based international order." A very interesting and relatively new term that usually parallels international law and, as we should presume, somehow completes it. We all know what international law is – a set of norms coded within well-known charters, treaties, etc. But what is this "rules-based order" exactly? What are its rules? And, most importantly, who is going to establish them and against whom are they going to be used? If we follow Mr. Janjgava's logic, it will be against Russia's "revanchist policy" – by the way, what does that mean? In this case, gentlemen, don't be surprised when Russia will again and again disobey such an "order," and so will many others against whose interests the "rules" will be applied by the "rulers."
Finally, I wish you, Mr. Altay, a happy Eid al-Adha!
* Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Turkey