Originally due to be released at the end of July, the final report of the Tagliavini Commission investigating the causes of the August 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia was delayed for two months on July 4 and scheduled to be submitted to the EU Council of Ministers by the end of September. The submission of the report is a potential bombshell in Georgia-Russia relations and more broadly in EU-US-Russia affairs.
The Commission’s sole objective is to establish what took place in August and what facts and circumstances led to such developments. Why did the war start? What was the background to the conflict? What happened during it? These are the main questions members of the Commission are addressing.
The events before the war are being studied as well as postwar developments. This may be linked to the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption on September 9 of a text recognising the right of return of internally displaced persons throughout Georgia, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Initiated by Georgia, the resolution is surely a means to force Russia to fulfill its obligations stipulated in the August 12 2008 ceasefire agreement brokered by then-EU President Nicolas Sarkozy. This called for both Russian and Georgian troops to move back to their original positions.
For Georgia, the danger is that the final document will focus mostly on the period between August 1st and August 7th. If it is given such an emphasis it is quite likely that the report will put most of the responsibility for last year’s events on Georgia. Indeed, the Commissioners will have a hard time questioning the active role played by Georgia in “de-freezing” the conflict. Needless to say, the Kremlin insists in its arguments on the importance of these convulsive days which were marked, it pretends, by a string of provocations from the Georgian side. However, none other than the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is providing Georgia with compelling counter-arguments should the Commission’s conclusions put the burden of responsibility on Tbilisi or stress the preceding few days in its explanation for the outbreak of the war.
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Richard Rousseau is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Masters Programme in International Relations (email@example.com) at the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Studies.