- Jan 17, 2010
Medvedev: Russia's top priority in S.Ossetia war was to defend our citizens, interests (RT EXCLUSIVE) — RT News
RT: Do you mean that this was, if you will, an opening gambit, a complex strategy?
DM: Yes, you're right. I think several factors came in to play. Firstly, Mr. Saakashvili was probably under the illusion that after the change of leadership in Russia, he might quietly pursue his agenda, which was previously beyond his reach and the reach of his predecessors.
Secondly, and I've said before, I think the support that Saakashvili received from the United States and some other countries played a certain role. And it wasn't just plain encouragement, but there was financial support as well. Let me remind you that by 2008, Georgia's defense budget had grown to almost a billion dollars, 50 times what it was in 2002. Clearly, Georgia was boosting its military might, and something like this always affects policy.
It seems that there was an understanding that since Georgia applied for NATO membership and the bid was not rejected outright, it was, so to speak, on some kind of waiting list, and that it was invulnerable. They almost felt like the NATO collective defense principle applied to them as well.
So, I think that all of these factors eventually led Saakashvili and some of his advisers to believe that they could achieve their goals by force.
RT: Many experts believe that Saakashvili may have considered two possible scenarios. The first one was based on Russia not getting involved in the conflict, for whatever reason. The second was that Russia would act rashly and go overboard – making it easy for Georgia to portray it as the aggressor and gain international support, in order to fix the obvious imbalance of power between the two countries. How feasible do you think this second plan was?
DM: You know, I don't hold Saakashvili's diplomatic and military talents in high regard. I don't think he was counting on the second scenario. It would have been too complex. I think he was hoping that Russia wouldn't get involved in the conflict, so Georgian troops would quickly enter Tskhinval, gain control over all of the main buildings, and restore what they thought was constitutional order, riding on the wave of support from the United States and some other countries. The second scenario was very risky, because "going overboard", like you said, would have had some serious consequences for him personally as well.