Georgia/Russia: When France negotiates with Putin, it sucks to be Georgian


A dynamite article by Arnaud Leparmentier in Le Monde gives the tick-tock of France’s participation in ceasefire talks between Russia and Georgia. The article makes it obvious that Mikheil Saakashvili had to make huge concessions in return for almost no gains against the Russians. Substantial excerpts, translated by me, follow:

The presence in Tbilisi of the Polish and Ukrainian presidents and the heads of the Baltic states, who had come to support him against Russian imperialism, changed nothing: Mikheil Saakashvili has lost his bet against the Russians.

The text (presented to Saakashvili by Nicolas Sarkozy) had been negotiated in the afternoon in Moscow by the French president with his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, and the prime minister, Vladimir Putin…

The discussions had begun Friday, August 8 in Beijing, during the meeting between Sarkozy and Putin at the Olympic opening ceremonies. The French leader asked for 24 or 48 hours to organize a truce. Putin, violent in his manner of expression, didn’t want to hear about it. He would press his offensive to the end. His anger was aggravated by George Bush who insisted to him it was the South Ossetians who had unleashed hostilities…

In the end it is Bernard Kouchner who attempts a mediation on Sunday, Aug. 10, beginning in Tbilisi. Already on Monday morning, the French foreign minister got Saakashvili to sign a draft agreement without difficulty. But as the hours went on, Kouchner would have to accept humiliating Russian conditions to arrive at the essential goal in French eyes: an end to combat.

In a major concession, the final text does not mention the principle of Georgia’s territorial integrity. The Russians refused outright. …Medvedev raised the Kosovo precedent Tuesday to justify his position. ‘Do the Ossetians and Abkhazians want to live in Georgia? Ask them. They will answer loud and clear.’ Bernard Kouchner isn’t far from sharing this view, just like Nicolas Sarkoy, who judges it legitimate for Moscow to ‘defend the interests of Russian-speakers abroad.’

As early as Sunday night, Medvedev had given Sarkozy his demands: the Georgians must renounce the use of force and Saakashvili must resign. Paris estimates that it is not up to the Russians to designate Georgia’s president, but gives in on the first point. Saakashvili relents and sends to Paris a fax in which he makes this promise…

The reticence of the French side with regard to Moscow is such that the text Kouchner had Saakashvili sign was never sent along to the Russians. On the negotiating table there was only the very tough document of the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov. Sarkozy began negotiating at the Kremlin with Medvedev, soon joined by Putin.


Georgia/Russia: When France negotiates with Putin, it sucks to be Georgian

  1. Well, now I can see how Bush made such a positive impact on proceedings. Having knowingly or unknowingly egged on Saakashvili, he apparently continued to bleat to Putin well after the moment had come to start thinking and speaking more strategically.

    At least the French managed to talk Saakashvili off the ledge and back into the building, presumably by telling him the facts of life.

  2. DO the Chechnyans want to live in Russia? Ask them…

  3. I have a friend who is convinced that this is repeat of the year 1938. He thinks this is equivalent of annexing sudetenland and I am sure to be hearing from him tonight about Sarkozy pulling a Chamberlain and waiving a piece of paper and claiming ‘peace for our time’.

    I don’t think the situation is that dire but this story really freaked me out. I had no idea Sarkozy and Putin were negotiating away another country’s territory.

  4. There are many who are convinced anything even remotely military is 1938. Most are ridiculous neo-cons whose advice can safely be ignored.

  5. I thought it was liberals who call ‘neo cons’ (what ever that is now) fascist this nazi that all the time.

  6. Actually, Greg, it’s a fun game for the whole family.

  7. JWL,
    As is mentioned in the article, this isn’t even the first time this year that someone has negotiated away another countries territory (recall Kosovo?) Of course that was because the Kosovans didn’t want to live with the Serbs whereas the .. uhh.. Ossetians/Akhbazians uhh don’t want to live with the Georgians (okay okay waaaaay over simplified, but still).

    I think the places to watch are the “Russian” part of the Ukraine, and perhaps Transdneister in Moldova. Just to see what they are thinking

  8. The Russians had “peacekeeping” forces on the ground in Abkhazia & South Ossetia when the Georgians attacked. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be pissed off & reluctant to make a gentle peace when your own armed forces were suddenly attacked, albeit on foreign soil. Let’s not forget that the Georgians started the war!

    If Russia were planning to annex Georgia proper, it would be different.

    All these half-assed analogies to the 1930’s, man, they get me down. Nobody even glances at history any more. There are actually a few other precedents in the 500-year history of modern Europe for a big state taking territory away from a small state.

  9. Chris B

    I am far from an expert in Serbia/Kosovo but I was under the impression Serbs and Albanians had been negotiating for a few years before Kosovo was unilaterally declared independent. The Serbs might not have liked the outcome but weren’t they are the bargaining table?

  10. Jack M

    I agree with you about the ‘half-assed’ analogies.

    People who are pro-war always point to ’38 and remind us what was learned, never appease a dictator!, and anti-war people always point to Vietnam and remind us what was learned, quagmire!

  11. pls look at the video on comcast.net “Just to scary”
    12 y.old girl telling the truth …… TaDa they cut her of with a comertial

Sign in to comment.