Mikheil Saakashvili

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As the West debates diplomatic and military means to end the war in Ukraine, it cannot ignore the lessons of its own past mistakes. Some of the most serious date back to Russia’s war on Georgia in 2008, when, as the invaded country’s head of state, I was in a situation similar to that of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.

There are many voices across the world calling for a “freezing” of the conflict in Ukraine, which would allow Russia to hold on to part of the country. But the Georgian experience shows that such a policy of appeasement is nothing but a time-bomb, a stage of escalation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Days before the hotly contested Ukrainian presidential election on March 31, incumbent Petro Poroshenko’s party faces credible allegations of voter bribery. It’s not hard to guess what will happen next. The oligarchic clique will steal the election, and in response, international observers will accuse local authorities of vote-rigging. But instead of addressing the symptoms of democratic backsliding, it’s time to treat the root cause: informal power.

Moldova offers a textbook example. Oil and banking tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc bankrolls the country’s second-largest political force and has forged alliances with other parties to consolidate power. Although Plahotniuc exerts total control over parliament, law enforcement and the courts, he has no interest in running for office.…  Seguir leyendo »

Mikheil Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, center, standing in a courtroom enclosure surrounded by reporters before his hearing in Kiev, Ukraine, on Dec. 11. Credit Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press

I may be the first former head of state since a Habsburg to be left stateless.

In the past, I’ve also been described as one of the worst enemies of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. And yet I recently spent three days in solitary confinement, held by the Security Service of Ukraine, which, among other allegations, accused me of being an agent of the Russian secret service.

How did this happen?

After I finished two terms as president of Georgia, during which I turned my homeland into what the World Bank described in 2007 as the No. 1 reformer in the world, I moved to the United States to teach.…  Seguir leyendo »

The former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili at a news conference in Kiev this month. Credit Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Few politicians in the world have had to undergo the same experience twice in their career and in different countries. Yet this is exactly what happened to me in Ukraine and Georgia.

I was the president of Georgia for nine years, during which it went from a kleptocracy and failed state to a country that won international recognition for tackling corruption and became one of the easiest places in Europe to conduct business. Named the world’s top reformer by the World Bank in 2006, Georgia became a flagship among the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

After my second presidential term in 2013, I left to pursue academic work in the United States for a time, and then returned to Ukraine — where, as a young man, I had spent several years at Kiev University.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian soldiers guard a road atop their military vehicle near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015. (Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

A year ago, events on Kiev’s Maidan square led to the demise of the corrupt, pro-Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovych and to the victory of Ukraine’s pro-European forces. Now Ukraine is engulfed in a nearly full-blown war with Russia and its local proxies. The total area of Ukraine no longer under government control is larger than the size of the Netherlands, and Ukraine’s economy is in free fall while Russia’s stumbles under the weight of Western sanctions. The neighborhood around Russia is in turmoil, and the West seems to be confused and divided about what to do next.

This war is not a land grab, and it is not a war about specific leaders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Crimeans vote tomorrow in an illegal "referendum" which will lock them into Russia's embrace. After this vote, and the takeover by Russian troops of the southern Ukraine peninsula, Vladimir Putin will claim he has legal justification for further military build-up and direct armed attack. How do I know? Because of the many painful parallels and lessons from Georgia in 2008.

The invasions of Ukraine and Georgia bear striking similarities, not only because the pattern of the invader stays the same, but also because the two countries share deep historic parallels. Today, when Putin and his cheerleaders in the west claim Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine – as they justified Russia's aggression in Georgia on the pretext of protecting Russian citizens – they seem to ignore the facts.…  Seguir leyendo »

In July 2008, the government of Georgia was under considerable pressure: Russia was organizing provocations in two regions of our country and amassing troops at our border. Almost every Western politician to whom my government raised concerns in those days said that Russia would not attack and urged us to keep calm and not react to Russian moves. My friend Otto von Habsburg, one of Europe’s most experienced politicians, was less reassuring. He bluntly predicted that Russia would attack with all the military might at its disposal, no matter what Georgia did to avoid such an outcome. History repeats itself, he told me.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the Winter Olympics begin in Sochi, a close Russian ally in Ukraine is suppressing and shooting pro-democracy protesters.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the hour of triumph for autocrats and the retreat of democrats is at hand as the world gathers to celebrate the shining rule of Czar Vladimir.

But do the Sochi Olympics really prove that President Vladimir V. Putin’s model of oil-fueled authoritarianism is the only one that can bring happiness and prosperity to Russia and the region?

Though my country, Georgia, has almost no oil, it might hold the answer. For the last nine years, Georgia has been growing at a higher rate than Russia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dans la nuit du 7 août 2008, la 58e armée russe a franchi les frontières internationalement reconnues de la Géorgie. Ainsi commençait une invasion préparée de longue date, visant à renverser mon gouvernement et à renforcer le contrôle de Moscou sur une région qui lui échappait de plus en plus.

Un an après, force est de constater que cette invasion n'a pas eu les résultats que le Kremlin escomptait. Le bilan de ces quelques jours de guerre fut lourd : 410 Géorgiens tués, pour la plupart des civils, plus de 1 700 blessés et quelque 170 000 personnes obligées de quitter leur foyer, parmi lesquelles des dizaines de milliers pour fuir le nettoyage ethnique frappant les villages d'Ossétie du Sud et d'Abkhazie.…  Seguir leyendo »

On the night of Aug. 7, 2008, Russia's 58th Army crossed over Georgia's internationally recognized borders. Thus began what the evidence shows was a long-planned invasion aimed at toppling my government and increasing Moscow's control over our region. A year later, the results are not what the Kremlin expected.

Tragically, 410 of our citizens, mostly civilians, were killed, and more than 1,700 were injured. Almost 130,000 people were forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, including tens of thousands ethnically cleansed from villages in the Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Costs ran into the billions.…  Seguir leyendo »

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, appears today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Op-Ed page asked 10 experts to pose the questions they would like to hear Senator Clinton answer.

1. United States policy has failed with respect to Israeli-Palestinian peace. The reluctance of any American president to act as an honest broker in the process, rather than as a strong, unquestioning friend of Israel, has contributed to this failure. How do you propose to bring success to the peace process?

2. There is clearly an imbalance of influence and power between the State Department and the Defense Department.…  Seguir leyendo »

When tens of thousands of Russian troops and armored vehicles overwhelmed our country last month, the international community rallied to support us. Had Georgia been just another autocracy on Russia's border, it is unlikely that so many world leaders would have traveled to Tbilisi to stand with the Georgian people.

This show of solidarity reinforced our belief that Georgia's survival depends on becoming an ever more open and democratic society, firmly embedded in the community of free nations. How we respond is also pivotal to the future of the West.

Georgia was a corrupt, failing country that transformed itself into a liberal and promising nation in only a few years.…  Seguir leyendo »

Los jefes de Gobierno de la UE se reunen hoy para debatir sobre el conflicto de Georiga y Rusia y estudiar una posible mediación entre ambos países. El presidente georgiano, Mijail Saakashvili, denuncia en un artículo en exclusiva para nuestro periódico la agresión rusa y asegura que Putin y Medvedev pretenden destruir los ideales de Europa mediante una política de limpieza étnica.

Cualquier duda sobre los motivos por los que Rusia invadió Georgia ya ha quedado disipada. Al reconocer ilegalmente la independencia de los territorios georgianos de Abjazia y Osetia del Sur, el presidente de Rusia ha dejado claro que el objetivo de Moscú es volver a trazar el mapa de Europa utilizando la fuerza.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia's invasion of Georgia strikes at the heart of Western values and our 21st-century system of security. If the international community allows Russia to crush our democratic, independent state, it will be giving carte blanche to authoritarian governments everywhere. Russia intends to destroy not just a country but an idea.

For too long, we all underestimated the ruthlessness of the regime in Moscow. Yesterday brought further evidence of its duplicity: Within 24 hours of Russia agreeing to a cease-fire, its forces were rampaging through Gori; blocking the port of Poti; sinking Georgian vessels; and -- worst of all -- brutally purging Georgian villages in South Ossetia, raping women and executing men.…  Seguir leyendo »