Despite “great challenges” today peace is “more protected in Georgia than it was several months ago,” President Saakashvili said on February 25.
“There is difficult economic situation in Russia today; Georgia’s aspiration towards peaceful and stable development, as well as the international support which our country has today, rules out any possibility of escalation of the aggression; it makes unreal any suppositions about resumption of hostilities,” he said.
Speaking in the Museum of Soviet Occupation in Tbilisi – on the day when 88 years ago the Bolshevik Red Army captured Tbilisi – President Saakashvili said Georgia was ready for a dialogue with Russia, but on the condition that Moscow respects Georgia’s sovereignty and independence. He also said that Tbilisi was in favor of having diplomatic relations with Russia, but not in the situation wherein Russia has its separate embassies in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He also invited Russian businessmen to invest in Georgia.
“We will not achieve any results through confrontation and war and our enemies should also understand that they will not achieve their goals through bloodshed and violence,” he said, while speaking in live televised meeting with a group of students in the Museum.
“I put the interests of our people and peace above myself and I expect the same from my Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev,” Saakashvili said.
“We will be able and we want to find political ways of settlement of problems with Russia only in case if Russia guides itself by the principles of international law and respect of neighboring states; if Russia understands its responsibility before the international society; if Russia meets its commitments and rejects the plan of Georgia’s splitting and occupation.”
He then continued: “However, there are some terms on which not a single Georgian patriot, not a single Georgian politician, not a single Georgia ruler and not a single Georgian president will ever agree. First and foremost, this is Georgia’s territorial integrity and there will be no compromise over this issue. This is Georgia’s independence and Georgia will never yield to occupational troops on its territory. This is the right to choice and Georgia will never give up its right to choose its future itself based on its national interests.”
“We are ready to fight with the Kremlin when it attacks us with tanks as a conqueror; but we also are ready to hold a dialogue with it, if it comes not as an occupant, but as a civilized, equal neighbor. But nobody knows the price of friendship, good neighborhood and cooperation better than Georgians.”
He also said that Georgia would always welcome “Russia’s economic and business interests in Georgia.”
“We do not open the door for Russian tanks, but our doors are always open for Russian investors and Russian tourists,” Saakashvili said.
He said that economic cooperation brings prosperity and stability and for that reason “we need to cooperate about Enguri” hydro power plant. Georgia has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s state-controlled Inter RAO on joint management of the largest hydro power plant in the region – a source of the opposition’s criticism.
“Now, against the background of the economic crisis, when our economy suffers difficulties and when Russia’s economy is practically under the conditions of full collapse, we invite Russian businessmen to Georgia to let them see with their own eyes that nobody will demand a bribe or a share from them in this country,” Saakashvili said.
He, however, also warned that in the light of “economic storm around Georgia” there was “one big ship in the North, which is sinking not far from us and we should be careful not to be dragged down together with it.”
Almost a century has passed since the Bolshevik Red Army invaded Georgia, Saakashvili said, “but you know well that our country, unfortunately, still faces the same danger.”
“The empire is still attacking Georgia from the north and the freedom of our country is still in danger,” he added.
He also said that like under his presidency, all of his three predecessors – Noe Zhordania, head of the Georgian government in 1918-1921; and former presidents Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Eduard Shevardnadze – Georgia faced the same threat of Russian aggression.
“In all the three cases the empire tried to trample down Georgia’s independence,” Saakashvili said. “In all the three cases Tbilisi was forced to concede and Georgia suffered a defeat. In all the three cases, we either lost independence or became dragged into maelstrom of civil war.”
He said that he was not blaming his predecessors, as they all were experiencing huge problems, as Georgia in the past had “no defense system and we had no international support.”
Saakashvili said that in August, 2008 he decided “not to surrender, to struggle until it would be possible in order to save Georgia’s statehood.”
“History will show whether it was a correct decision or not,” he said. “But I did not either surrender the government to the enemy, or signed the agreement on deployment of military bases and I will never sign such; neither had I decreed to cancel the Georgian army - on the contrary, we have maintained it and we will strengthen it - and neither I fled from Tbilisi, although I had many proposals and I was directly pressed in this regard.”
“History will show what we have lost and what we have won; but we can say for sure that we have maintained Georgia’s statehood, Georgian flag is flying over Tbilisi, the state is functioning and Georgians are not shooting at each other… We have stumbled but we are still on the feet and we will certainly continue developing, because unlike 1921 and 1990s, Georgia is no more alone today.”