Georgian Dream Government would have prevented 2008 war with Russia - PM

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Tuesday addressed a panel at the Bratislava Global Security Forum. Photo: Government press office, 30 May 2023 - 12:29, Tbilisi,Georgia

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili on Tuesday told a panel at the Bratislava Global Security Forum that Georgia’s 2008 war with Russia would have been prevented had a Georgian Dream government been in power in the country.

The Government head told the panel he would refrain from going into details over the conflict, but said it was “devastating” for Georgia, leading to the ongoing occupation of the country’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) regions and recognition of their independence by the Kremlin. 

In comments on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the PM said the war had led to “probably the most challenging time [in Europe] after WWII”, before also noting Georgia was the first in 2008 to face Russian aggression. 

I believe the world at that time did not think it was that serious. But six years later Russia annexed Crimea. Nobody thought that Russia would annex it, but they did it. This was not a surprise for us [however], because we had experienced [the aggression]”, Garibashvili said, noting his country had undergone three wars with Russia over the past three decades and the international community “did not take it seriously”, continuing “business as usual” with the Kremlin. 

He also said “no foreign states” had imposed sanctions on Russia for invading Georgia in 2008 - making the conflict “only our war” - with the European Union maintaining trade and economic relations with Moscow and “paying it $2.5 trillion” over the years since its conflict with Georgia.  

Challenging the criticism from a part of the domestic opposition and some foreign officials on the Georgian Government refusing to impose sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Garibashvili said Georgia was a “small country of four million people, without any international security umbrella, and [with] Russian troops stationed on its occupied territories”.  

He also reminded the audience it was the previous United National Movement Government that lifted visa requirements for Russian citizens in 2012 and had “sold the country’s [energy and other] assets” to the occupier. 

“The war we now see in Ukraine is catastrophic, thousands of people are dying every day, and we do not see any sign that it will end soon. We do not see any efforts or any will from either side that this war should be stopped”, the PM said while highlighting the efforts of his Government to maintain peace in Georgia.