Saakashvili: ‘Russia wants me out’
A former German chancellor criticizes the Georgian president as ‘a gambler’
Berlin -- Russia's leaders have made clear that they want to topple the Georgian government, President Mikheil Saakashvili told German weekly Der Spiegel Saturday.
"Russian leaders have told both French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that there will be no agreement on resolving the conflict without my resignation," Saakashvili said.
The Georgian leader said Russia had used the Georgian military action in breakaway South Ossetia as a pretext to march into the region on Aug. 8.
"South Ossetia is not the issue for Russia," he told the magazine. "Moscow wants to take over all of Georgia."
Saakashvili said he would not relinquish any part of Georgian territory, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another separatist region, merely in order to remain in office.
He said that Russia was aiming to cause economic collapse and panic in Georgia with the aim of installing a more compliant leadership.
"But we will fight to the end, until the last Russian soldier has left Georgian soil," he added. "We will never capitulate."
Meanwhile, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has accused Georgia of provoking the recent hostilities with Russia by sending troops into South Ossetia and described President Mikheil Saakashvili as a "gambler."
"The moment that initiated the current hostilities was the Georgian invasion of South Ossetia," Schroeder told Der Spiegel.
He declined to be drawn on whether Russia's response was disproportionate, saying that military conflicts developed their own dynamic. Schroeder's successor, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Friday described the Russian reaction "disproportionate in some aspects."
A Russian friend
The former chancellor, who was a close friend while in office of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time, said Georgia's bid for NATO membership was now further off than before.
"Imagine that we had been forced into military action on the side of Georgia as a NATO member, on the side of an obvious gambler, as one must describe Saakashvili," Schroeder said.
Georgia and Ukraine, which is also seeking membership of the US-led Western alliance, had to resolve their internal difficulties first, he said.
Schroeder said the West had made "serious errors" in its policy toward Russia and Western views of Russia did not correspond with the reality there.
The former chancellor, who heads the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream, the Russian-German company building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to pipe Russian gas directly from Russia to Germany, dismissed talk of a new Cold War.
Russian leaders were not interested in conflict with the West. "I think little of demonizing Russia, and I believe Moscow will soon see the need for greater integration into the international community," Schroeder said.
No major global problem, whether Iran's nuclear program, North Korea, peace in the Middle East or climate change, could be resolved without Russia, Schroeder said.
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia condemned the actions of Russian forces fighting in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia in a joint statement Saturday.
The declaration was "sharp, but the situation calls for it," Polish President Lech Kaczynski told journalists in Warsaw.
He described the Russian intervention as incompatible with international law and an "act of aggression."
Germany and France -- both of whom have strong commercial links with Russia -- have taken a more amicable line with Russia both in the past and in the current crisis.
Kaczynski criticized Germany and France for what he considered their pliability vis a vis Russia in the current crisis in the Caucasus.
Both Western European countries have had a "very typical" relationship with Russia, Kaczynski said in an interview published in the Rzeczpospolita daily.
This position by the two countries is due to "the historical experiences and interests of corporations" that are looking to make "big money" in Russia.
Kaczynski said he was disappointed that the European Union decisions in the Georgian crisis were made "between Berlin and Paris."