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RADIO INTERVIEW WITH RUSSIAN POLITICAL ANALYSTS MIKHAIL VINOGRADOV, MIKHAIL ALEXANDROV MAYAK RADIO, 12:15, FEBRUARY 7, 2006
[February 07, 2006]

RADIO INTERVIEW WITH RUSSIAN POLITICAL ANALYSTS MIKHAIL VINOGRADOV, MIKHAIL ALEXANDROV MAYAK RADIO, 12:15, FEBRUARY 7, 2006


(Federal News Service (Russia) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)

Anchor: This is Panorama on Mayak. I am Vladimir Averin. There
is one old problem that we will have to talk about today. And this
problem is relations between Russia and Georgia. As you probably
know, the head of the parliamentary defense and national security
committee, Mr. Targamadze, said yesterday that Russian peacekeepers
in the Tskhinvali region could be called occupation troops and that
Georgia therefore had a right to take measures, and use force among
other things, in order to get them out of the area. So, this is a
new symptom of the same old problem.

Let us try to figure out what is happening with Russian-
Georgian relations. With us today is Mikhail Vinogradov, the head of
the Department of Political Consulting, the Center of Propaganda.
Good day.

Vinogradov: Good day.

Anchor: And waiting on the telephone line is Mikhail
Alexandrov, the head of the Department of the Transcaucasia, the
Institute of the CIS countries. Can you hear us?

Alexandrov: Yes, I can.

Anchor: Good. Good day.

Alexandrov: Good day.

Anchor: I should tell our listeners that the cold weather must
have done some damage to your car and you couldn't come here. There
is this latest statement by the parliament. And the Georgian
parliament's leadership is expected to meet today and it is going to
adopt some crucial decisions. How could you assess this?

Alexandrov: This can be assessed as a continuation of Georgia's
previous policy of forcing the Russian military presence out of the
Transcaucasia, in particular not from Georgia but from the area
where a peacekeeping operation is underway in South Ossetia. This is
a well known policy. Its purpose is what Georgia calls the
restoration of territorial integrity in order to incorporate South
Ossetia and Abkhazia with the help of the West. The Georgian
leadership has come to realize that Russia has assumed a restrained
position and insists solely on a peaceful settlement, but Georgia
has seen that peaceful methods don't work because neither South
Ossetians nor Abkhazians want to be in Georgia. This is why Georgia
wants to use the same experience NATO used in Yugoslavia,
specifically coercion toward certain forms of settlement in the
interests of Georgia and therefore in the interests of NATO because
NATO's interests there coincide with Georgia's interests as it is
seeking to have a military presence in Transcaucasia and get access
to the Caspian and Central Asia.

So, Georgia does hope for NATO's assistance. Therefore, it has
to force the Russian peacekeepers out of the region. To this end it
has been using different forms of pressure and different
provocations in the area of the conflict.

Anchor: So, what you are saying is that this policy has been
inspired by the West, particularly by NATO?

Alexandrov: I simply think that the interests of Georgia and
NATO coincide. Georgia wants to restore its territorial integrity by
force, even though this is a debatable issue. And NATO wants the
Russian military out of the region and is ready to play up to
Georgia on that.

Anchor: But on the other hand, the NATO Munich Conference
showed that not everything is so simple within NATO. Angela Merkel
reminded everybody that NATO is primarily a North Atlantic bloc,
thus questioning the expediency of accelerated admission of Georgia
and other countries. Can this be regarded as a signal to the
Georgian leadership to sort of calm down a bit?

Alexandrov: It seems that Germany is beginning to understand
that further confrontation with Russia in all directions, because
there are not only Georgia and the Transcaucasia, but there are also
Ukraine and Moldova and Central Asia. NATO used to exert pressure in
all directions. The Germans are probably beginning to understand
that they are not going to benefit from this. Britain and the US may
get something because their objective is to control global energy
resources and their transportation routes. This is the purpose of
their strategy in the Transcaucasia.

But the Germans get everything from us as it is. Putin is
willing to build a new gas pipeline for them and we make steady oil
supplies. So, why should they help? Apparently there are different
trends but support to Georgia is the dominant one. It may change or
it may not. But there have been no noticeable real changes in the
Transcaucasia policy.

Anchor: Mikhail Yurievich, do you agree with this
interpretation?

Vinogradov: I would start from afar. When one analyzes Russia's
relations with other post-Soviet countries, he always thinks about
how to look at it. Is it that one country acts as a warmonger and
another responds to this or is everything much complex? There
is a country in the post-Soviet space whose leadership from time to
time tries to rub, how should I put it, Russia and the Russian elite
into it. This country is Turkmenistan. In all other conflicts,
there, as a rule, is a bilateral process. I think this is true of
Georgia as well.

What are Georgia's interests like? I think Georgia's interests
lie in imitating the restoration of territorial integrity --

Anchor: Imitating?

Vinogradov: Well, it's not possible to bring Abkhazia back by
force, and South Ossetia too. Like in the case of Yugoslavia, it's
not quite clear whether the disintegration of the country has ended
and it is being put back together piece by piece or the
disintegration is continuing. I think the appearance of Ossetia
within Georgia would seriously destabilize the country and create
energy problems.

So, Georgia needs to pretend that Russia assumes an
unconstructive position and put pressure on it in the international
arena by employing public methods in order to get some concessions
or attract the attention of the West. And this is exactly what is
happening. But a status quo would satisfy all sides. Georgia in this
case will have an opportunity to appeal to international public.
Russia will have a moral right, or so it thinks, to look down on the
Georgian "sweet dwarf" and slap him in the back of the head from
time to time. Abkhazia like Ossetia understands that it will never
get a higher status than it has now.

Anchor: I have another question then for Mikhail Alexandrov,
about the status of Russian peacekeepers. They have an international
mandate. over, the South Ossetian leadership says, let the OSCE
come over here and see how things go and whether what the Russian
peacekeepers do is consistent with their mandate or not. Why does
Georgia make such aggressive statements? Why doesn't it appeal to
the international community at the level of inspectors?

Alexandrov: To begin with, the OSCE has a presence in
Tskhinvali. Kokoity proposed to invite OSCE ambassadors. But that
won't make a difference. Everybody is well aware of what is
happening there. It's just that interests differ. The peacekeepers
have an international mandate. The Georgian parliament's decision
will have no impact on their mandate. In order to liquidate their
mandate, Georgia has to denounce the Sochi accords of 1992 as a
minimum. I don't know if Georgia can do that or not. But even if
does this, this will create a gridlock because Georgia does not
control the territory of South Ossetia, Georgian laws and decisions
are not effective in South Ossetia, and our peacekeepers can simply
move from the neutral zone to South Ossetia, and Georgia won't do
anything about that unless it begins hostilities. If it begins
hostilities, the outcome will be identical to that in Abkhazia.

So, I think this is a policy of internationalizing the
conflict, drawing NATO and the West into it in order to force Russia
out of the region and then carry out a peacekeeping operation
similar to that in Kosovo, suppressing the local population and
driving part of it out of the country. As we know, practically all
Serbs were driven out of Kosovo. Well, they may as well drive South
Ossetians out, and only Georgians will remain. So, I think this is
an actual policy, not its imitation.

Anchor: There is a theoretical possibility to withdraw from the
1992 agreement. Can this be a normal step for Georgia?

Alexandrov: I would not rule that out. They may withdraw from
the agreement. But we must not give in to Georgian parliament and
withdraw our troops from the conflict area because it was a
multilateral decision, and other parties object to the withdrawal of
the troops. Georgia may demand that they leave Georgian territory.
They may move to South Ossetia, and that will be the end of it.

Anchor: If the Georgian parliament adopts a decision that has
so far been formulated by Mr. Targamadze, that force will be used,
what should Russia do in this situation? Should it move its troops
to South Ossetia, organize defense and that's it? Or should it
respond to the use of force?

Alexandrov: You see, if our troops move to South Ossetia and
Georgia attacks them in South Ossetia, that will be a declaration of
war. Therefore, we will have to retaliate, using all the power of
our armed forces, to Georgia and at long last sort it out with that
regime, put them on trial as war criminals, Saakashvili and his
clique. So, it is necessary to act resolutely.

Anchor: What is your point of view, Mr. Vinogradov?

Vinogradov: I think that Mikhail Saakashvili is a politician
whose lever is the threat of the use of force, rather than the use
of force proper. The threat of the use of force helped him establish
control over Adzharia. He has tried to act in a similar way in other
countries. I think Saakashvili does not have sufficient military
potential for a serious use of force. Today, he finds it necessary
to imitate a victory, internationalize the conflict. I agree with
Mikhail in this respect. They want international troops to be
brought in there, if possible.

Vladimir Putin's statement made recently, when he compared the
situation in Georgia's breakaway autonomies with Kosovo, indicates
that Russia is hypothetically, well, I would not say ready, but it
does not see this option as totally unacceptable.

And Saakashvili will pretend that he has won a victory, that
occupation forces have been moved out of Georgian territory. But it
is very unlikely that the deployment of international peacemaking
forces can qualitatively change the situation.

Anchor: The last question for Mr. Alexandrov. You have said
that there are NATO's interests, that there are the West's
interests, and Georgia has pursued those interests. A question in
this connection: Are there Russian interests in the region? Or,
should international forces be allowed to be deployed there, while
our troops would move away to focus on other problems?

Alexandrov: We should not move away. What does it mean,
international forces? That would mean that Russia's role would
substantially decrease in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and NATO would
be able to focus on the creation of its military bridgehead in
Georgia, Georgia would be able to join NATO, and they would then put
pressure on Azerbaijan so Azerbaijan would join NATO, and they would
move on to the Caspian. So, we certainly cannot retreat.

Anchor: On the other hand, our politicians have stated that
every sovereign state has the right to decide for itself and join
any international organizations.

Alexandrov: Yes, it has the right to join, but we should not
necessarily --

Anchor: Help it create conditions for that.

Alexandrov: And we are not obliged to endlessly recognize
Georgia's so-called territorial integrity, including South Ossetia
and Abkhazia, especially given that the Kosovo precedent is being
considered already. Kosovo may gain independence. And Putin has
hinted that we are also ready to consider independence of those
states.

Anchor: Thank you very much. Let me thank Mikhail Alexandrov,
head of the Transcaucasus unit at the CIS Countries Institute, for
participation. We are staying here with Mikhail Vinogradov. You can
send your questions to our pager.

Let me explain. We also invited the Georgian parliament's
speaker Nino Burdzhanadze to take part in this discussion and we
proposed that she would convey the Georgian side's position. I
negotiated this all day yesterday and in the morning today, with her
numerous aides, not herself. And the tone gives me grounds to say
that the Georgian side does not want to explain its position to the
Russian audience. It does not want such an open dialog on line.
This is very unfortunate to me, especially as my personal meetings
with Ms. Burdzhanadze in the past produced a very good impression on
me.

But let us go back to our discussion of Russian-Georgian
relations. Still, I am concerned a lot about prospects. Is it
possible to shout endlessly: we will beat you and you will only
retreat? Will a moment come when some action will be taken? Well,
they will take some action, and Russia will really have to react,
counteract.

Vinogradov: It is quite possible to do this endlessly.

Anchor: Possible? It looks like this does not worry anyone a
lot, judging by what our deputy prime minister said in Munich. He
said very calmly that Russia is interested in having goodneighborly
relations with Georgia. Period.

Vinogradov: I think this is the way it has lasted for several
years already. This way Russian officials have dealt with their own
problems. It is certainly preferable for them when Georgia is
discussed, rather than the family of the defense minister, the
situation in the Russian army. The public opinion promptly reacts
and unites against malevolent Georgia, which in an alliance with
allegedly anti-Russian NATO has malicious plans, even though it is
clear that NATO troops in the Caucasus mostly protect Russia as part
of the notorious golden billion against unstable Iran, unstable
Afghanistan and contradictory China.

Anchor: Again, if we take a look at Georgia's position in this
alliance with the West, whose attitude is bad to, say, Iran -- you
may recall articles in our newspapers: using American money, Georgia
is buying gas from America's enemies in Iran. This is the link.
Georgia does not have common borders with the United States. It has
common borders with Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Iran.
They are its neighbors. What is their attitude to what is happening
in Russian-Georgian relations? They cannot but react.

Vinogradov: I think those countries will pragmatically look for
their benefits. Iran, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan are looking at the
Georgian gas market, quite sympathetically, and I think they will
use that. For other countries -- well, Azerbaijan has its own
topical issue, its own separatist autonomy, which is also beyond
control. But they are used to that problem, in principle, and even
serious changes in Russian-Georgian relations are unlikely to cause
any further serious destabilization in the region. No one expects
those changes to really take place. Everyone is used to that and
they treat this conflict as a certain rite.

Anchor: Dogs bark and the caravan moves on. This logic works
for everyone, for all parties.

Vinogradov: Yes, I think so. over, Georgia's cooperation
with Iran has been approved in principle by the United States. It
has played a certain peacemaking part in complex relationships
between the United States and Iran.

Anchor: Let us listen to phone calls.

Q: Good day. I am Lidia Ivanovna, Moscow. Georgia forgets that
in the past it used to be constantly under threats of conquest by
Turkey. And Czar Georgy XII revived the Treaty of Georgievsk of 1783
--

Anchor: Yes, perhaps. Perhaps, they hope that the authorities
have changed in Turkey since?

Q: Let me go on -- and he asked Emperor Pavel I to grant
Georgia Russia's protectorate. Russia rescued Georgia. It saved it
from the fate of Armenia, where 1.5 million ethnic Armenians were
slain.

Anchor: That's clear. And Georgia should be grateful forever.
Okay. Does this mean, in line with the logic of our listener, Lidia
Ivanovna, that Russia can now behave any way it likes with respect
to Georgia, while Georgia tolerate all that, while being grateful?
Or, is there any other logic? Are there grounds to accuse Russia?
Are there grounds for Georgia to do that? Let us try to take a look
from the Georgian side. Perhaps, they find that Russia somewhat
misbehaves and Georgia, while being ever grateful, has to break
everything inside the country and resist that pressure.

Vinogradov: You know, while being a historian by education, I
know that history never teaches anyone, on the one hand. On the
other, all references to history, as a rule, are quite speculative
and not objective.

The situation is different today. Pavel I has not been with us
for about 200 years. The Osman Empire no longer exists. We have
Turkey, which is totally different since Ataturk. Far from
everything is always perfect in relations between Georgia and
Turkey, but there is no threat to territorial integrity of what is
left of Georgia from outside, only from inside.

Anchor: A question from out pager. "Even our children will
perhaps come to realize that our foreign policy is too yielding,"
Sergei writes.

Vinogradov: The main problem of Russia's foreign policy is that
its goals and interests have not been formulated. If Russia
explains, to itself first and foremost, what it needs from Georgia,
from Ossetia, Abkhazia, NATO, the world will be reasonable,
simple and understandable. This is not happening at the moment. The
state machinery is not targeted at attaining goals and pursuing
interests, and the diplomatic establishment still less so.

Q: I am Lev Nikolayevich. I am listening to your broadcast and
it occurred to me, do the Georgian leaders understand that while the
peacekeepers are there, they have an illusion of having incorporated
these parts? And if they have our peacekeepers withdraw to the
territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, then a state border is
established between Georgia and another state, and there is no way
back. Do they realize that?

Vinogradov: They understand that. I think the Georgian
leadership is interested in having peacekeeping troops. They would
rather these were not Russian but international troops. That would
be played up as a success of Georgian foreign policy.

Anchor: Another wonderful question: "Can we cutoff electricity
and gas supplies to Georgia? Will there be sanctions?"

Vinogradov: Well, we can do that, but Georgia has means to
retaliate. It has propaganda levers. Georgia can create serious
difficulties for Russia in its bid to join the WTO, for example. In
other words, the game is not worth the candle.

Anchor: And besides I would remind the sender of this message
that the Russian President has said that Russia does not see gas or
electricity as political weapons. These are relations between
business entities, if I am quoting the President right.

Vinogradov: In fact, Russia is not very much interested in
selling gas to Georgia because it would be much happier selling this
gas at higher prices to the European market. Russia is ready to
withdraw from the Georgian market. That would not seriously weaken
Russia economically. As to whether it will weaken it politically,
this is a question of ideology, mythology and geopolitics.

Anchor: Another listener reminds us that we can play
geopolitical chess as much as we like, but there is, for example,
the problem of the Armenian population in Abkhazia. If Georgia goes
into Abkhazia, then about 90,000 Armenians will most likely have to
leave. What will happen to the Abkhazians?

Vinogradov: A year and a half ago I drove through Abkhazia and
I don't think it is realistic for Georgian troops to go into
Abkhazia and stay there for any length of time. The country is full
of monuments, museums and memorials and banners reading, "We have
won!" Abkhazians feel very strong about it and every Abkhazian will
tell you how he was fighting.

Anchor: We can take one final phone call.

Q: "I am Valery Vasilyevich from Gorki oblast. What is the
economic interest for RAO UES Russia in operating the power industry
in Georgia? Do we earn any profits there?"

Vinogradov: Opinions among economists on that score differ.
Some say we do derive some economic benefit, and some feel that it
is of a political action. The latter point of view is
frequently expressed and therefore appears to be convincing.

Anchor: So, it is a politically motivated action. The
implementation of the idea expressed by Chubais.

Vinogradov: The idea of a "liberal empire." A simulation of the
idea.

Anchor: Simulation again. Unfortunately, this is not the first
time we are discussing the Russian-Georgian relations and other CIS
countries. And nearly always we come to the conclusion that most
often it is a simulation of activities.

Vinogradov: That is still better than bloodshed.

Anchor: It is still better than an open conflict, but it is
worse than a clear statement of interests and goals and policies
aimed at achieving those goals.

Vinogradov: Absolutely.

Anchor: We will keep following the developments. Thank you.

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