Monday, August 11, 2008

Extremely important statement by Vitalii Churkin at the UNSC (updated with transcript!)

Today, the Russian representative at the UNSC, Vitalii Churkin, made an extremely important, I would even say historical, statement at the UN Security Council. I am (desperately) trying to find the English language transcript of his statement, but for the time being all I can offer is the Russian language video of his statement:

UPDATE !: (Note: An *immense* "thank you!' to qwerty and jtapp for locating this transcript!)

Transcript of Churkin comments:

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that, unfortunately, the content of Mr. Pascoe’s briefing had shown that the Secretariat and its leadership were unable to adopt an objective position, as required by the substance of the conflict. Over the past three or four days, the Council had been holding meetings on the situation, which had arisen due to the aggression by Georgia against South Ossetia. The meetings had begun at the initiative of the Russian Federation, which had insisted on an open format. Today’s meeting was taking place on the joint initiative of Georgia and the United States. Everybody knew how close relations between those States had become in recent years. During preceding meetings, Georgia’s representative had named some supposedly Russian citizens in South Ossetia as proof that Russia was governing South Ossetia. According to the Russian delegation’s information, however, Georgia had at least 127 advisers from the United States Department of Defense. On 7 August, the day when Georgia had launched military actions against South Ossetia, there had been a joint Georgia-United States military exercise under the name “Immediate Response”.

The current events were not unexpected, he continued, noting that Russia had on many occasions drawn international attention to the situation in South Ossetia, in particular Georgia’s efforts to increase its offensive weapons. In fact, Georgia had increased its military budget by 30 times, and now the purpose of that action was becoming clear. When speaking of the close cooperation between the United States and Georgia, the Russian Federation did not wish to think that the United States had given the green light on the Georgian leadership’s military action. The Russian Federation was in close contact with the United States and believed that cooperation with partners should continue in order to restore peace to Georgia.

At the beginning of its aggression against South Ossetia, Georgia’s representatives had stated that his country was beginning a war against South Ossetia, he recalled, noting that Georgia was undertaking the re-establishment of constitutional order in South Ossetia by trying to resolve a 50-year-long conflict through military means. Its military action had begun with tank and heavy artillery attacks on Russian peacekeepers, which had resulted in 12 deaths. The Russian Federation wondered whether the term “ethnic cleansing” could be used to describe Georgia’s actions. What other terms could be used when 30,000 of South Ossetia’s population of 100,000 had become refugees? Could it be described as genocide when 2,000 out of 100,000 people died?

How many civilians had to die before it was described as genocide? he asked. When others were lamenting the death of civilians in Georgia, why weren’t they worried about the attacks on villages in South Ossetia? How could the international community react when, despite all the international agreements -- Russian peacekeepers were acting in South Ossetia in accordance with the agreement of 1992, signed by Georgia and South Ossetia -– Georgia directly targeted peacekeepers and civilians? Had Georgia expected peacekeepers to run away as they had in Srebrenica? The Russian Federation could not allow the civilian population in South Ossetia or peacekeepers to be attacked. It was not occupying South Ossetia, and its reaction had been appropriate. The question was whether the Georgian side was reasonable in its aggression.

The current situation had consequences not only in the region but also beyond, he continued, making an analogy with Kosovo, by pointing out that nobody had limited the definition of what had happened in Kosovo when the bombing of Belgrade had started. The Russian Federation rejected the suggestion of indiscriminate military action on its part. Reference had been made to a statement, allegedly by Russian prisoners, that they had supposedly been ordered to bomb indiscriminately. Such references were unacceptable in an open Council meeting, as was the reference by the representative of the United States regarding terror against civilians, particularly when his country’s own actions against the civilian populations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia were known. “Let’s try to reach a serious political decision and not propaganda. Let’s not undertake propaganda activities at the Security Council.”

Turning to the Kodori Valley, he recalled that his delegation had on many occasions said that Abkhazia should come to the Council and explain its position. The Russian Federation had drawn attention to the unacceptable situation in the Kodori Valley, “so why are you surprised now?” Regarding the Black Sea fleet, it had started to patrol the coast and a note to that effect had been sent to the Georgian authorities. The aim was to protect Russian citizens and provide support to peacekeepers and humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the zone of conflict. The Russian Federation aimed to establish a security zone and not to establish a maritime blockade. It was acting in accordance with its right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter.

He said he had heard a strange statement that the Russian Federation was refusing international efforts to settle the situation when, in fact, President Dmitry Medvedev had been talking with President George W. Bush, and the Foreign Minister had been on the phone with the Secretary of State. Russia was “explaining everything, listening to everybody”, including representatives of the European community. With respect to the Georgian representative’s surprise that the President of Russia had refused to talk to the President of Georgia, what reasonable person would agree to talk to him right now? Russia had repeatedly told Georgia that trying to resolve the situation through military means would be “suicide” for Georgia.

Nonetheless, contacts with the Georgian side had taken place, he added. In particular, there had been a conversation between the Russian Foreign Minister and his Georgian counterpart. A clear statement had been made regarding the ceasefire, and the Foreign Minister had stated that Georgia must withdraw from the territory of South Ossetia and state its readiness to sign an agreement on the non-use of force with South Ossetia. Further discussions could then take place, which would be difficult after Georgia’s adventurist undertaking. While Georgia had withdrawn, it was shooting at Russian soldiers. The serious approach would be for Georgia to state clearly that it was withdrawing from South Ossetia and sign an agreement on the non-use of force. “So let’s deal with this tragic situation in a serious way.” Serious decisions could be adopted immediately, first by Tbilisi, then by Russia and then by the international community.
IMPORTANT NOTE: this appears to be a summary of the speech by Churkin, with some omissions and some paraphrase. The translation is also shaky. Still, you can get the basic drift from this speech (though only the video gives you the full punch of Churkin's words).

The bottom line: Russia is fed up with the boundless arrogance and hypocrisy of the West and is determined to stand up for itself, even at the risk of irritating the Imperial Overlords which try to impose their rule on the entire planet.

Stay tuned, as soon as I find the time and energy I will write an analysis and commentary on this new Russian resolve which I consider to be the single most important development in international relations over the past 20 years.

The Saker