Feb 6, 2011

Saakashvili's speech at the 47th Munich Security Conference

Dear Wolfgang,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Distinguished guests of the conference,

In the past 20 years, the world has learnt that history did not end in 1989 and that it remains tragic.

The eclipse of the Cold War left behind a series of so-called “low intensity conflicts”—an euphemism for “conflicts of little importance to the international community.”

It is clear now to all of us in this room that these conflicts can have global effects and that stable states cannot preserve their own security while overlooking instability abroad.

Having experienced and survived very uncertain times, we, Georgians, believe not only that all people have the right to aspire to stability, but also that it is our collective responsibility to project this stability in areas where it does not exist.

This is why Georgia has sent almost 1,000 troops to support some of the most dangerous missions of the ISAF deployment in Afghanistan—to help the Afghan people achieve a sustainable peace and to prevent terrorists from again using that country as a base.

For Georgia, a country of just 4.7 millions souls, whose territory is still partly occupied, such an effort underscores our determination to be a provider—and not just a consumer—of international security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to stress today that we are facing a decisive moment for the future of our region.

The arc of countries at the margin of what was not so long ago the Soviet Empire can be defined both as an arc of crisis—or so-called “frozen conflicts” - and as an area of opportunity for international cooperation.

We, Georgians, have seen in 2008 how quickly a “frozen conflict” can turn into a hot war and I cannot emphasize enough today the danger of overlooking ongoing tensions in the South Caucasus and beyond.

I came here to deliver one simple message: ignoring the ongoing military build-ups fueled by well-known foreign hands can lead to future disasters.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Caucasus is the only alternative road to bring the Central Asian energy to Europe, a supply route for the ISAF mission, a region in which people are striving for transatlantic integration and for European transformation.

But a region, also, where the law of weapons has prevailed too many times in the recent past, where some leaders of a former Empire still apply a well known policy: “divide to rule”.

In order to avoid new confrontations, we should all take our responsibilities.

My government is committed to take every possible step in order to defuse tensions and pave the way to a just and lasting peace in the region.

In the 80% of Georgia that we control, we have made in the last 7 years considerable progress in building a multi-ethnic state where all citizens have access to the government and the economy.

Towards the regions illegally occupied by the Russian troops, we have adopted a comprehensive strategy of peaceful engagement of all populations, trying to rebuild the bridges between communities that the Soviet leaders and their heirs have systematically destroyed.

We never took the Russian refusal to comply with the August 12th 2008 cease-fire agreement as a pretext and we went beyond our commitments as defined in the cease-fire agreement, as well as in our cooperation with the essential European Monitoring Mission.

The head of the EUMM, Hansjorg Haber, defined our policy as a “constructive unilateralism”.

This “constructive unilateralism” has lead me to solemnly pledge last November before the European Parliament that Georgia will never use force in order to restore its territorial integrity, neither against the occupation forces nor against their proxies.

This pledge - a legal obligation for Georgia - was accompanied by a call for dialogue.

I came here today to repeat this simple message: Peace is the only solution, and a comprehensive political dialogue is the only way to achieve it.

But until now, how did the Russian leaders respond to our call?

Not only they refused to reciprocate the non-use of force, they responded by accelerating the military build-up in the occupied regions, announcing lastly the deployment of offensive missiles 50 miles from our capital.

Ladies and gentlemen,

European and American involvement is essential, in Georgia and beyond our borders, to bring those who believe in military supremacy back to the table of negotiations.

With your help, I am confident that we can transform this region marked by old-fashioned logics of domination into an area of cooperation and progress.

What is at stake is more than just a nation of 4,7 millions people dreaming of independence and transatlantic integration, and even more that the South Caucasus at large.

What is at stake is this Europe whole and free that the end of the Cold War should have allowed to exist already.

It is time to debunk the idea that so-called “frozen conflicts” are a stalemate and that advantage can only be gained by using force.

It is time for peace,

Thank you very much,