08TBILISI2225, GEORGIA: SAAKASHVILI TAKES HIS CASE PUBLIC, MAKES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08TBILISI2225 2008-12-01 14:49 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO3072
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #2225/01 3361449
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011449Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0484
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 002225 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: SAAKASHVILI TAKES HIS CASE PUBLIC, MAKES 
HISTORY 
 
REF: TBILISI 2219 
 
Classified By: AMBASSADOR JOHN F. TEFFT FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D) 
 
1.  (U)  Begin Summary:  In an unprecedented development in 
modern Georgian history, Georgian President Mikheil 
Saakashvili voluntarily testified on November 28 in front of 
Parliament's "Ad Hoc Commission Investigating the August 
events and Russia's invasion."  The country watched on live 
TV as the President sat before the Commission for nearly five 
hours, first reading a prepared statement and then answering 
the questions of the commissioners.  The Ambassador and 
diplomatic corps attended the testimony at Parliament. 
Saakashvili did not defer any questions to a closed session 
and admitted readily that he had made the decision for 
Georgian ground forces to enter South Ossetia in order to 
protect Georgian citizens.  Saakashvili defended the decision 
as "inevitable," because Russian troops were advancing into 
South Ossetia and Georgian-controlled villages were being 
heavily shelled.  Saakashvili claimed repeated attempts to 
speak with Russia's leaders and stop hostilities were 
rebuffed, and that he and the government were left no choice 
but to try and defend Georgia's citizens and sovereignty by 
force.  He said the combat decision was his and his 
government's, and was not taken in consultation with any 
other country.  Saakashvili argued that any responsible 
democratic government in Georgia would have reached the same 
decision.  He said Georgia was neither a loser nor a winner 
in the war, as the struggle continues.  However, he said the 
invasion demonstrated once and for all that Russia could not 
be considered a "peacekeeper" in Georgia.  An unofficial 
transcript of Saakashvili's testimony is on-line at 
(www.civil.ge). Saakashvili was the Commission's final 
witness and the Commission expects to issue its report and 
recommendations within 10 days.  End Summary. 
 
2. (C)  Comment: This Commission is an unprecedented 
development in modern Georgian history.  Commission Chairman 
Paata Davitaia told us that his commission is the first in 
the former Soviet Union before which a head of state has 
testified.  Saakashvili voluntarily chose to appear before 
the Commission and readily addressed all questions; during 
his testimony, he reiterated his willingness to testify 
further before Parliament.  Saakashvili maintained his 
position, which has remained consistent since the August war, 
that he and his Government made the decision to use force 
only as a last resort.  He has openly acknowledged the orders 
he gave and has presented his justification for them to the 
Parliament, his country, and the world.  While the 
Commission's work has been met with some skepticism by some 
in the Georgian opposition and among Tbilisi's elite, and 
even though it does not have formal powers to recommend or 
order changes in government policy, many of our interlocutors 
believe it is an important step in Georgia's democratic 
development.  We agree.  End comment. 
 
COMMITTEE, TESTIMONY IS UNPRECEDENTED 
 
3. (U) Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili testified on 
November 28 in front of Parliament's ad hoc Commission 
Investigating the August events and Russia's Invasion 
(Hereafter referred to as the Commission).  The President sat 
before the Commission for nearly five hours, the entirety of 
which was broadcast live on TV throughout the country.  The 
Ambassador and diplomatic corps attended the first part of 
the testimony at Parliament, in a chamber equipped with 
simultaneous translation.  Saakashvili did not defer any 
questions to a closed session, as some members of his 
Qquestions to a closed session, as some members of his 
national security team had done during earlier testimony. 
 
DEMOCRACY IS RESPONSE TO AGGRESSION 
 
4. (U) Before addressing the Commission members' questions, 
Saakashvili gave a brief statement.  He noted that the 
Commission itself was an historic development for Georgia, 
that it was being led by an opposition member (Davitaia) who 
less than a year ago was calling for his (Saakashvili's) 
resignation (reftel).  He said this was a further example 
that "democracy is this government's response to aggression." 
 The President had ordered all members of his government to 
cooperate with the Commission, and they had done so.  He said 
the commission had heard many versions of the events of 
August. 
 
YES, WE ORDERED MILITARY DEFENSE 
 
5. (U) The President admitted readily that he had made the 
decision for Georgian ground forces to enter South Ossetia, 
but he denied Russia's allegation that the GOG's goal was to 
regain control over Tskhinvali.  Rather, Saakashvili said the 
 
TBILISI 00002225  002 OF 002 
 
 
decision was "inevitable," because Russian troops were 
advancing into South Ossetia and Georgian-controlled villages 
were being heavily shelled.  Saakashvili said any democratic 
government in Georgia would have reached the same decision 
under those circumstances in order to save Georgians in &#
x000A;Tskhinvali and surrounding villages.  He stressed that not 
one Georgian soldier had entered another country, while tens 
of thousands of Russians entered sovereign Georgian territory. 
 
OUR DECISION ALONE 
 
6. (U) Saakashvili said the order for Georgian forces to 
engage Russian and Ossestian troops in combat was his and his 
government's alone.  The decision was not taken in 
consultation with any other country.  Saakashvili said he 
tried to contact Russian President Medvedev and Russian MFA 
envoy Yuri Popov to stop the escalation and invasion on 
August 7, but his calls were refused.  He said he then called 
the Polish and Lithuanian Presidents, and the NATO Secretary 
General.  He said as far as he knew Foreign Minister Eka 
Tkeshelashvili was in contact with U.S. State Department 
officials. 
 
RUSSIA IS AGGRESSOR 
 
7. (U) The President said Georgia was neither a loser nor a 
winner in the war.  Rather, he said the struggle continues 
today, as Russian troops are digging in, fewer than 30 miles 
from Tbilisi.  Now, said Saakashvili, the rest of the world 
can no longer ignore Russia's true colors as an aggressor and 
occupier, and the invasion demonstrated once and for all that 
Russia could not be considered a "peacekeeper." 
 
KITSMARISHVILI "A MISTAKE" 
 
8. (C) Saakashvili also denounced former Ambassador to Russia 
Kitsmarishvili's earlier allegations against him and his 
administration.  Kitsmarishvili had alleged before the 
Commission (reftel) that Saakashvili received a "green light" 
from the USG to take Tskhinvali by force of arms. 
Saakashvili said this was not true, that Kitsmarishvili was 
not present at any policy decisions, and that he had had no 
real influence since even before he was recalled from Moscow. 
 The President said it had been a "mistake" to appoint 
Kitsmarishvili as Ambassador.  (Note: Upon leaving the 
observation room, the press asked the Ambassador about 
Kitsmarishvili's "green light" allegations.  The Ambassador 
said unequivocally, "There was no green light."  End note.) 
 
9.  (C)  In a separate meeting with Davitaia on December 1, 
Davitaia told the Ambassador that Kitsmarishvili's testimony 
was intentionally provocative in order to grab headlines for 
himself. Davitaia told the Ambassador that he had received 
copies of Kitmarishvili's cables from Moscow, in which 
essentially no substance was reported.  Davitaia believed 
that Kitsmarishvili spent much of his short time in Moscow 
enhancing his own business interests with representatives 
from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. 
 
REPORT DUE IN 10 DAYS, NEXT STEPS 
 
10. (C) Davitaia told the Ambassador that the Commission 
hopes to issue its report within 10 days.  Davitaia said the 
rport will include assessments of what happened, how the 
government responded, and recommendations about what 
structural and process improvements the government can put in 
place to better respond to future crises.  Davitaia has based 
much of his commission's structure and approach on the USG 
9/11 Commission.  Davitaia is interested in further 
understanding how the results of his Commission can be used 
to strengthen the government of Georgia for the future. 
TEFFT

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