President Eduard Shevardnadze
Kennedy School of Government
October 3, 2001
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
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
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
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,
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
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.