C Explanatory memorandum, by Mr Gross
I would like to commend the rapporteurs of the Monitoring
Committee for their work. I share their views and concerns as regards
the implementation of Resolution
and their assessment of the current situation.
2. The escalation of conflicts into all-out war between two Council
of Europe member states raises a number of questions for the Council
of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly: why did we not manage
to prevent this war? Did we pay enough attention to the conflicts
between the two countries concerned? Did we overlook important developments?
Are we not capable of influencing our own members to refrain from
trying to resolve their conflicts through violence? Are there any
other situations in Europe that could develop into inter-state violence
in the future? How can we avoid it?
3. I shall focus my opinion on how to establish peace in the
region and on what we should do now to avoid war in Europe tomorrow,
and the day after tomorrow, on the basis of the lessons learned
from the war between Georgia and Russia. In so doing, I will base
myself on the interesting and far-reaching discussions that the Presidential
Committee held both in Tbilisi and in Moscow, which went well beyond
the analysis of the post-war situation to encompass future prospects
to ensure regional stability.
2 The war is over. Conflicts are not
4. Even if military operations are over, the conflicts
between Georgia and Russia which were the reasons behind the escalation
of violence in August are far from being solved: on the contrary,
as the report of the Monitoring Committee describes in detail, since
the end of the hostilities there have been a number of incidents involving
all sides. In fact, the number of these incidents seems to be rising,
which increases fears of an escalation resulting in the reignition
of a military conflict.
5. It was especially alarming to hear from some interlocutors
in Moscow that there are signs of re-armament of the Georgian army,
which would be an indication that Georgia is prepared to reopen
the hostilities. I think we should do everything to prevent this
Although the second and third rounds of negotiations conducted
under the aegis of the European Union in Geneva have been constructive
in some respects, Russia has not withdrawn its recognition of the independence
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as was demanded by the Assembly in
its Resolution 1633 (2008)
. In addition, Russian troops continue to be stationed
in Akhalgori and in the ethnic Georgian areas of Upper Abkhazia,
two areas which were not directly affected by military operations
during the war. Needless to say, Georgia refuses to accept a limitation
on its territorial integrity.
7. Animosity between the parties has not vanished: as at the
day of writing, Georgia has not yet restored internet accessibility
to Russian websites on Georgian territory. It is, however, to be
welcomed that, on 25 January 2009, Georgia restored the gas supply
for the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which had been cut off
since the beginning of the war. I think we should note that, since
the start of the war, Russia never stopped the gas supply to Georgia.
8. Russia, for its part, voted against the renewal of the mandate
of the OSCE in Georgia, which has been operational since 1992, with
the result that, for this year, the OSCE will have to close down
its widespread activities in the country. The explanation put forward
by Russia for its refusal was that it could not accept any linkage
between the OSCE activities in South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia,
because Moscow has recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South
9. These are worrying signs that tensions are high and might
flare up again. Europe cannot afford a repetition of the war, even
more so when one considers the volatility of the wider region, where
a number of other conflicts have not been resolved.
10. The status of the two break-away regions should not lead to
further violence or even a war. Their future and their relations
with their neighbours have to be the subject of diplomatic negotiation.
11. To take up an idea of my colleague David Wilshire, I would
like to stress that in order to prevent fresh violence, we need
flexibility on the status of the two regions; in order to be able
to help those people who are suffering and ensure an appropriate
humanitarian response, we also need flexibility as regards access
to the two regions.
12. The expression “frozen conflicts” is misleading: it is not
possible to ensure that a conflict which is “frozen” has no effects.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe is right when he
wants to replace the expression “frozen conflicts” with “sleeping
volcanoes”. This is what we are dealing with now: the consequences
of the explosion of a sleeping volcano in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
In Nagorno-Karabakh, an explosion would be even more destructive
and would cause even greater human suffering.
3 The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh: prospects
for a solution to the conflict closer as a positive side-effect
of the war between Georgia and Russia?
13. Far from having a spill-over effect in South Caucasus,
an encouraging consequence of the war between Georgia and Russia
is that, in its aftermath, there have been signs that a solution
to the conflict on Nagorno-Karabakh might be closer to hand. At
least some of the states involved seem to understand that they now
have to be more proactive.
14. During the war, both Azerbaijan and Armenia showed a sense
of responsibility. Azerbaijan remained neutral and refrained from
open criticism of Russia’s intervention. This attitude was perhaps
due to the fear that Russia could have extended recognition to other
separatist regions, including Nagorno-Karabakh.
15. Armenia, for its part, did not use Russia’s recognition of
the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as an opportunity
to recognise the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
16. An explanation for this restraint is that the war between
Georgia and Russia highlighted the strategic and economic vulnerability
of Azerbaijan and Armenia: it temporarily halted all the transit
routes of gas and oil through Georgia, therefore affecting Azerbaijan’s
energy exports. The economy of Armenia was affected even more because
70% of its exports normally flow through Georgia, as a result of
the blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan. Landlocked, Armenia found
itself cut off from Russia, its main military ally with which it
maintains strong economic ties. The only way to reach Russia by
land from Armenia is now via Azerbaijan.
17. In the wake of this war, therefore, both Azerbaijan and Armenia
might have a renewed interest in improving their relations, which
requires the solution of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. In
addition, Armenia might have a renewed incentive to normalise its
relations with Turkey and thus break its economic isolation. It
is not a coincidence that straight after the war between Georgia
and Russia, the Turkish President Abdullah Gül launched a new regional
security initiative entitled “the Caucasus Stability and Co-operation Platform”.
Earlier, he had conducted the first ever presidential visit to Armenia,
followed by meetings at the level of ministers for foreign affairs.
18. At the same time, the interest in a rapid resolution of the
conflict is also felt more urgently by Russia, in an attempt to
improve its relations with Azerbaijan, to find a remedy to the isolation
of its main regional ally, Armenia, and to strengthen its position
as a peacemaker in South Caucasus.
19. This is the background to the “Moscow Declaration”, signed
by the Presidents of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia under the auspices
of the former, on 2 November 2008. The declaration reaffirms their
commitment to resolve the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh through
It is now of primary importance for the parties to the conflict
and for the Minsk Group of the OSCE not to lose momentum and to
deploy all their efforts to secure a long-term settlement of the
conflict. The Assembly, for its part, should also resume its activities
on this question, in the context of the ad hoc committee on the implementation
of Resolution 1416 (2005)
on the conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region dealt
with by the OSCE Minsk Conference.
4 North Caucasus
21. The continued volatile and unstable situation in
the North Caucasus, especially in Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia,
is a matter of concern for Russia, but also for the Council of Europe.
22. In recent months, despite the change of leadership in Ingushetia,
there has been a deterioration of the security situation there,
with murders, kidnappings and explosive devices going off.
23. The future of the North Caucasus depends, to a large extent,
on whether the problems and conflicts existing in the wider region
are resolved or aggravated. In the latter case, it is inevitable
that the tendency will be towards an escalation of violence, terrorist
attacks, and a growing divide from the rest of the Russian Federation,
in political, cultural, religious and economic terms.
24. Perhaps, in the West, many observers underestimated the cultural
and social links and loyalties between peoples from South and North
Caucasus. These loyalties might have been one of the main factors
as to why the Russian Federation answered so rapidly and with such
determination to the attack on the Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali.
5 Transnistria and Ukraine
25. Contrary to initial fears voiced by some experts
and the media, Moscow’s recognition of independence was limited
to the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and did not extend
to any other region with separatist ambitions, such as Transnistria.
26. Paradoxically, in the aftermath of the war between Georgia
and Russia, the prospects for reaching a negotiated solution in
Transnistria have improved, with the Moldovan Government reaffirming
its full support for a non-violent, negotiated solution that offers
Transnistria the broadest possible autonomy.
27. Russia should be motivated to exercise pressure on the Transnistrian
leadership to accept the compromise, which would confirm that its
actions regarding the unilateral declarations of independence by Abkhazia
and South Ossetia are exceptional cases and in no way an indication
of a “new”, more aggressive foreign policy towards its western neighbours.
To this end, the beginning of a new negotiating process was planned
at the meetings that Russian President Medvedev held in Sochi with
Moldovan President Voronin (25 August 2008) and in Moscow with the
Transnistrian leader Smirnov (3 September 2008).
28. Similarly, Russia has given very convincing arguments proving
that it has no interest in supporting the secession of part of the
territory of Ukraine. However, preserving the unity of a country
which is so divided from the social and cultural point of view is
a daunting challenge for its leadership, which is itself very divided politically.
29. In the months to come, the Assembly should follow political
developments in Moldova and Ukraine with particular attention. The
relevant monitoring rapporteurs have to be proactive and formulate
constructive recommendations. Ukraine also needs conceptual help
on how to integrate its diverse groups into society and how to strengthen
the unity of the state without putting into question the different
identities of its people. Lessons from other multi-ethnic states
might be of help.
6 A common future in partnership with Russia
30. I do not believe, as some politicians and scholars
argue, that Russia’s foreign policy has changed, that it has taken
a confrontational turn. I am convinced that, in recent years, the
“West” – both the United States and European countries – has made
several mistakes. First of all, it has underestimated the importance
of moving forward in real partnership with Russia, although there
are no major European or global problems that can be resolved without
As Sir Roderic Lyne, a former British Ambassador to Russia,
recently said: “There is no objective need for confrontation. President
Medvedev declared at Evian that ‘we are in no way interested in
confrontation’. It would be the avenue of last resort, and would
be expensive and damaging to all of our interests. We have a vital
interest in the management of global problems. And the crises in
the Caucasus and the financial markets have had the salutary effect
of reminding us of our interdependency and of our ability to co-operate
when we are forced to do so”.Note
32. In order to create the best conditions to build a common future
in partnership, we have to learn to look at each other through the
other’s eyes. Real partnership does not prevent any partners from
asking critical questions and making critical remarks if necessary.
In this sense, I would like to quote the analysis that a Russian
expert has made of the events which finally led to the war between
Georgia and Russia:
“In the historically
short period of two decades in the late 20th and early 21st centuries,
the world has seen tumultuous changes in all areas – in the economy,
politics, law, information technologies, and in cultural and humanitarian
exchanges. Globalisation processes and the ensuing growth in the interdependence
of countries have speeded up, and room for multilateral diplomacy
and the cross-border movement of people and capital has increased.
In the 1990s, newly independent Russia readily embarked
on the path of domestic reforms and integration into the global
economy, and established partner relations with NATO and the European Union,
imposing on itself considerable self-limitations on conventional
armaments and the strength of its armed forces. It is within recent
memory that Russia co-operated with NATO within the framework of multinational
forces to restore peace in the Balkans. NATO expansion to countries
in central and eastern Europe and the Baltics took place relatively
peacefully, although Moscow expressed its principled objection to
such a western policy where there was no military threat to the
East. At the same time, Russia and NATO built effective mechanisms
for their interaction with a view to establishing a partnership
on a strategic scale.
Already in the early years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency,
Moscow did not hesitate to lend its shoulder to the United States
after that country was attacked by international terrorists. Russia
offered support then not only in word but in deed – even sacrificing
some of its national security interests in the central Asian region.
It was a time when both Russia and the West had illusory
hopes for a conflict-free settlement of their differences on the
basis of common interests in countering new global development challenges. Russia’s
political establishment displayed readiness for far-reaching compromises,
given that the West reciprocated and showed its desire to duly assess
the difficulties of the democratic transformations in Russia.
However, conservative NATO representatives in the West
took that as the consent of a weakened Russia to play the role of
a ‘junior partner’ and as a ‘golden chance’ to westernising global
development under the auspices of international security and co-operation
structures, which were under a strong United States influence. […]
The transition from an idyllic phase in the post-confrontation period
to a politically correct showdown in Russian-western relations did
not take place overnight. The two parties maintained the semblance
of business co-operation for quite some time, while differences
latently piled up between them in approaches to solving the major
problems of world development. George W. Bush repeatedly assured
Moscow that the United States did not consider Russia an enemy,
while Moscow confidently said it was impossible to return to confrontation
and that history would not repeat itself”.Note
And here is another quote, from a Russian expert on Russia’s
foreign policy, which we should take into account in order to be
able to develop new common policies in partnership:
“Today’s Russia does not offer
anything – apart from its natural resources – that would deserve
at least some interest, to say nothing of sacrificing one’s life.
Its soft power, non-aggressive attraction, and moral and ideological
influence have dropped to zero. It does not promote either a democratic
ideal (similar to the United States) or a fundamentalist ideal (similar
to some Islamic countries and movements). It does not serve as a
model of successful integration on the basis of democracy (like
the EU) or a pattern of speedy development (like China […]). Russia
is not a crucial and useful ally for anyone (the way Japan is for
the United States) or anyone’s bitter enemy (like Iran is for the
In the meantime, an attempt to integrate Russia into Europe
flopped, and that is why Russia must look for ways to consolidate
its own soft power and seek things that it could offer to the rest
of the world, albeit not on the Soviet scale of the past.
Russia’s transition to a new foreign policy envisions
a number of measures: to formulate basic national interests; to
understand which of them correspond to the interests of other major
international players in the field of world politics; to turn the
areas of convergent interests into guidelines for Russian foreign policy
attractiveness; and, by co-operating in those areas, to induce partners
to concessions on the items where their interests are not identical
The sphere of Russia’s fundamental national interests
should not be interpreted too broadly, especially considering Russia’s
current position. It must incorporate solely the interests that
are directly relevant for the future of the nation, the ones the
nation should defend with all its might. The Russia of today does not
seek to conquer the world or to subdue it with the aid of its ideology
in the manner that the Soviet Union did, and that is why it has
much more national interests. Russia’s general objective today consists of
speedy economic and social development, improving living standards
so that they match those in the most developed nations, and ensuring
political and social stability.”Note
35. The Council of Europe has an important role to play to rebuild
a real and meaningful dialogue and mutual understanding between
its member states.
36. The world needs to develop a new international architecture
for security and co-operation to meet the new political realities.
In this sense, the proposal made by Russian President Medvedev as
regards a new European security pact deserves attentive consideration
and a genuine response.
37. My hope is that the new United States administration will
prove to have more empathy and vision than the previous one. In
his inauguration speech, President Obama expressed his intention
to have recourse to dialogue and negotiation rather than imposing
United States decisions.
7 Different scenarios for the long-term future
As Professor Egberg Jahn from the University of Mannheim
“one has to think
to after tomorrow to prepare the tomorrow”. This means that we have
to look with boldness, imagination and vision, at all the possible
scenarios that might happen in the long-term future, even if they
sound provocative and unrealistic now:
- a first scenario could be that the recognition of Kosovo
and Abkhazia will reshape international law and that the independence
of these entities will be accepted politically, including by Serbia
and Georgia, in the context of a comprehensive settlement in which
some of these countries’ main foreign policy objectives – such as
EU membership or integration into a common security structure –
will be achieved;
- a second scenario could be the definition of a new regional
peace and security pact for the South Caucasus, negotiated by Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia, the European Union, Russia, the United States
and Turkey. This pact could envisage the demilitarisation of some
areas in the region;
- a third scenario could be that Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Georgia, as well as Abkhazia and South Ossetia, become neutral states
and entities, with their common security being guaranteed by the
European Union, Russia and the United States, with or without forming
new types of state federation;
- a fourth scenario could be that South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh
become regions jointly administered by Georgia and Russia and by
Armenia and Azerbaijan respectively, with the security being guaranteed
by the main players in the international community.
39. In order that such scenarios, which seem so unrealistic now,
become more of a possibility, we have to be open for dialogue and
discussion with all groups, all parties, all countries and all regions.
8 Developing a role for the Council of Europe in
the field of conflict prevention
40. The Council of Europe was set up to ensure unity
between the states in Europe. In August 2008, for the first time
in the history of the Organisation, two member states engaged in
full-scale war against one another. This was a shock for the Assembly,
especially because we were not able to prevent this war.
I believe that one of the lessons to be learned from the war
between Georgia and Russia is that the Council of Europe should
develop a role in the field of conflict prevention, in order to
prevent other situations of tension from escalating into all-out
violence. As recognised by Resolution
on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia,
“without peace there cannot be genuine respect for democracy, human
rights and the rule of law”.
42. The Assembly can make a considerable contribution in this
field, by promoting inter-parliamentary dialogue and conducting
parliamentary diplomacy. In fact, there should be a standing structure
within the Assembly with the task of following sensitive political
situations and setting off an alarm bell well before violence breaks
out. In this sense, the newly-created ad hoc sub-committee on early
warning systems and conflict prevention in Europe should also continue
its activities after the the Conference on early warning systems
has taken place.
43. In this context, the Council of Europe should envisage its
field presence in the two regions in the form of an ombudsperson
who has the task of addressing complaints related to human rights
questions, and reporting back to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg
on such matters.
Reporting committee: Committee
on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States
of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee).
Committee for opinion: Political
Reference to committee: Reference
No. 3496 of 28 November 2008.
Opinion approved by
the committee on 27 January 2009.
Secretariat of the committee: Mr
Perin, Ms Nachilo, Mr Chevtchenko, Mrs Sirtori-Milner, Ms Alleon.