TBILISI, DFWatch–Former President Mikheil Saakashvili, who is wanted in Georgia in four criminal cases, on Wednesday spoke at a session of the foreign relations committee in the US Senate.
Saakashvili was recently appointed head of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s International Advisory Council on Reforms, but is currently on a lobbying tour to get the US to send weapons to the Kiev government.
The title of his speech in the subcommittee on Europe and regional security cooperation was ‘Where Does Putin Go Next After Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova?‘
Senator Johnson introduced Saakashvili as former President of Georgia, but the note on the desk read ‘President Mikheil Saakashvili’. In the beginning of speech he said it might be ‘unorthodox’ that a former president of one country is representing another country in the US.
In his speech, the former president described the historical context of conflicts that have occurred after the year 2000, including the Georgia war in August 2008.
“Putin’s military excursions are always the prelude to the centralization of his personal power,” he said. “This has made Russia more unpredictable, and Europe and the United States less secure in economic and military terms.”
That’s why, he said, it is not possible to predict what will follow after the events in Ukraine.
Saakashvili continued his speech with arguing for supplying Ukraine with weapons. He said there have been bilateral talks with the US on this issue and so far Ukraine has been supplied with non-lethal assistance, like radars which are able to detect mortars, and bulletproof vests.
But what would strengthen the defense of Ukraine is lethal weapons, like anti-tank weapons, he argued.
“When Russia knows there will be little cost to them to take the territory, they will take the territory.”
“The United States should take the lead, empowering regional actors like Poland and other neighbors of Ukraine, joining with supportive nations like the UK and the Baltic to create a coalition to arm and train the Ukrainian army.”
The second part of his speech was supposed to be about the need for reforms in Ukraine, but the former president soon returned to his opening topic; an attempt at predicting the Russian president’s intentions and tactics.
“His [Putin’s]war is a propaganda war. It is about controlling minds. And in that war, we have yet to begin to fight back to help empower the Russian people to look at their own country and their region and to prevent the encroachment of the Russian narrative into our own politics and media.”
Saakashvili was president of Georgia for almost ten years. He was carried to power on a wave of public protest that led to a bloodless coup in 2003 known as the the Rose Revolution. Popular at first, he became increasingly controversial in the later years of his presidency.
He is currently wanted in Georgia in connection with four criminal cases including the violent dispersal of anti-government rallies, embezzlement and covering up a murder.
See the full speech here: