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Saakashvili Pledges Second Rose Revolution, Challenges UN To Action

  • Heather Maher

Mikheil Saakashvili addresses the UN General Assembly in New York

In an impassioned speech at the opening day of the UN General Assembly, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvilli vowed to launch a second Rose Revolution of democratic expansion in Georgia to fight the "specter of aggression and authoritarianism."

Characterizing Georgia as a "small, faraway place" of less than 5 million people, the Georgian leader called last month's invasion by Russia "an assault on the shared values" of the United Nations.

"Despite our small size, the legal, moral, political, and security implications raised by that invasion could not be larger in consequence," Saakashvili said. "Indeed, those issues cut through to the heart of the UN's founding charter. The principles enshrined in that charter included the inviolability of sovereign borders, the sanctity of human rights, the supremacy of international law, and the global rejection of armed aggression. All of these principles were put to the test by the invasion, and now hang in [the] balance."

The Russian military moved into Georgia's separatist region of South Ossetia last month in response to what it said was a threat to Russian citizens after Georgian troops tried to regain control of the breakaway region. In the days that followed, Russian tanks and troops rolled deep into Georgian territory proper, occupying villages and blocking major transportation routes.

Saakashvili challenged the world body to use "actions, not words" to protect Georgia's sovereignty and stand up to Russia -- a country he never referred to by name.

"We are called upon not just to respond to the particular question of one instance of armed aggression in a single place, but to define our attitude toward armed aggression in all places," he said. "We are called upon to answer this momentous question: Will this body stand up for its founding principles, or will it allow them to be crushed under the treads of the invading tanks, under the boots of the ethnic cleansers, under the immobilizing impact of cyberattacks, and the pernicious tactics of violent separatism?"

'Refuse To Stand Silent'

The Georgian leader urged the UN to "refuse to stand silent in the face of ethnic cleansing, armed aggression, occupation, and assault on a member state" and outlined three steps he said are needed: adopt a nonrecognition policy toward Georgia's two breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; ensure that Russia complies with the full terms of the cease-fire agreement; and adopt a conflict resolution process to unify Georgia with its breakaway regions.

"The bottom line is this: We must be ready to use the full power of international law and of our collective international institutions to uphold the historic balance of justice, and thus set in motion a series of actions to right these historic wrongs," Saakashvili said.

If our first revolution was about meeting a threat from within by reinventing a failed state riddled by corruption, our second revolution must be even more focused, as we now face an even greater challenge, one that comes from the outside.
Russia has promised to withdraw all of its remaining forces from Georgian territory, excluding the two breakaway regions, within 10 days of the arrival of European Union monitors, who are scheduled to be in place by October 1.

Moscow has also said it plans to keep 8,000 troops in the regions on a separatist permanent basis.

At times striking the podium, Saakashvili warned that if the UN failed to respond with resolve, what happened in Georgia could "spread to other parts of the world" -- a not-so-veiled implication that Russia's agenda might include invading other nascent democracies, such as Ukraine.

In return for UN action, the Georgian leader pledged to launch what he called a "second Rose Revolution" that would vastly expand Georgia's democratic institutions and protections.

"If our first revolution was about meeting a threat from within by reinventing a failed state riddled by corruption," he said, "our second revolution must be even more focused, as we now face an even greater challenge, one that comes from the outside."

New Initiatives

Saakashvili pledged to "make democracy even more robust" with several new initiatives: granting greater independence to parliament and the judiciary; encouraging political pluralism by supporting opposition parties; strengthening the rule of law; and expanding the protections of private property.

He also pledged full cooperation with an independent investigation into the events surrounding the night of August 7 to determine whether Georgia or Russia started the war, and called on "the other side" to cooperate, as well.

In his own speech to the General Assembly, U.S. President George W. Bush said the UN and other multilateral organizations are "needed more urgently than ever" to combat terrorists and extremists who threaten the world order. He also said Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of the UN Charter.

"We must stand united in our support of the people of Georgia," Bush said in his final address to the General Assembly as president. "The United Nations Charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small. Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words. Young democracies around the world are watching to see how we respond to this test. The United States has worked with allies and multilateral institutions, like the European Union and NATO, to uphold Georgia's territorial integrity and provide humanitarian relief, and our nations will continue to support Georgia's democracy."