Monday, August 17, 2015

The United States Saved Georgia in 2008 and Can Save Ukraine Now, Shishkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 17 – The United States saved Georgia from destruction when Russia attacked that country in 2008, and it can do the same for Ukraine now that Moscow has launched aggression against that country as well, according to Dmitri Shashkin, former Georgian defense minister. 

            Last week, on the seventh anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Shashkin published in Georgia a message he received from the White House on August 14, 2008: “President’s press conference is in 45 min. Gates will lead the operation. 6th fleet is on its way, Herculeses in the air. GEO will be safe” (

            “Everyone must remember who is our friend and who is the enemy,” he added on his Facebook account.  One day earlier, Radio Liberty reports and gives a Russian translation of Shishkin’s Georgian text, the former Georgian defense minister, wrote the following:

“I never thought that after 2008, there would be people found in Georgia who would publicly try to justify Russia in this war. But as they say: ‘Never say never.’” Some now say that “in 2008, Tbilisi was not taken by storm because Russia showed good will and therefore we should be eternally grateful for this.”

But in fact, Shishkin says, it was “the Georgian army, international support and specific steps by the US” which “stopped Russia” then. “Many do not know that our peacekeeping brigade returned from Iraq to Tbilisi on American military planes which under the circumstances of war was direct military support by the US.

“Many do not know that Russia could not bomb the Tbilisi airport because American Hercules planes were on the tarmac,” Shishkin continues. “Many do not know that the flagship of the US Fifth Fleet which entered the Black Sea monitored on its radars the airspace in the Tbilisi-Moscow-Volgograd triangle.”

And “many do not know that the August 14 Hercules flights from Jordan were accompanied by (American) fighters. Many do not know that the statement of the commander of these fights that “any activity of Russian planes in the Georgian sky will be considered an attack on the United States of America,” thus effectively closing the Georgian sky to Russian planes.

            Shishkin says he decided to go public with this now because “much is being forgotten” and people are repeating the errors others made earlier. “Americans call such errors the errors of professionals,” the kind that are made when people assume that everyone knows and remembers what they know and remember.

            Russia exploits this “very well with the help of its controlled media,” the former Georgian official says, by “throwing out an enormous quantity of information,” so much that “many people cannot logically filter this information,” separating fact from fantasy. That in turn can lead to extremely unfortunate results.

            Resuming his discussion of 2008, Shishkin says: “The reaction of the US was late by five days. But it existed;” and those who deny it now in the name of pursuing closer ties with Russia and looser ones with the West need to be reminded. Russia did not risk going further then only because of the American actions.

            To be sure, he continues, “75 percent of the population of Georgia supports integration with NATO and the EU, but 25 percent don’t. That is no small thing, and if they are also aggressive, this creates a definite pro-Russian background.” The aggressive ones assert, he says, “that it is necessary to kiss the ass of Russia” and then everything will work out all right.

            He recalls further that Condoleezza Rice visited Georgia “before the war” and that he met with her. According to Shishkin, “she did not see the real dangers supposing that Putin would not take serious steps. The State Department then did not imagine that Putin would go so far; they did not see that Putin is a schizoid maniac.”

            The events in Ukraine confirm that, he says, although some in Georgia and elsewhere do not want to see this reality.  He notes that Mikhail Saakashvili “had a vision that Georgia must always be paired with Ukraine. We could achieve a great deal together.” But the current government in Tbilisi does not see that.

            It has to be recognized that Russia wants to restore the empire and that “Putin is an ordinary KGB officer who knows that the USSR fell apart as a result among other things of the war in Afghanistan when zinc coffins came to Russian cities and villages. After the war in Georgia, they concealed their losses; now in Ukraine, they are burning the bodies.”

            They are doing so, Shishkin says, “so that “zinc coffins will not come to Russia” again.

            Putin can be stopped by sanctions because these are directed in the first instance against the Russian elite whose members have their bank accounts, houses, and children in the West and do not want to give that up.  When its members finally realize Putin is denying them all of that, Shishkin says that he “does not think that the Putin regime will last for very long.”

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