Speeches & Statements

President Saakashvili pledges further modernization of army, says neutrality not an option for Georgia

Text of Saakashvili's address at a graduation ceremony for military officers

I want to greet graduates of the newly revamped officer training programme and I want to congratulate them on this day.

I also congratulate their family members who have gathered here today.

I think that today is truly an important day in terms of implementing the decision that we have taken.

We are creating a new society in Georgia, one based on the principle of modernity.

We are modernizing our country at a very fast pace, but at the same time we are not forgetting our traditional values and our glorious past.

Our past is glorious because for the past several thousand years the Georgian people have managed to survive, to develop their culture and to maintain the country's current borders while living in a very difficult environment.

The armed forces are an integral part of Georgia. For centuries various empires have tried to make us think that Georgia did not need its own army. They were especially afraid of the prospect of Georgia having an army.

All the while, they were very successful in using Georgian officers in their own armies.

I recently paid a visit to the Aland Islands in Finland, which long ago [Georgian] General Petre Bagrationi conquered for the Russian empire.

I have been to Isfahan, Iran, which was built by Alaverd Undiladze.

We Georgians take part in peacekeeping operations in Iraq, but the Iraqis have not forgotten that in the 19th century their most successful rulers were Georgians who had quite close ties to their homeland.

The Iranian president told me once that during the Iran-Iraq war, during the time of Saddam Hussein's rule, it was precisely the Georgians of Fereydan who most distinguished themselves in battle.

However, I do not believe this will be easy.

The reason for their success has been and will be the fact that they are representatives of a small group of people imbued with heroic spirit whom not a single empire, not a single conqueror and not a single ill-wisher has been able to make kneel, destroy or erase from the face of the earth.

In 1921 we had the best generals in all of Europe, but we did not have a state. We did not have people who would protect our statehood. We did not have political elite that comprehended what it means to live in a democratic state. They did not feel that sense of responsibility to their own country and its future which they should have felt.

They did not comprehend the fact that one must put the interests of the country above his own interests.

That we had the best generals is evidenced by the fact that General Mazniashvili kept Batumi, Ajaria and Abkhazia as part of Georgia despite the fact that he did not have orders from the government to do so.

General Mazniashvili, together with General Kvinikadze, seized Tuapse [city on Russian Black Sea coast], to say nothing of Sochi, where the Olympics will soon be held.

Let no-one think that I am saying - and I want to emphasize this - that we have claims on Sochi, but no-one should have claims on our territory which is just a few kilometres from Sochi [Abkhazia].

I have read General Denikin and General Kvinikadze's remarks to each other. Denikin is asking the Georgian general why he went into Tuapse and he says: "We are not coming to your country, to Gagra and Abkhazia." Indeed, they agreed that the Georgian army would turn back at the Psou and the other side would be a demilitarized zone where neither the Georgian nor Russian army would set up camp.

Now the situation is just the opposite: Our main ill-wisher has set our several main tasks:

1. To get rid of today's Georgian government because this government, unlike the government of 1921 [when Soviet forces annexed independent Georgia], is capable of giving concrete orders when necessary [as received] It has done so in the past and will do so again in the future.

I want everyone inside or outside Georgia who wishes to create problems for our country to remember this well!

2. Now they want to push the idea of Georgia's neutrality. Our country signed an agreement on neutrality with an updated variant of the Russian empire, Bolshevik Russia, in 1920 and within six months Georgia was once again occupied and enslaved.

At that time we signed the document because politicians here at home thought that Europe could not help us anyway. They advised having talks with the conquerors, hoping that if Georgia maintained its neutrality, Russia would be appeased and would not want more.

We were faced with a similar problem at the time the Georgievsk Treaty was signed [which put Georgia under Russian protectorate]. By signing this document, King Erekle II did not concede Georgia's statehood, but rather he stated that his country would be conquered neither by the Ottomans or the Persians and that we would have closer relations with Russia, but that Georgia would retain its independence.

But this did not happen. First they let Agha Makhmad Khan destroy Tbilisi and the rest of Georgia and they kept what was left of this ravaged country for themselves.

So, we will respond to their two goals - that Georgia not have weapons and arms and that it be neutral - with two firm responses: Georgia will have a modern army, a small armed forces, but an armed forces that is equipped according to the highest standard, the kind which it has never had throughout its history.

We will be loyal to the principles of good-neighbourly relations, the democratic world and our obligations before our allies and we will never again undertake such obligations that will bind our hands and hinder us and our friends from defending Georgia's independence, sovereignty and future.

This is my answer to everyone who intends to try to impose such ideas on Georgian society.

We are a people of great history. Newer peoples may falter and make mistakes because they did not have this experience. But we have great experience. That which is happening in our region today was happening in Georgia 100, 200, 300 years ago and indeed, in the era before Christ.

The Georgian people have always found ways out - the government and the people will find the correct way out. It is this that most irritates our ill-wisher and the people who do not like what is happening today.

The armed forces have been staffed according to an entirely new principle.

We have called up not only people who had nowhere else to go, as was the case in the past (of course I do not mean the people who have been through battle and who have served in the armed forces over the past 10 years) - now we are recruiting the best and brightest from Georgia's institutions of higher education. We have recruited people who have concrete knowledge in certain areas of science, who know foreign languages and who are very talented.

Georgian society is being given so many new opportunities that if a person is qualified and studies hard, he or she will not have a problem finding a job and realizing his or her own potential.

You have chosen this profession. We will do all we can so that neither you nor your family members regret your choice. On the contrary, your descendants over the coming decades should be proud of you.

This generation of Georgians - and of course I do not mean just ethnic Georgians - has a unique chance to strengthen our glorious and exceptional country in conditions of democracy, freedom and free choice.

Among you are people in high-ranking posts in our armed forces who are ethnic Abkhaz, Ossetian, Russian... They have been working brilliantly. For us they are all Georgians.

Our neighbour and traditional main trading partner declared a 100-per cent economic embargo against us. In such conditions any country's economy would have collapsed.

This year we will have 14-per cent economic growth. Russia, the author of the embargo, meanwhile, will have an economic growth indicator of 6.5 per cent. This despite the fact that Russia has oil, which we purchase for the price of fire.

How have we managed to develop faster than a country which has such enormous resources?

Our main resources are you, our people and our freedom.

We have the armed forces of a democratic country. This means that officers do not take robotic decisions, but rather think in advance, prepare and do not find it difficult to take the correct decisions according to the concrete situation and act independently.

All kinds of armed conflicts present a battle between intellect and nerves. Those who have intellect and are better prepared always prevail. "Wits are more important than strength" [says the Georgian proverb], but it is not wits, rather intellect and knowledge.

I am very glad to see that there is a queue for books. We have created a large military library. We cannot have our Georgian armed forces learning the art of war just through reading synopses.

It is an art and a science created by people of great intellect.

There has never been literature on military themes in the Georgian language. We have created this literature and establishing this tradition. Earlier I recalled the stories of General Kvinikadze and General Mazniashvili.

After Georgia lost its independence because of incapable politicians, these generals went to Poland, which at that time was fighting the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Marshal Pilsudski.

At that time you could not serve in the Polish army if you were not a Polish citizen. They [Generals Kvinikadze and Mazniashvili] held very high ranks in the Polish army, but they had to renounce their Georgian citizenship.

They conceded their Georgian citizenship, but they also said that they would definitely return to Georgia. Still, they were assigned to high-ranking posts in the Polish army, posts to which only Polish officers had been appointed in the past.

There were Georgians in the General Staff of the Polish army, the chief of the military chancellery of the Polish president, a very high post, was General Tumanishvili.

At the same time when a great dispute was under way throughout Eastern Europe as to whether monuments from World War II were to be destroyed, the Polish president and I unveiled a monument in Warsaw to Georgian officers who sacrificed themselves fighting for Poland at that time.

This was the first such monument to be erected outside the country.

We have had heroes outside the country, great, military leaders, we have had Petre Bagrationi, John Malkhaz Shalikashvili, who headed the world's most powerful army; as you all know, Pore Mosulishvili is a national hero of Italy, though few Italians know that he was a Georgian.

Now more than ever we have a chance to be victorious heroes.

Now Georgia has two national heroes, though unfortunately, they both received this honour posthumously.

Our wish is to have living heroes. History should reflect it when a person is victorious, strengthens the country, makes a glorious name for himself, raises children and grandchildren and hands his knowledge down to them.

We are creating precisely such an armed forces.

We are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for our country. This is our main resource.

In battle, the first to blink is the one that loses. We will look our opponent straight in the eye and we will be victorious. This academy has completely changed and been completely modernized. you, the best and brightest at our universities came here and enrolled in these courses, there were six people competing for each position.

Today, there are 11 applicants vying for each position. Just think about how the profession of military officer has changed and how prestigious it has become.

You can go out on the road to the Tbilisi airport and see how houses [housing units for military officers] are being built. Our armed forces are being built at the same fast pace as these houses.

In the coming months we will be using only Western equipment. They will no longer be able to prevent us Georgians from buying parts and various pieces of equipment and accordingly, they will not be able to put us in a bad mood.

We are buying everything we need and planning everything strategically. We will be using Western equipment in everything from conventional arms, electronic means, armoured transporters and aircraft. This is quite expensive. Georgia does not have the luxury to spend large sums of money, but we are spending significant sums so that our army fully comply with modern standards.

In order to put these acquisitions to use, however, we need people.

Our officers and soldiers' hearts have to be devoted to their country and they have to use this equipment correctly.

This is precisely why your skills are priceless for us. You have great knowledge and you will receive even further education in this sphere.

I want to congratulate you all and wish you success and victory.

We will gain certainly attain this victory together.

May God protect you and may God protect us!

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of the President of Georgia

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