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Georgia
President Eduard Shevardnadze
Kennedy School of Government
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts
October 3, 2001

Mr. President,

Ladies and Gentlemen

As soon as I first learned that I would come to speak at Harvard, I began to prepare my remarks. Therefore, I had practically completed them when the unspeakable events happened. That unprecedented surge of evil may one day come to be regarded as an historical watershed, an infamous hallmark.

Today it may be too soon to assess fully this black episode in the broader context of modern history. Yet one thing is certain. We knew on that day that the world shook, something had ended and something new had begun.

In the three weeks that followed, so much was said that I will not tax your attention with my analyses of those events. I will only say that I have made an appeal to the United Nations and the Heads of Member States. I called for a Summit to be convened under the aegis of the United Nations, in order to address the means for fighting terrorism and the sources that feed it - aggressive nationalism, aggressive separatism, xenophobia, and any form of fanaticism and bigotry. If we are able to unite around certain common principles, then the resolutions of such a Summit can be binding.

In addition to creating the anti-terrorist coalition - being part of which Georgia believes is essential in all regards - convening a World Summit will still be necessary. Because regardless of what may be said today, the goal of the coalition is nevertheless a short-term one - to punish the perpetrators and sponsors of the terrorist acts carried out in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. There is another consideration as well. It is quite possible that some countries for various reasons may decline to participate. Some may not even be invited to join. This will result in a world unintentionally divided into two sets of nations - those actively fighting terrorism (that is, the Coalition), and those passive observers who will have assumed no commitment, no responsibilities or, worse, have not even voiced an anti-terrorist stance. I believe that you agree with me that unity is the key to winning the decisive fight against this scourge.

In the process of fighting terrorism and the sources of its sustenance, the use of force by the international community cannot be avoided. The way states cannot effect the security of their citizens without legitimate use of force, no nation, however large or small, can be secure unless authorized international institutions - primarily the UN Security Council - fully employ all levers at their disposal including those lawful forms of enforcement provided within the terms of their mandate. This, however, will become possible only if the United Nations undergoes serious reform. Regrettably, in its present form the Security Council has all but exhausted its potential and has effectively been reduced to a role of a generator of innocuous resolutions.

That said, it would be a mistake to assume that in order to rid the world of terrorism and other scourges, the use of force would suffice. Even when morally justified, using force will only engender negative energy, hatred, and the desire for retaliation. Alone, it will push the world toward even greater confrontation in the future. Therefore, today as never before, bridges need to be built between civilizations, peoples, and individuals. Through goodwilled dialogue, we ought to develop understanding and draw closer together. Inconceivable as it may be, while technological advancement has shrunk the distance between continents and rendered our planet a "small village," the divide between civilizations and peoples does not seem to close. Another gap - the one dividing the rich and the poor - continues to widen. Today, it is obvious that mankind will not survive unless these trends are reversed. The uppermost challenge to policymakers at the dawn of the new century is to effect changes that will allow the international community to unite the divided world through well-considered, collective action. Yet, to achieve this, we must free ourselves from the arrogance, egotism, prejudice and the false stereotypes we have become burdened with over the centuries. It is necessary to develop a new ethic and live by its precepts. Scholars can do more than anyone else in determining the way the world should further live to be a happier place. You have broader knowledge and are free from the pressures that we as policymakers face.

It is a great honor and responsibility to address this audience. The name Harvard is synonymous with the highest standards of learning and unfading intellectual tradition. Ten years ago, it was my privilege to speak to a group of graduates - now your alumni - on this campus. At that time, I was a former- Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union. In Communist reality, I was of a peculiar species because I had resigned from the post on my own discretion. And as if it weren't bad enough, I warned the world of impending dictatorship. My words kind of sobered up the Soviet peoples. The attempt at dictatorship was indeed made. Yet the people chose a new, if somewhat turbulent, freedom over the well-tried quiet obedience.

Last time I spoke here, I said I wasn't seeking to accumulate honorary titles, and would rather be a working doctor. So now, ten years later, I am beginning to fulfill my promise. Ten years is a long time. Perhaps some of those young people who were in the audience on that early summer commencement day at Harvard are now actively involved in the governing of your great nation. Who knows - there may be those whom Fate has linked with my country in some way. It was in that very year that Georgia was reborn as an independent state. Georgia's first decade of independence was by no means easy, and if not for the major assistance of the United States the country would simply not have survived. I will say more about this later on, but now let me return to the time when the great shift occurred in the world. And no one had anticipated it.

No one saw the great change of the 1980s coming. Not in the Soviet Union, and even less so in the West. They were not foretold by noted Sovietologists or intelligence services. By inertia the Soviet Union was perceived as a monolithic monster which could not be destroyed from within.

To this day, I am often asked what had caused this cardinal shift.

Although I am not in favor of single-factor explanations, I still feel that the most important change which preceded all the rest was a change in mentality, or values if you will. We called it new thinking then. This phrase alludes to the new thinking that Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell suggested to the world after the creation of the atom bomb, and which implied the liberation from manifold traditional chimeras. By the 1980s, the danger of nuclear conflict had not receded. In fact, it had considerably increased. As for chimeras, it is common knowledge that Soviet ideology never had any shortage of them. Therefore, our new thinking, together with everything else, meant deliverance from some of these. Among those chimeras, the primacy of the class-based approach in foreign affairs was especially dangerous. We abandoned it in favor of universal humanist values and principles. In doing so, we invited the outrage of the multitudes of dogmatic Marxists ensconced in every Soviet institution. In fact, I take pride in having been the first to voice the rejection of this destructive ideological doctrine in my address to the staff of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Soviet Diplomatic Corps.

From our vantage point today, it is quite obvious that if the class-based approaches had been allowed to persist, the peaceful reunification of Germany would have been impossible since the Soviet leadership would have been obliged to help their East German confreres defend the Communist regime. Neither would withdrawal of the troops from Afghanistan have been an easy matter. I also believe that the joint condemnation of Iraqi aggression against Kuwait by Secretary of State Baker and the Soviet Foreign Minister at Sheremetyevo Airport - the event which many Western politicians and scholars regard to have signaled the end of the Cold War - would have been impossible. In other words, without this ideational breakthrough it would not have been possible to overcome the confrontation between East and West, or if I can borrow words from my friend Hans Dietrich Genscher, to create a space from Vancouver to Vladivostok with a single worldview.

At that time, we firmly believed that the new thinking would be embraced across this area - which today is often referred to as the OSCE space - rendering its full and final integration with the Euro-Atlantic region inevitable. We believed that the relations between the United Sates and the "new" Russia would be based on a constructive partnership, thereby creating guarantees for world peace. In fact the groundwork for such a relationship had already been prepared in the years before the Cold War ended. In Malta, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev agreed that from that day forward the United States and the Soviet Union would no longer consider themselves adversaries. Later on, in Wyoming, Baker and I called the relations between the two countries a partnership. The breakthroughs we made in Malta and Wyoming acquire ever greater meaning and relevance today, since Russian-American relations are immensely important to the world both now and in the future. Have our expectations come to pass? Sadly, only in part. The process proved far more complex and controversial. A few years into the nineties the new thinking began to recede. The imperial inertia did not follow the predictable pattern of slowing down, but instead the old ways gained strength. The all too familiar confrontational rhetoric began to be heard again on issues like the Balkans, NATO expansion, the ABM treaty, and others.

Often, this rhetoric is based on a formalistic logic that may prompt those who lack insight to wrong conclusions. For example, you will hear arguments like this: when the Warsaw Pact was dismantled, the West should have responded by dismantling NATO. Drawing a parallel between the Warsaw Pact and NATO can only be superficial as these two organizations were fundamentally different. One of these was established by democratically elected governments to safeguard democracy and freedom, that is, to defend those values around which we hoped the post-Cold War world would unite. The other, however, was designed to assure the survival of the Soviet totalitarian regime and its satellites, and stand watch over dictatorships and ideological cliches. The Warsaw Pact had no connection to the will of the peoples it represented, which became immediately obvious when nearly all its states chose to move toward NATO membership as soon as the bloc disintegrated. Not only must NATO be sustained - moreover, it must be strengthened since NATO is the pillar undergirding humanist values and stability throughout the entire Eurasian space. Consequently, aspiration toward NATO membership is the inviolable right of every democratic nation in Europe. Therefore, drawing any "red lines" across the continent is utterly unacceptable today.

For some countries, the possible withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty has proven equally, or even more painful perhaps, than NATO's Eastern expansion. I think that the nervousness on the part of Russia, for instance, can be partially attributed to a deficit in the new thinking, and the resulting renewal of her mistrust of the United States. However, the developments of recent weeks that prompted the necessity of a collective effort against terrorism may reinvigorate the long-abandoned partnership. In fact, I think that Russia's readiness to contribute to the anti-terrorist operation may be the first signal of this. It will be a most welcome development if Russia decides to closely and comprehensively cooperate with the West, giving up at the same time her attempts to create rival power centers or poles, as Russians themselves prefer to dub them.

I don't know how relevant the opinion of the president of a small country like Georgia is, in a question of such planetary significance as America's plans for a national missile defense system. It is, however, a subject that I continue to think hard about, despite the fact that from the outset I publicly gave it my full endorsement. I think I may have been one of the few leaders who so unequivocally supported this initiative.

My endorsement rests on several considerations, perhaps the foremost of these being my unwavering faith in your country, and my trust in its moral compass. A well-protected America means a more secure world. The events of September 11 make this ever more clear. What is also apparent is that the next attempt might very well involve nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction.

Secondly, no one besides the United States would have the necessary financial and intellectual potential to perform such a daunting task. I remember my very heated debates with my friend George Schultz, and President Reagan when he proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative. Gorbachev and I convened the best Soviet minds to find out what they thought of this initiative's feasibility. Their initial judgement was highly skeptical. After examining the question closely, however, they themselves requested a meeting and told us, that, given America's potential, SDI was not an impossibility.

In the bipolar world, the ABM Treaty was necessary to preserve the threat of mutually assured destruction, which greatly reduced the chances of either party initiating a nuclear attack. Yet the world has radically changed since. New members were added to the club of nuclear powers and the number is likely to grow. Many new variables have had to be factored into the earlier, simpler security equation, further complicating it to the extent whereby it is no longer possible to solve the problem by merely balancing powers or deterring the sides by means of fear of retaliation. The threat of death cannot possibly deter a suicidal terrorist, who could only be neutralized by a force possessing the most sophisticated technologies.

In today's situation, the sooner America creates missile defense technologies, the more the world will gain. If for no other reason, the process of developing these fantastic technologies will bring about many scientific breakthroughs and serendipitous discoveries which will also lend themselves to applications in other areas of human endeavor - thus enhancing the lives of every individual.

Without question, advancement of high military technologies must go hand-in-hand with moral progress. As I have already said, ethical behavior should become the overriding political theme of the 21st century. Moderation, magnanimity, and tolerance need to become the centerpieces in the process of political decision-making. This is how I view the development of the new thinking in the present context.

Let me give you an example from Georgia's experience of this kind of magnanimity. You may know that the greatest tragedy that my people have experienced in recent years is the conflict in Abkhazia. Thousands of people died there and 300,000 were displaced as a result of the ethnic cleansing conducted by the separatists and outside forces. To this day, these people remain cut off from their homes and communities and continue to live in dire conditions. Their enduring dream is to return. Mercenaries and adventurists of all stripes fought to drive the ethnic-Georgian population from this ancient territory of Georgia.

The operations, including air strikes, were planned and supplied by the military of another country. It is hard for me to say this, but of the atrocities committed in Abkhazia toward the civilian population on a daily basis the most brutal were those committed by Chechens. Some of these were so very horrendous that I'm not sure whether or not I should describe them here today. On the other hand, hearing an account of a horror is nothing compared to seeing it. Imagine the trauma of those Georgian refugees who witnessed Chechen mercenaries playing soccer with the severed heads of their loved ones.

The war was still raging when I warned the Russian leadership that their support of the separatists in Abkhazia would backlash like a boomerang. And this is exactly what happened. Shortly thereafter, in 1996, the flames of war erupted on the slopes of the Northern Caucasus, Russia's southern flank. That war inflicted untold suffering on the Russian and the Chechen peoples.

In 1999 Russia launched the second war in Chechnya officially known as an anti-terrorist operation. Nearly 8,000 terrified Chechen women, children, and elderly people fled to the border of Georgia via freezing mountain paths, at elevations of 9,000 feet. Some women hugged their dying babies in despair. There were also some severely wounded combatants among them. We had a choice of either giving them shelter, or letting them die. Naturally, the Georgian leadership did not hesitate for an instant in making our decision. But what I find especially laudable and much in line with the new thinking was the way Georgian people responded, including those 300,000 who were displaced from Abkhazia. They abandoned any retaliatory feelings, relinquishing the burden of memories of what had transpired, and supported our decision.

The presence of Chechen refugees in Georgia, namely in the Pankisi Gorge, where for more than 90 years local ethnic-Chechens, or Kistins live, has created many problems for us, especially in our relations with our neighbor, Russia. The crime situation in the gorge and the adjacent territory has indeed been aggravated, and there have even been cases of kidnapping. Nevertheless, the unremitting defamatory campaign that has been mounting in the Russian media for several years now - often with the support and encouragement of state structures is far removed from reality. It is clearly designed to trigger the spread of military hostilities onto Georgian territory and to apply blunt pressure on our government and change the course of our independent foreign policy, which is aimed at integration with European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. Russian political circles were particularly piqued by my refusal of the Russian leadership's request to permit Russian troops to move across Georgian territory to attack the Chechens from the rear. This would have meant Georgia's inevitable entry into the bloody Chechen war. I do not believe that any rationally thinking leader would have agreed to such a proposal.

Unfortunately, our problems with Russia are not confined to matters involving the Chechen refugees and mercenaries. I have already spoken of the role played by the Russian military when they assisted the separatists in planning and executing military operations. I regret that even today, as one of the main players in the process of resolving the conflict in Abkhazia, Russia's position has not been fully constructive. On the other hand for some time now the two sides, Georgians and Abkhazs, have been engaged in a serious direct dialogue on ways to develop new relationships and a mode of conduct that would facilitate their living side by side once again. Such dialogue will inevitably accelerate our advance toward the final settlement of the conflict.

The issue of withdrawing Russian military bases from Georgia causes additional tensions. And although the decision on withdrawal is contained in the international agreement signed in Istanbul in 1999, the process has been delayed. This tardiness is understandable since historically, Georgia has always been the "key to the Caucasus." Georgia's role in the geopolitical architecture of South-East Europe is even more pronounced today. Georgia, with her Black Sea ports is a natural corridor between West and Central Asia and is the hub of the grand transport and communications projects collectively referred to as the New Silk Road. Here, I cannot fail to acknowledge gratefully the contribution made by Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and specifically its Black Sea Security Program in studying and promoting a better understanding of this complex and enormously important region.

We have exemplary relations with all our neighboring countries - Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and we want to have a similarly friendly relationship with Russia. This is especially so since our peoples are bonded by cultural affinity and mutual respect. Establishing genuinely open, friendly relations, however, is hampered by imperial inertia of some Russian agencies and individual political figures. Despite this, I believe that problems in the Georgian-Russian relations can be resolved. Indispensable to this process, after all, are the goodwill of the world's largest country, and the sincerity and desire for good neighborly relations of a small one.

Russian accusations have sharply increased against the backdrop of recent developments. With the cooperation of their media, a campaign is being waged by the military, parliamentarians, and representatives of other official agencies. It is telling that due to the pressure of recent years the views expressed by the Russian media increasingly echo those of official Russia. In making those utterly absurd accusations, Russia appears to be trying to create and sell to the world community - particularly to the United States - an image of Georgia as a state harboring terrorists. By drawing superficial parallels, that is, by applying the pseudo-logic I mentioned earlier, dangerous conclusions are being made as though Russia has every right to use military force against the local ethnic Chechens and the Chechen refugees on Georgian soil - because there are able men, hence terrorists, among them.

Fortunately our friends in the West know the truth. And they know the position of the Georgian President toward terrorism. I have personally - miraculously - survived three terrorist attacks. It is no secret that the chief orchestrator of these acts lives comfortably in Russia to this day. He looks relaxed as he appears on Russian State Television Channels to discuss good and evil without qualm, to shake his finger, to lecture us. But then again, in strictly moral terms, he is not at all superior to those very high profile representatives of the terrorist species now wanted on charges, best described as mind-boggling.

Today, the West indeed knows Georgia. This is because the new democratic Georgia was being built with the help of Western experts, including Americans, working in many areas. The history of Georgia's statehood goes back 3,000 years. Yet our experience in democracy based on the rule of law was minimal, and the first Democratic Republic of Georgia was not destined to live even three full years. In February 1921, Bolshevik Russia annexed Georgia - postponing her independence for decades. When in the 90s Georgia regained independence, we tried to follow the road already paved by the West; to join all the major international institutions and to cooperate bilaterally with Western democracies in building our own political institutions and market economy. Among all our bilateral relations, those with the United States have assumed a special place. I have already said that without the material assistance of America, a democratic Georgia simply would not have come to be. We would not have even been able to protect our own borders - our Border Guards were created entirely through American support.

Equally important as the material assistance is the moral support and wide experience in all areas of nation building that America has so generously shared. I must also say that some of our American friends want to see us progress more rapidly. But don't forget how long it took for the US to evolve into a full-fledged democratic state, based on the rule of law, free of corruption, and guaranteeing equal rights to its citizens. Although we are aware that in the conditions of acceleration of all processes today, quicker results are needed from us.

With the help of our friends, we have already achieved a great deal. We have created a free society and I know that there is nothing dearer in this world than freedom. I want you to know that in my country, the United States is considered the bastion of freedom. In troubled times every country and every individual who believes that a dignified life can only be found in a free society, invariably looks with hope to America.

On September 11 terrorists carried out an assault against freedom. Perhaps they hoped they would change your country, compel it to shrink the measure of freedom of its citizens, push you toward isolationism so that, deprived of America's watchful, just eye, they could turn the planet into a netherworld of predators and criminals. But this will never happen. The civilized world will never allow this to come to pass. And in the first place, so will America. In addressing Congress, President Bush formulated his vision of the future in these words, "Some speak of an age of terror. I know that there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As long as the United States of America is determined and strong this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty - here and across the world."

These words inspire all people who hold freedom dear. And I am among them. Together with other nations, I want Georgia and its people to savor this precious treasure of freedom now and forever. In the vicissitudes of history, we have lost it many times. It is notable that a part of this treasure in the form of an archive of the First Democratic Republic of Georgia was kept at Harvard from 1974. In 1997, with the contribution of the outstanding historian and Honorary Citizen of Georgia Richard Pipes, the archive was returned to Georgia.

Finally, no matter how alarmed we should be by the recent facts of violence, I hope that the world has indeed changed enough not to allow legitimate governments - and their archives - to be forcibly removed. Therefore, if Harvard scholars ever become interested in studying the archives of the new democratic Georgia, they will need to come to my country.

Considering the virtues of Georgian wine and our people's tradition of hospitality, this should not be such a bad prospect, after all.

Thank you for your attention.

END