Cablegate: Did Russia and Georgia Both Lose the War?

DE RUEHMO #2518/01 2751520
R 021520Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

SUBJECT: Did Russia and Georgia both lose the war?

MOSCOW 00002518 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary: Official Russia hailed the EU's report on the
August 2008 Georgia war, considering the core conclusion to be that
Georgia started the armed hostilities. Duma and Federation Council
officials reacted similarly, claiming the report called Russia's
actions "legitimate." Analysts recognized that both Georgia and
Russia were criticized, with Kommersant noting that the report
rejected Moscow's justification for its armed interference, and
Vedomosti adding that the report cited Russia for setting up the
prerequisites for the war. On, Sergey Markedonov
praised the report for destroying the "black and white" depiction of
the war, and ending Russia's "demonization." End Summary.

Official Russia

2. (SBU) In public statements, Russian officials unanimously
welcomed the EU's Report of the Independent International
Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia, released on
September 30. President Medvedev's press-secretary Natalya Timakova
said that Russia hailed the conclusion on who launched the first
attack, while the MFA on its website echoed statements to the press
by DFM Karasin that the "core conclusion" of the report was the
current leadership of Georgia "unleashed the aggression against
South Ossetia," and noted that the report named the countries that
had armed and trained the Georgian army. However, the MFA claimed
that the report contained a number of ambiguities, reflecting the
"politicized approach of many EU countries." In particular, the MFA
rejected the conclusion that Russia had made a disproportionate use
of force.

3. (SBU) In public remarks, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir
Chizhov praised the conclusion that Georgia had started the
conflict, while Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin noted
that, had Russia been accused of that aggression, a broad discussion
would have started in Brussels.

4. (SBU) Independent-minded Deputy Russian Ombudsman Ambassador
Georgiy Kunadze, whose last name betrays his Georgian ethnicity, was
among the most skeptical commentators. Publicly stating that the
report "meant nothing," he charged Europe wanted Russia to renounce
its recognition of the breakaway republics. However, "Russian
citizenship" of South Ossetians could not be considered as
legitimate. He called on Russia to compromise with Europe, as the
Georgian problem could only be resolved through cooperation.

Duma and Federation Council

5. (SBU) In public remarks, Chairman of the State Duma Foreign
Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev called the report the first to
qualify Georgia's actions as "unsanctioned aggression," while
calling Russia's "legitimate." He was supported by Federation
Council Foreign Affair Committee Chairman colleague Mikhail
Margelov, who praised Brussels' "thorough and rational approach."
Deputy Chairman of the State Duma CIS Committee Konstantin Zatulin
accused anti-Russian forces of "trying to condemn Russia," while
Head of State Duma LDPR Faction Igor Lebedev publicly called the
report "Europe's cowardly effort not to spoil relations with either
the U.S. or Russia."


6. (SBU) Stating that neither Moscow nor Tbilisi were able to
convince Europe they were right in August 2008, Kommersant newspaper
acknowledged that the report contained a number of conclusions
unpleasant for both Georgia and Russia. Noting that the report
accused Russia of launching aggressive action against a sovereign
state and encouraging ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia, Kommersant
pointed out that the report rejected all the points Moscow had made
to justify its armed interference. The paper continued to say that
the real question should be what to do next, as Georgian IDPs still
had no hope of returning to their homes, no one fully understood
what is going on in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where Russian
assistance money disappeared while destruction remained, and Russia
refused to talk about it.

7. (SBU) Vedomosti newspaper agreed that the report's main
conclusion was that Georgia fired the first shot, but added that the
report cited Russia for setting up the prerequisites for the war.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika foundation and a

MOSCOW 00002518 002.2 OF 002

member of the Russian Public Chamber, told the press that the
report's conclusions showed the number of Saakashvili supporters in
the EU had "dropped dramatically," crowing that Europe had admitted
that Tbilisi had the "biggest minus" by starting the armed

8. (SBU) Sergey Markedonov from the Institute for Political and
Military Analysis thought in an article on that official
Moscow was not satisfied that the report did not pick up Russia's
political vocabulary such as "Georgian aggression," or "genocide of
Ossetians." The main merits of the commission's report, he argued,
were the destruction of the "black and white" depiction of the war,
and the end of Russia's "demonization."


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