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1 Sep, 2008 08:31

Medvedev: Unipolarity is unacceptable

Russia's President says his decision to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia won't change. Here's what Dmitry Medvedev had to say in an interview with Russia's main television stations.

Q: The situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia has been developing for some 17 long years. Why was the decision to recognise their independence made at the time when Georgia attacked Tskhinval? Were there any other options?

M: I believe that in the circumstances which had come about that decision was inevitable. Today, the efficiency of that decision is obvious to everyone. For 17 years we’d been trying to glue together a country that had already fallen apart. We’d been trying to encourage a resolution one way or another. Our peacekeepers had been carrying out their service round the clock, helping to keep apart the conflicting parties. In the 1990s we managed to prevent tremendous bloodshed. Perhaps a chance for resolution might have remained, if not for the idiotic action undertaken by the Georgian government. In essence that action put an end to any prospects of the co-existence of Georgians, Ossetians and Abkhazians in one country. It didn’t just put an end to this, it also caused a large number of deaths. Peaceful citizens died, including our citizens. Peacekeepers that had worked to keep apart the conflicting sides died. The fact that the Georgian peacekeepers were shooting at their colleagues during that campaign is especially atrocious. All these facts together brought about the development of events according to the most difficult scenario. We had no other option but to respond to this barefaced, brazen behaviour. We had to put things back in order and to provide for the lives and dignity of the people living in South Ossetia. You realise that a separate plan of attack was being developed for Abkhazia, as our General Staff has shown. Its scenario was absolutely the same. So we made our decisions in order to prevent more genocide and the total disappearance of both Ossetians and Abkhazians from those territories. I will repeat that life has demonstrated their absolute obviousness and necessity.

Q: The reaction of our western partners to the decision made by Russia was quite foreseeable: from the moderately critical to the harsh. What reaction are we expecting from our close neighbours, like the CIS countries? And how important is it for Russia whether many other countries follow our example and recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? How will this affect our next steps?

M: We’ve already taken all the steps necessary for Russia. As you understand it wasn’t an easy decision. But those decisions were necessary and sufficient. Other countries have responded in different ways, and I guess this is the way it should be. The reaction of our close neighbours has been quite objective. I’ve met with most leaders during the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. They understand the motives behind the actions which Russia has undertaken. Recognition is a different issue. I’d like to repeat that recognition is up to each country individually. No collective actions can be taken here. Look at the example of Kosovo. It’s obvious that in this situation some countries will agree with the creation of new states, and other countries will consider it untimely. But let me remind you that international law is based on the fact that the legal existence, as the lawyers put it, of a new state comes into being at the moment of recognition of this new state by at least one other country. Thus from the legal viewpoint, the new states have appeared. The process of their recognition may take quite a long time. But this will not change our position in any way. We’ve made our decision irreversibly. It is our duty to provide for peace and order in the region. That’s what we’ll be basing our actions on.

Q: What is Russia going to do in those republics?

M: We will definitely help those republics in every way possible. At present we’ve been developing international agreements with the two countries: between the Russian Federation and Abkhazia, and between the Russian Federation and South Ossetia accordingly. These international agreements will set forth all our obligations of economic, social, humanitarian and military support and assistance. We will have proper, complete and legal international relations.

Q: It is clear to everyone right now that since August 8, Russia’s place in the world has changed. Also, the whole system of previous agreements is changing. A number of international institutions have shown themselves totally incapable of solving this conflict. Still, as far as I understand, Russia and the West are not ready to break their relations completely. What do you think is the future of the world order and Russia’s place in it?

I will implement Russia's foreign policy on the basis of five points.

First – Russia accepts the superiority of the fundamental principles of international law which determine relations between civilised nations. And within the framework of these principles and this view of international law, we will develop our relations with other countries.

Second – the world should be multi-polar. Unipolarity is unacceptable, dominance is inadmissible. We can't accept a world order where all the decisions are made by one country, even a country as serious and authoritative as the US. This kind of world would be unsteady and conflict prone.
Third – Russia doesn’t want a confrontation with any country, and has no plans to isolate itself. As far as we can, we will develop friendly relations with Europe, the United States and with other countries.

Fourth – protecting the lives and dignity of our citizens is an absolute priority for us, wherever they are. This is where we’ll be starting from in our foreign policy. We'll also be trying to protect the interests of our business community abroad. And it must be clear to all, that if anyone attempts any aggressive action, they will encounter a response.

And fifth – just like other countries, Russia has regions where it has special interests. These regions include states with which our country has had particularly warm and friendly historical ties. We will be working very closely with these regions, and developing our friendly relations with these states, our close neighbours. This is what we will be basing our foreign policy on. As far as the future goes, it doesn’t just depend on us. It also depends on our friends and partners in the international community. They have a choice.

These priority regions are of course the border regions, but not only these.

Q: You mentioned possible retaliatory measures Russia may take in case of aggression. Do you think there is a sufficient legal basis for this? Or do we need a special law for these measures?

All the legal basis is there. The international community has approved the United Nations charter, which clearly outlines the right of a state to protect itself. We have our constitution and we have our special Russian laws on the basis of which retaliatory measures can be taken, including the use of Russian armed forces. The normative basis is there and it works, so there’s no need to change anything.

Q: What about sanctions?

We don't usually approve of sanctions. We use them only in extreme cases. But just like other states we have to use them occasionally. In some countries this is done through special laws. If needed, we will create those laws. But I think that it’s the least productive way.