Here are the highlights:
- Shevardnadze was not only surprised by the sudden outbreak of the war, but said he would not have decided to go into Tskhinvali, and thinks President Saakashvikli made a "big mistake".
- Shevardnadze believes Russia's intransigence and insistence that Saakashvili resign has actually made him more popular in Georgia. The Russians are driving the people into the arms of Saakashvili.
- Shevardnadze believes the war has been a tragedy for all of Georgia. He does not recognize South Ossetia as a separate state, and supports in principle Saakashvili's right to send the army in there, although he still thinks the timing was wrong. He also believes the operation was neither well-founded nor well-prepared.
- Shevardnadze not only believes that Georgia should join NATO, but also opined that has Georgia already joined NATO, Russia would not have invaded.
- Shevardnadze believes a new cold war is at hand, and is quite critical of the decision to install anti-missile radars in the Czech Republic and Poland. His criticism is so incisive and thoughtful that I will reproduce it in full here:
I cannot say that Russia today initiates another cold war. But the fact that radars are being installed in the Czech Republic and Poland is a sign of a new cold war. Radars are similar to nuclear weapons. Russia is fully able to create similar weapons. Today we see all the symptoms of a new cold war, and I, myself, and Gorbachev and other politicians from my generation, all our lives we worked to prevent this cold war from happening again. We have no reason to start this war. The question you’re asking, it’s better to ask our American friends. Yes, they are friends, they supported Georgia in the past, and they support us now, they support us financially and morally but I cannot understand at all why the Americans now have started to put these radars on European territory. I cannot understand it, I just cannot understand their motives. I'm not young and I am a very experienced politician and when I make analysis of their behavior, I cannot see any logical reason why they need this now.
- When asked how he saw the future relationship between Georgia and Russia, Shevardnadze was ambivalent. However, he thinks its important to fix the relationship between the two countries regardless of the price. He believes Soviet overlordship conferred some benefits upon the country.
Read the full transcript of the interview HERE.
Watch a video of the interview HERE.
Opinion: Eduard Shevardnadze is a respected insider who understand how the Russian mind works. He's clearly not anti-American; he welcomes an American influence in the Caucasus to keep Russia honest.
But his concerns about the impact of installing radars and missiles in Eastern Europe are valid. Russia looks upon them as targeting their country, just as we looked upon Soviet missiles in Cuba as targeting our country. Consequently, Russia feels we are imposing a double standard upon their country.
Russia believes they did the world a huge favor by peacefully disbanding the Soviet Union in 1992. Considering that other such empires could only be disbanded by costly and devastating world wars, they have a point. Yet they feel that their voluntary action has not been met with respect; instead, the United States tried to capitalize by immediately shoving NATO right up to their borders without allowing the Russian people sufficient time to come to grips with the loss of their empire. Russia still considers itself a Great Power, and only wants to be treated with the respect normally accorded a Great Power, considering that it possesses the second largest nuclear arsenal on earth.
These are factors the Bush Administration needs to consider when determining how best to respond to Russia's actions in Georgia. There must still be consequences, but of the nature that does not humiliate Russia.