War Putin, Russia and the West


War

Kremlin officials and western statesmen profile Vladimir Putin and discuss how the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008 nearly led to war between America and Russia.


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In the summer of 2008, Russia was at war with America's ally, Georgia.

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But little stood between Russia's army and Georgia's capital.

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Georgia's President, Mikheil Saakashvili, told President Bush

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that the fate of the world was being decided in his small country.

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America must send military help.

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I told him, "Look, right now, on your watch,

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"you might see the reversal,

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"basically, the demise of the Soviet Union."

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It might be restored right now in my country,

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and it would be a very tragic turn of history for us certainly,

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for us it would be the end,

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but certainly for the US and for the world.

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In the White House, Bush's team weighed their options.

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It was a delicate situation.

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The Russians had attacked our ally, the Georgians.

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To see the Russians beat up on a small country

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was really unpalatable for us.

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There was a clear feeling on...

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on the part, I think, of virtually everybody in the situation room,

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that the Russians had flat out committed an aggression

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against an independent state.

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The issue was do we put in combat power or not?

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What you needed was ground troops if you were going to save Tbilisi.

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Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the world's two biggest

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nuclear powers had never been so close to war.

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The conflict that almost led to war between two superpowers began

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to explode more than two years earlier.

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Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's west-leaning President,

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was heading for a showdown with Russia.

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Message of Georgia

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to our great neighbour, Russia, is,

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enough is enough.

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In the Georgian capital, he ordered the arrest of Russian officers

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for spying, and publicly humiliated them.

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Russia cut ties with Georgia and deported Georgian workers.

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To stop Putin going any further,

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the American Secretary of State came to Moscow.

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I was not brought immediately

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to see President Putin, which

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had generally been the practice,

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I would just land and I would go to meet with him.

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And this time they told me I needed to wait.

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The Russian President was meeting his military

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and intelligence advisors.

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It was five o'clock, five thirty, six o'clock, six thirty.

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Finally about seven thirty they said, "He's ready to see you now."

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A car came to collect Rice, but it didn't take her to the Kremlin.

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Past the city suburbs, she was sped into the countryside.

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Finally, Rice found herself at the door of an old hunting lodge.

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I walked into this dark panelled room,

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with the entire Russian National Security establishment

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over a banquet table, just Bill Burns, our Ambassador, and me.

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It was, you know, a quite unusual circumstance.

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I mean it wasn't the normal place to receive a foreign minister,

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let alone the American Secretary of State.

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It was Dmitri Medvedev's birthday and President Putin said,

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"Oh, we thought you'd like to join us for the birthday party."

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So, there we were, having the birthday party.

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After a while I said to him, "You know, we have some work to do."

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The Secretary of State was finally able

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to get to the point of her visit, Putin's treatment of Georgia.

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I said that President Bush had told me to come and say

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that if they did anything in Georgia, Russia,

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that that would be a rupture in US-Russia relations.

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And all of a sudden, President Putin stood up, and now

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I was seated, he was standing and so I stood up, too, reflexively,

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and so the two of us were standing there

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and he said, "You tell the President that I'll do

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"what I need to do," and it was pretty hard-edged.

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There was no mistaking President Putin's point that

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if there were Georgian provocations that would cause a security

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problem that, you know, Russian would respond.

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The Georgian crisis wasn't over yet.

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And Putin was determined to stop America

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encroaching on any of his other borders.

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Three...two...one...zero.

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Above all, Putin felt threatened by an American plan to put

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military hardware in Poland and the Czech Republic.

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Washington said it was to defend against long-range

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missiles from Iran.

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But Putin was convinced it was aimed at Russia's missiles.

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At a summit of world leaders in Germany,

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Bush braced himself for more of Putin's anger.

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But Putin was one step ahead of him.

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I met with my Russian counterpart, Sergei Prikhodko,

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and he signalled that President Putin had personally

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been engaged and thinking about

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missile defence co-operation and had some ideas,

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concrete ideas that he wanted to share with the President.

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And, so, I obviously informed the President

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and with a smile he said, "Well, let's see what the man's got."

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When the leaders met, Putin revealed a new,

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constructive approach to missile defence.

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He made some interesting suggestions. I told Vladimir we're looking forward

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to having him up to my folks' place in Maine.

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At the Bush family's summer home, the leaders obliged the press

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with a photo-opportunity, and some fish, then got down to business.

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President Putin actually presented kind of a schematic about how US,

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European and Russian assets might work together

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to provide missile defence.

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We thought, "Aha, we've got the breakthrough we've been looking for,

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"for almost 15 years or so."

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Bush seized on the opening.

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The President said,

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"Look, let's take a clean sheet of paper.

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"We can design a truly co-operative missile defence system

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"protecting Europe, Russia and the United States' interests in Europe."

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The two leaders took to the cameras to herald a new era

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in US-Russian cooperation.

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Here's the thing when you're dealing with a world leader,

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you wonder whether or not he's telling the truth or not.

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Do I trust him? Yeah, I trust him.

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He just laid out a vision.

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I think it's very sincere.

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I think it's innovative.

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I think it's strategic.

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Putin had offered Bush a genuine opportunity to prove that

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missile defence wasn't aimed at Russia.

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But there was a catch.

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President Bush had no intention of giving up on the bases in Poland

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and the Czech Republic,

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so he told America's two most senior negotiators to square the circle.

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The President promised, and we are here to act on that promise

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that we would try and find ways to cooperate to the common good.

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While we insisted that we were consulting with the Russians about

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this, the perception, I think, on President Putin's part

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was that we were just informing them

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of decisions that we intended to put into action.

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And, you know, that produced a fair amount of resentment

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and suspicion on... on his side.

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Putin questioned whether the Americans really needed

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a missile defence system.

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He, sort of, passed me this piece of paper that...

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that showed the range arcs

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of Iranian missiles.

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He was basically saying that their intelligence was that

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the Iranians couldn't have a missile

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that could hit Europe for years and years and years.

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I said, "You need to get a new intelligence service."

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Gates suggested a way forward.

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I said we could offer to wait for the installation

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of the interceptors until the Iranians had flight tested

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a missile that could hit Europe.

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The offer went down well.

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But the Russians feared that they would still end up

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as the Americans' target.

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And the Pentagon's PowerPoint presentation didn't persuade them.

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I thought that there were a lot of things we could offer

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in the way of transparency, in terms of giving them access.

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We could even have a, more or less, permanent Russian presence there,

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like arms inspectors.

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All these measures that I talked about,

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I was just making up on the spot.

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If Condi and I agreed that we could do these things then why not see

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if we could make some headway with Putin.

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I'm not sure how much consternation there was back in Washington

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when we reported what we'd offered.

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Rice and Gates had gone too far

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for a powerful part of the Washington establishment.

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I was doubtful that this actually indicated

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a Russian desire to actually cooperate on missile defence.

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My view was a lot of what they were doing was tactically

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aimed at preventing us from moving forward on missile defence.

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They wanted us not to put in any military infrastructure

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into territory that they regarded as

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in some sense, if not theirs, at least,

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with an asterisk, former property of Russia. Handle with caution.

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There were several areas in which the interagency process here

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sanded off some of the sharp edges of the offers

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and made them less attractive.

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The Americans put the offers in writing as Putin had asked,

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but dropped their original offer of a permanent Russian presence

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at the Czech and Polish sites.

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Instead, they proposed that Russian embassy attaches

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could occasionally visit the sites.

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Bush continued to say he wanted

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Putin's cooperation on missile defence,

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but the two countries were now

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coming into conflict on another front.

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Morning. Sunday, the people of Kosovo declared their independence.

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They have asked the United States for diplomatic recognition

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and yesterday the United States formally recognized

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Kosovo as a sovereign and independent nation.

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By recognising a breakaway state, Bush unintentionally

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reignited the conflict between his ally, Georgia, and Russia.

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At a regional gathering, Putin warned Georgia's leader

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that America had created a dangerous precedent.

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Georgia's President felt vulnerable.

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We are small in size, and, actually,

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we are very close to Russia,

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and we are far from Europe,

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and this, if you look carefully at the geography,

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it was an ideal target for any revanchist Russian government.

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Relations between Georgia and Russia had been tense

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since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Two provinces of Georgia had rebelled,

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Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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Backed by Russia, they remained outside Georgia's control.

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Three years earlier, Saakashvili had set out to subdue

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the smaller of the two, South Ossetia.

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The rebels, armed and trained by Russia, fought back.

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We really needed to, you know, have further American presence

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with the Russians, to somehow convince the Russians

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that it wasn't in their interests,

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because they wouldn't just listen to us.

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Saakashvili went to see the then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

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He was young and somewhat impulsive

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and his impulses sometimes....

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caused him to go further than he should

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based on the situation he was in.

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Are you going to be provoked by Russia?

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Some very crazy and outrageous things were said by some

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of the Russian politicians, like the fact that Georgians are infringing on

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their sovereignty, I mean since when does Russia own a piece of Georgia?

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The Secretary of State knew this was not going to be an easy meeting.

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We wanted to be supportive of him,

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but I had to make it clear to him that,

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"You may think this is in your vital national interest,

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"we're not sure that it is, but it isn't in our vital national interest.

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"So, don't get yourself into a situation that may overwhelm you

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"and think that we are going to race in to rescue you

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"from any difficulties you get into. So be careful."

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He told me "Listen, son, you know you've got here a situation,

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"but it is still not a crisis."

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What we are anxious to do is calm the situation down, remove tensions

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and the propensity for provocation and get back to dialogue.

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We stay in close touch with our Russian colleagues as well.

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Saakashvili pulled Georgian troops out of South Ossetia.

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But over the next three years, Georgia spent

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millions of American dollars on its military.

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In South Ossetia, Russians were appointed as ministers

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of defence, security and interior - and even as Prime Minister.

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And Moscow offered Russian citizenship

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to anyone in the province who asked.

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In February 2008, Georgia applied for membership of NATO,

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the alliance created to defend the west against Russia.

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Three weeks later he was in Washington again

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to win the President's support.

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He chose words straight out of Bush's own phrasebook.

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What we are up to now is to implement this freedom agenda,

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for the sake of our people, for the sake of our values,

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for the sake of what the United States means to all of us

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because the US is exporting idealism to the rest of the world.

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He was terrific, he was on message.

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He came into the President with a message about the importance

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of recognising that his legacy...

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his legacy was building a democratic Georgia.

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This was music to our ears, this was the right message.

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I believe Georgia benefits from being a part of NATO.

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And I told the President it's a message I'll be taking to Bucharest.

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Bucharest would be the venue for the next NATO Summit,

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where Georgia's bid would be discussed.

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Bush would have a formidable opponent,

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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She insisted Georgia wasn't ready to join NATO,

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not least because of its conflict with Russia.

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NATO members gathered

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at the palace built by Romania's former communist dictator.

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The Foreign Ministers were to meet that evening.

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The main items on the agenda were bids by Georgia

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and Ukraine to join the Alliance,

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via what they all called a Membership Action Plan or "MAP".

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To grant MAP required the unanimous consent of all NATO members.

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My impression was that

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some allies had made commitments to

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the Russians that MAP would not be granted.

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The East Europeans were quite emotional,

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coming very close to saying to the Germans, "You, of all people,

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"shouldn't be standing in the way of these countries that

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"suffered under tyranny..." Coming awfully close to saying,

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"..thanks to what the Germans had done in the 1930s and the 1940s."

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Such disputes were normally resolved by officials before the leaders met.

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The Americans decided to sort it out over breakfast with

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the key opponents of MAP, Germany and France.

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At midnight I'm making calls

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saying, "Guess what?

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"Sorry to wake you up but there's an extra meeting."

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We argued that if we were to back down

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in the face of Russian pressure

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and not give them MAP, that actually

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that in itself could be provocative by suggesting to the Russians

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that they could permanently keep Georgia and Ukraine out of NATO.

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As the formalities of the leaders' session got underway,

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frantic efforts continued around them to broker a compromise.

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Steve Hadley and I went back behind the curtain,

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and I said, "You know, we'd better get the Poles involved in this,"

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because I was hoping that Radek would carry the East Europeans

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if we and the German's came to some conclusion.

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The Germans were not opposing the idea of these two countries

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eventually joining NATO,

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they just didn't want to start the process quite yet.

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We got to some language that was more or less workable,

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it wasn't perfect but it was close enough it,

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it was going to punt to the foreign ministers to make

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a decision in December and so, it was enough from our point of view.

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Postponing a decision for eight months satisfied Bush and Merkel.

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But not the former Soviet satellites.

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The Eastern and Central Europeans went ballistic.

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They thought that the document was a capitulation to Russian pressure

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and Russian veto and they wanted changes to be made.

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The Polish president said, "We want MAP today, not in December. We want it today."

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And I thought, "Oh, my goodness! Something has fallen apart here."

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All the foreign ministers get up and go to the back of the room.

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And then Angela Merkel gets up from her chair and goes to

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the back and sits down at a table in the midst of these grey-haired men.

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And that's when Merkel herself grabbed the pen.

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The German Chancellor suggested a compromise.

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Much to my surprise, when I went back it said,

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"Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO."

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I thought, "This a pretty good deal!"

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I said to the president, "Take it."

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Germany and France would get what they wanted,

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no Membership Action Plan.

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In return, Georgia would be promised

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full NATO membership at a later date.

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And it results in Gordon Brown leaning over to President Bush

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and saying, "I know we didn't give Georgia and Ukraine MAP

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"but I'm not sure we didn't just make them members."

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But it was a hollow victory.

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The prospective members were given no clue

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how long they would have to wait.

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Within weeks of the NATO Summit, Russia upped its support

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for Georgia's separatist provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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Georgia flew drones over the region to monitor Russian troop movements.

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Russian fighters shot them down.

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Russian "peacekeepers" were caught transporting arms

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to the separatists.

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And in May, Russia sent specialist troops into Abkhazia

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to repair a disused railroad.

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The only strategic reason to restore the railroad would be

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if you wanted to transport heavy equipment, that is to say, tanks.

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And tanks are assault weapons.

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But there was a glimmer of hope for the Georgian President.

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Vladimir Putin, after eight years as President,

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stood down and became Prime Minister.

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With the new President, Dmitry Medvedev,

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came the chance for a fresh start.

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The Russians immediately raised a sticking point.

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They wanted a commitment that Georgia would never use force

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in the disputed provinces.

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They told us, "You sign documents with the separatists,

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"with Russia as a guarantor."

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We told them, "Look, we are willing to sign any commitment under

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"international guarantees, which are not Russian guarantees,

0:29:420:29:45

"because it is like giving a fox a mandate to guard a chicken house."

0:29:450:29:50

The last time Georgia signed an agreement with Russia as guarantor,

0:29:510:29:55

2,000 Russian troops arrived

0:29:550:29:57

as peacekeepers in the disputed provinces.

0:29:570:29:59

14 years later, they were still there.

0:30:020:30:05

Saakashvili suggested a summit to discuss a new plan

0:30:070:30:11

for one of the provinces, Abkhazia.

0:30:110:30:13

The Russian troops would pull back a few miles,

0:30:140:30:17

but they would retain control of most of the territory.

0:30:170:30:21

Medvedev replied that Saakashvili

0:30:220:30:25

must sign a no use of force pledge first.

0:30:250:30:28

At the start of July, both Presidents

0:30:340:30:36

were in Kazakhstan for the birthday party of its President.

0:30:360:30:39

Saakashvili was determined to press his plan.

0:30:390:30:43

During the day I tried to interact with Medvedev,

0:30:450:30:48

but official protocol was making sure we don't get really in touch.

0:30:480:30:51

They were keeping us apart.

0:30:510:30:53

In the evening, their host took them to a nightclub.

0:31:080:31:12

So, I had the opportunity

0:31:210:31:23

to tell him, "Look, we are really getting into a precarious situation.

0:31:230:31:27

"Things are escalating."

0:31:270:31:28

But Medvedev's invitation carried the same conditions as before,

0:31:370:31:42

sign a no use of force pledge first.

0:31:420:31:45

And he said, "You know, I'm so pleased to be with you here,

0:31:450:31:51

"and we are listening to the same music,

0:31:510:31:53

"we like the same social environment, we are at ease with each other,

0:31:530:31:58

"but back in Moscow there are different rules of the game."

0:31:580:32:02

Diplomacy stalled and the situation on the ground worsened,

0:32:090:32:13

as Georgians and separatists shelled each other.

0:32:130:32:16

The Russian Foreign Minister turned to Georgia's protector, America.

0:32:290:32:34

I said that their behaviour was making it very difficult for him

0:32:480:32:53

in terms of domestic audiences, to sign a no use of force pledge.

0:32:530:32:58

I mean, after all they were moving railway troops in, they'd been

0:32:580:33:01

doing that for about four months, to quote, "Construct the railway".

0:33:010:33:04

It will be another generation before they're in NATO if they use force.

0:33:150:33:20

Rice knew her confident prediction might be proved wrong

0:33:240:33:27

unless she got more involved.

0:33:270:33:29

She flew to the Georgian capital with a mission

0:33:300:33:33

that would test her diplomatic powers to the limit.

0:33:330:33:37

Well, hello, how are you? Good to see you. Good to see you.

0:33:370:33:40

How are you?

0:33:400:33:42

'I can remember looking out over Tbilisi as Saakashvili pointed out'

0:33:420:33:47

different things that were being built

0:33:470:33:50

and churches that were being restored.

0:33:500:33:52

The whole of Georgia is under big renovation.

0:33:520:33:55

Here there were lots of very ugly buildings,

0:33:550:33:58

but we really want to make it a very special place.

0:33:580:34:00

Saakashvili told Rice that the Russians would soon take

0:34:000:34:04

permanent control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

0:34:040:34:08

I said to Condi, "Look, Condi, we are in a precarious situation.

0:34:080:34:13

"We are basically getting into a downward spiral which is

0:34:130:34:17

"getting us to an absolute oblivion.

0:34:170:34:19

"We really can get to worst case scenario here.

0:34:190:34:23

"As it looks, it doesn't look promising on the Russian side."

0:34:230:34:26

I said, "Mr President, you need to sign this no use of force pledge."

0:34:260:34:32

He said, "Why would I do that?

0:34:320:34:35

"I will get nothing for it."

0:34:350:34:37

Condi Rice kept repeating "I know the Russians," she would say.

0:34:370:34:40

"They will not go to war."

0:34:400:34:43

And we always said, "We hope you're right.

0:34:430:34:46

"We hope you know them better than we do."

0:34:460:34:49

We were pleading, "Please, Secretary of State, what happens

0:34:490:34:53

"if Russia continues to expand its military

0:34:530:34:57

"expansion in the territory of Georgia?

0:34:570:34:59

"What if Russia expands the scope of its attacks over the civilians?"

0:34:590:35:04

I said, "Rely on the international community to support and defend you." I kept repeating,

0:35:040:35:09

"Because if you engage Russian forces, you will lose."

0:35:090:35:12

To encourage Saakashvili to sign the no use of force pledge,

0:35:130:35:17

Rice offered American and European participation in peace talks.

0:35:170:35:21

And she said, "We will bring it to the UN General Assembly.

0:35:220:35:25

"End of September, we will get Lavrov and other foreign ministers

0:35:250:35:28

"from EU countries, and we will have high-level talks

0:35:280:35:32

"on how to create a new some kind of venue for things to be discussed."

0:35:320:35:36

He's no fool, Saakashvili understood her logic, sort of tilted his head,

0:35:360:35:42

thought, like ten seconds silent, and said, "All right, OK, I'm in."

0:35:420:35:47

Rice had won the diplomatic battle.

0:35:490:35:52

But in the press conference the following morning,

0:35:520:35:54

she said something that invited misunderstanding.

0:35:540:35:58

We take very, very strongly our obligation to help our allies

0:35:580:36:02

defend themselves and no-one should be confused about that.

0:36:020:36:05

It was very important for the Georgians to know that

0:36:050:36:08

if they did the difficult things,

0:36:080:36:10

the United States would stand by them

0:36:100:36:12

if the Russians didn't stand by their obligations.

0:36:120:36:14

And I absolutely, deliberately, in front of the press,

0:36:140:36:18

said that the United States would stand by Georgia.

0:36:180:36:21

The parties agreed to meet in two months' time.

0:36:210:36:25

They all went on their summer breaks.

0:36:250:36:29

Saakashvili departed for a health farm in Italy,

0:36:290:36:32

and Medvedev took a cruise on Russia's Volga River.

0:36:320:36:37

But at the end of July,

0:36:430:36:44

Ossetians and Georgians resumed sniping and shelling each other.

0:36:440:36:49

GUNFIRE

0:36:490:36:54

The Russian and American diplomats who looked after the region

0:37:230:37:27

were confident they could handle it.

0:37:270:37:29

I call Karasin who was both concerned and, to listen to him,

0:37:290:37:34

willing to be helpful.

0:37:340:37:36

He said he would work with the South Ossetians,

0:37:590:38:01

so this was what I considered to be a constructive call,

0:38:010:38:05

and on Monday I brief Rice that there was a flare up,

0:38:050:38:10

the Russians say they'll take care of it, so we're watching it.

0:38:100:38:13

The Russians sent more peacekeeping troops into South Ossetia,

0:38:160:38:21

and just north of the border,

0:38:210:38:23

12,000 Russian troops were poised, battle-ready.

0:38:230:38:27

On the 7th of August, Georgia mobilised its army.

0:38:300:38:33

Russia sent an Ambassador, Yuri Popov,

0:38:350:38:38

to talk to Georgia's peace negotiator.

0:38:380:38:41

They were due to meet in the heart of South Ossetia.

0:38:420:38:46

But the Russian didn't show up.

0:38:460:38:48

So, the Georgian turned to the Russian commander

0:39:160:39:19

of the peacekeepers.

0:39:190:39:21

GUNFIRE

0:40:290:40:34

But Saakashvili's forces continued to mobilise.

0:40:540:40:58

The Russian envoy Yuri Popov now had four good tyres,

0:41:010:41:05

and was on the road inside Georgia.

0:41:050:41:07

There was already a Russian presence,

0:41:340:41:36

there was already an annexation process under way, de-facto,

0:41:360:41:40

on the ground and I don't know if it crossed red, yellow or green lines,

0:41:400:41:44

but it certainly crossed every line of civilized behaviour,

0:41:440:41:47

and you know we had no other way but to act.

0:41:470:41:50

Eka called me and said that they were going to establish

0:42:110:42:16

constitutional authority over South Ossetia.

0:42:160:42:19

Well, what I understood was that they were moving in.

0:42:190:42:22

I recall telling her to be careful.

0:42:220:42:26

Your strongest asset is the perception that you're the victim

0:42:270:42:32

in this situation and don't lose that.

0:42:320:42:35

At 10:30 that evening, Saakashvili received reports that

0:42:360:42:40

Georgian villages had come under fire.

0:42:400:42:44

An hour later he picked up the phone.

0:42:440:42:47

We thought that, you know, at least we could,

0:42:540:42:58

we would win some time, hold back Russians for some time,

0:42:580:43:01

and hopefully the international community would wake up

0:43:010:43:04

and we concentrate efforts, we would get some kind of reversal.

0:43:040:43:09

The Russian President was woken by a phone call.

0:43:460:43:49

After a night of rocketing and shelling

0:44:170:44:19

in which civilians and soldiers were killed,

0:44:190:44:21

Georgia's troops moved on the South Ossetian capital.

0:44:210:44:25

Russian peacekeepers were among the casualties.

0:44:260:44:30

For the first time in three decades,

0:44:480:44:50

Russian tanks advanced into a neighbouring country.

0:44:500:44:53

Georgia's armed forces were now at war

0:44:560:44:59

with one of the largest militaries in the world.

0:44:590:45:03

In Beijing, everyone was celebrating

0:45:130:45:16

the Olympic Spirit of a peaceful and better world.

0:45:160:45:20

Among the leaders arriving for the opening ceremony was Vladimir Putin.

0:45:210:45:27

French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, introduced him to his son Louis

0:45:270:45:32

then attempted some impromptu diplomacy.

0:45:320:45:35

"Nyet."

0:46:230:46:25

Russia's forces were already pushing the Georgians back in South Ossetia.

0:46:290:46:34

Their air force now set out to destroy Georgia's defences

0:46:340:46:37

and targeted the capital itself.

0:46:370:46:40

On the second day of the war they flew 120 bombing sorties.

0:46:420:46:46

The American Secretary of State phoned Moscow

0:47:210:47:24

to demand its army call a halt.

0:47:240:47:26

The Russian Foreign Minister responded with a tough condition.

0:47:260:47:30

He said, "Misha Saakashvili has to go."

0:47:300:47:33

And, I said, "Sergei, the American Secretary of State

0:47:330:47:38

"and the Russian foreign minister do not have a private conversation

0:47:380:47:42

"about overthrowing a democratically elected president."

0:47:420:47:46

I think it's quite clear that the Russians intended to use this

0:47:570:48:01

conflict to depose Saakashvili.

0:48:010:48:04

But I felt that the best guarantee that they couldn't,

0:48:040:48:09

would be to make public their demand that he go.

0:48:090:48:12

Rice called America's Ambassador at the United Nations,

0:48:130:48:16

and told him to reveal Lavrov's words to the Security Council.

0:48:160:48:21

In that conversation, Foreign Minister Lavrov

0:48:210:48:25

told US Secretary of State Rice

0:48:250:48:26

that the democratically elected President of Georgia

0:48:260:48:30

and I quote, "Saakashvili must go," end of quote.

0:48:300:48:37

This is completely unacceptable and crosses a line.

0:48:390:48:43

Russian forces were now deep inside Georgia.

0:49:060:49:09

Saakashvili was in the town of Gori, near his army's headquarters,

0:49:130:49:17

as the Russians closed in.

0:49:170:49:19

The next day, the Russians advanced to within 40 miles

0:49:350:49:40

of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

0:49:400:49:42

Saakashvili rang Washington for help.

0:49:430:49:47

President Bush convened his national security team.

0:49:470:49:51

There was a clear feeling

0:49:510:49:53

on the part, I think, of virtually everybody in the situation room,

0:49:530:49:57

that the Russians had flat out committed an aggression against

0:49:570:50:01

an independent state,

0:50:010:50:03

and were proceeding to dismember it.

0:50:030:50:05

There was a little bit of chest beating around the table

0:50:050:50:08

about what we would do, and we had to keep

0:50:080:50:10

the Russians from doing this and talk about how we could signal

0:50:100:50:13

militarily that this would be a foolhardy thing to do.

0:50:130:50:17

The issue was, "Do we put in combat power or not."

0:50:180:50:21

What you needed was ground troops if you were going to save Tbilisi.

0:50:210:50:24

Steve Hadley is not somebody who usually roils the waters very much

0:50:240:50:28

but I think he decided that this was getting a bit out of control,

0:50:280:50:32

and so he said, "I just want to ask that we step back for a moment,

0:50:320:50:37

"and recognize that if we are prepared

0:50:370:50:40

"to start signalling the Russians that we will do something militarily

0:50:400:50:44

"if they do indeed move to Tbilisi, then we're on the hook to do it."

0:50:440:50:48

I was pretty adamant,

0:50:520:50:55

and I think Secretary Rice was as well,

0:50:550:51:00

that we not give weapons assistance to Saakashvili.

0:51:000:51:03

My feeling at the time was that the Russians had baited a trap

0:51:030:51:10

and Saakashvili had walked right into it,

0:51:100:51:13

and so they were both culpable.

0:51:130:51:15

Saakashvili's gamble had failed.

0:51:170:51:20

The Americans were not prepared to risk war

0:51:200:51:22

with the world's second nuclear power.

0:51:220:51:25

The President of France now took centre stage.

0:51:290:51:32

Before he arrived,

0:51:460:51:47

President Sarkozy sent the Russians a draft ceasefire agreement.

0:51:470:51:51

Not so little.

0:52:440:52:46

He changed the first sentence,

0:52:460:52:48

"Georgian and Russian forces will withdraw fully".

0:52:480:52:51

With a deletion it now read,

0:52:510:52:53

"Georgian forces will withdraw fully".

0:52:530:52:56

Sarkozy threatened to leave

0:53:100:53:12

unless the Russians took the negotiations seriously.

0:53:120:53:16

The French President wrote out four further clauses

0:53:560:53:59

on the ending of hostilities,

0:53:590:54:01

the withdrawal of Russian and Georgian forces,

0:54:010:54:04

and additional security measures Russia could take on the ground.

0:54:040:54:09

And the Russians insisted on a sixth clause

0:54:090:54:11

saying that the independence

0:54:110:54:13

of the disputed territories had to be on the agenda.

0:54:130:54:16

Sarkozy flew straight to Georgia.

0:54:290:54:31

There, President Saakashvili was holding a public rally

0:54:340:54:38

to show defiance to Russia and prove he still had popular support.

0:54:380:54:42

Then he met the travel-weary French President.

0:54:450:54:48

Saakashvili said that clause six

0:54:480:54:51

would lose Georgia the two disputed provinces forever.

0:54:510:54:55

He made a plea to Sarkozy in French.

0:54:550:54:58

I told him ...

0:55:000:55:01

Saakashvili reluctantly agreed,

0:55:470:55:50

on condition that there be no talks on the future status

0:55:500:55:53

of Abkhazia or South Ossetia.

0:55:530:55:56

It was still a bitter defeat for Georgians,

0:55:560:55:58

but Sarkozy helped Saakashvili to save face.

0:55:580:56:04

Russia had said its offensive was now over.

0:56:210:56:24

But the next morning

0:56:240:56:25

they appeared to tighten their stranglehold on Georgia.

0:56:250:56:28

This is the main road out of Gori

0:56:300:56:32

and coming up it is a Russian column.

0:56:320:56:35

We think they're moving to a Georgian base,

0:56:350:56:38

but what they are doing is pushing further into Georgia.

0:56:380:56:41

The President and I were talking about this.

0:56:410:56:45

The Russians weren't stopping.

0:56:450:56:47

Were they really going for Tbilisi? What were they doing in Gori?

0:56:470:56:50

And we needed somehow to send a stronger signal.

0:56:500:56:53

I've also directed Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to begin

0:56:560:57:00

a humanitarian mission to the people of Georgia

0:57:000:57:03

headed by the United States military.

0:57:030:57:05

This mission will be vigorous and ongoing.

0:57:050:57:09

We wanted to use the military aircraft

0:57:090:57:11

to let the Russians know that we were serious

0:57:110:57:14

about them not going any further toward Tbilisi,

0:57:140:57:18

or toward overrunning the rest of Georgia.

0:57:180:57:22

The Russians stopped.

0:57:230:57:24

But their forces would remain in Saakashvili's country.

0:57:280:57:31

Russia had torn apart an American ally

0:57:450:57:49

and Washington was forced to accept it.

0:57:490:57:51

America's attempts to expand its influence in Russia's backyard

0:57:520:57:56

had been checked.

0:57:560:57:58

But the independence of Georgia's disputed territories was recognised

0:58:090:58:14

by only three other countries -

0:58:140:58:16

Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

0:58:160:58:20

Standing alone was a price Russia was prepared to pay.

0:58:250:58:28

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:540:58:57

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:570:58:59

Vladimir Putin, after eight years as president of Russia and four more as prime minister, is stubbornly holding on to power. He has announced his intention to return as president and declared his party the winner in parliamentary elections that are widely seen as fraudulent. In Moscow 100,000 protesters have taken to the streets in the largest demonstrations since Putin took office.

Putin began his career as a KGB spy but when he became president, he made himself a valued ally of the West. How did he do it? And what made Washington and London turn against him?

The third episode tells how, in August 2008, Russia went to war with America's ally, Georgia. Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev and Georgia's president Mikheil Saakashvili reveal why each decided it was necessary to make war on the other. Former American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and former secretary of defense Robert Gates describe what happened inside the National Security Council as President Bush considered whether to send in ground troops to save Georgia's capital. They reveal just how near to war the conflict brought the two nuclear super-powers.


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