A somber, visibly weary Georgian Ambassador spoke before television cameras and an overflow crowd at The Heritage Foundation’s Lehrman Auditorium on August 18, discussing his country’s future in light of Russia’s recent occupation.
Ambassador Vasil Sikharulidze spoke to the extent of the Russian forces entering his country, asserting that Russian attempts to disrupt the Georgian democracy are nothing new. Attacks dating back as early as October 2006 mark a series of events that have politicians worldwide suspicious of Russia’s true motive in its invasion.
“This is the story of a small country being invaded by a larger power intending to subjugate it and it’s neighbors,” said Sikharulidze. He added that this aggression is not simply an attack on Georgia, but a statement of “what Russia intends to do to the world.”
While original reports from Russia claimed that military action was provoked—Heritage Research Fellow Ariel Cohen acknowledged in a Heritage Web Memo that Georgia had in fact fired upon the capitol of South Ossetia—the panelists all expressed fear over the extent and purpose of the Russian invasion of both Georgia’s territories and the country itself.
Professor Stephen Blank of the U.S. Army College alluded to evidence that the attack had been months in planning, implying that Russia was simply lying in wait for any reason to assert it’s dominance over a country that once lay within the borders of the former Soviet Empire.
Paraphrasing for the Russians, Sikharulidze claims the attack is a sign of Russia’s “reemergence as an imperial force—and there’s nothing the free world can do about it.”
With the United State’s perspective, Blake adeded: “We are enemy number one.”
A conference call from Georgia with Temuri Yakobashvili, Minister of Reintegration, confirmed Russian forces remain in Georgia and the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia since fighting being August 8, despite a vow from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to begin withdrawing troops starting Monday.
Blake also fears that Russia’s message in its ongoing occupation of Georgia is a message not only to Georgian’s, but other nations bordering Russia, specifically those who once were a part of the Soviet Empire. Ukraine has been a sensitive topic in relations with Russia, a nation which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has spoken of “dismembering.”
Beyond its proximity and relation to Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine are both nations seeking membership in NATO.
Sikharulidze urged other countries to apply international pressure on Russia to actually honor the cease-fire agreement and fully withdraw its troops from Georgia.
“The free world needs to become more aware of the new nature of Russia,” said Sikharulidze.