Wikileaks cable: Georgian President predicted Crimea invasion in 2009

In one of the many Wikileaks diplomatic cables published online a few years back, the US Embassy in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia reports that then-president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, believed Russian President Vladimir Putin had eyes on Crimea.

In fact, Saakashvili predicted the entire Russian invasion, and today’s Russian annexation of Crimea.

A US diplomatic cable written on November 2, 2009, details a conversation between the Georgian president and visiting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow:

UKRAINE – NEXT ON PUTIN’S TO DO LIST? 11. (C) Saakashvili stressed repeatedly that he expected Russia to follow its 2008 invasion of Georgia with intervention in Crimea. He predicted that Russia would incite tension in the peninsula and then make a generous offer to Yanukovych (presumed as the next president) to help solve the problem. Saakashvili said that Putin wants to keep the pressure on Ukraine and Georgia as a lesson and a warning to others in the former Soviet Union.

The document was spotted first by ABC News’ Kirit Radia in Moscow.


Interestingly, most reporting on Russia’s invasion and annexation of Ukrainian Crimea has focused on the historical important Russia puts on Crimea being part of the motherland, and Russia’s ire at being treated as a “loser” after the Soviet Union was dissolved.  You don’t hear, however, as much about Putin moving into Ukraine as a warning shot against other former Soviet Republics.

Just today there were growing concerns about Russia attempting to further stir the pot inside Ukraine, in order to justify an all out invasion of eastern Ukraine (beyond just Crimea), as a Crimean Tatar activist was found dead, and apparently tortured, after having been taken away by pro-Russian armed men.

In addition,  unmarked troops, thought to be Russian, detained Ukrainian soldiers at gunpoint.


At the same time, video surfaces of an 82 year old Ukrainian woman being pushed to the ground by a pro-Russian man in Feodosia, Crimea:

As Russian troops are violating international law by refusing to wear identifying marks on their uniforms, the report is necessarily vague as to “who” did it.  One possible motivation behind the violence: This permits Putin to argue that there’s “rampant lawlessness,” and thus he simply had to invade – when in fact, Putin’s men are the most lawless bunch of all in the region.

And most worrisome, a Ukrainian soldier was killed today by men allegedly wearing Russian uniforms.

On the peninsula, a Ukrainian serviceman was killed when a base still held by Kiev came under attack in the main town of Simferopol, the first death in Crimea from a military clash since Russia seized control three weeks ago.

Kiev said the attackers had been wearing Russian military uniforms, and it responded by authorizing its soldiers in Crimea to use weapons to protect their lives, reversing previous orders that they should avoid using arms against attack.

(I’m told that in order to better see my Facebook posts in your feed, you need to “follow” me.)

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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22 Responses to “Wikileaks cable: Georgian President predicted Crimea invasion in 2009”

  1. Bill_Perdue says:

    I have no doubts on that score.

  2. goulo says:

    The most convincing argument I’ve seen is the 1994 agreement to protect Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine’s nuclear disarmament. Arguably, reneging on that agreement will make it harder to make any nuclear disarmament progress elsewhere and will be seen as clear proof that a country should stockpile nuclear weapons as a deterrent against invasion instead of trusting in conventional defense agreements with other countries.

  3. goulo says:

    Sure, but misguided “penny-wise pound-foolish” “self-interest”.

  4. BeccaM says:

    The Crimeans who were permitted to vote — the ethnic Russians — believe they will now be put in a position of dominance and authority over the Tartars and ethnic Ukrainians. That is why they voted as they did. Pure self-interest.

  5. BeccaM says:

    This is all about the US and its interests…

    This is where you and I proceed from different premises.

  6. benb says:

    I can’t help but think that the Russians in Crimea have made a big, big mistake. They could align themselves with Russia, enact treaties and agreements with Russia, defend Russia, etc… but, to surrender their sovereignity to Russia in the course of a few days and over the objections of their neighbors? To make such an irrevocable decision for their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc…in such short order…I think it’s unwise.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    This is all about the US and it’s interest in protecting and extending the global reach of American banksters and the US empire, which girds the world with hundreds of military bases in foreign nations.

    And it’s all about Obama who is the worlds leading war criminal and the worst enemy of American workers who’s responsible for US escalations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Palestine and for ongoing efforts to create or prop up right wing or royalist governments from Morocco to Indonesia. Putin is also a war criminal and an enemy of Russian and Ukrainian working people as Russian revolutionists and socialists never tire of saying. “With the aim of protecting and increasing the assets of the oligarchs in Russia and in Yanukovich’s coterie, Russia’s leadership has undertaken an invasion of Ukraine. This aggression threatens catastrophic consequences for the Ukrainian and Russian peoples — most especially for the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Ukraine’s southeastern industrial regions.

    It is, however, our firm conviction that freedom will be won not by Putin’s tanks, but by self-organization and the people’s own struggle for their civil, political, and socio-economic rights.

    It goes without saying that the peoples of Ukraine have a right of self-determination, of full autonomy and independence. But what we are seeing today has nothing to do with the democratic will of the masses. It is a brazen and cynical act of Russian imperialism, aimed at annexing foreign territory and converting Ukraine into part of Russia’s protectorate.”

    Putin’s crimes, including his as yet unrebranded homophobia, are still minor compared to those of Obama, the Bushes and the Clintons. They murdered over a million Iraqis and spread the horrors of war from Libya to Pakistan and they supply the IDF thugs with the WMDs like white phosphorus for use on densely packed civilians in Gaza. They worked with the Emirates and Saudis to foment civil war in Syria and they wantonly attacked Libya to control it’s oil and rape it’s resources.

    As for the role of neo-Nazi skinheads in Russia they constitute a brutal homophobic gang that’s tolerated by the police and emboldened by the orthodox cult and the United Russia party. In the Ukraine anti-Semitic neo-Nazi stormtroopers led a fascist putsch and they infest the government and direct policy. There’s a qualitative difference between the two and the dangers they pose. One is a gang, the other is Goldman Sachs new Waffen SS.

    “When US Senator John McCain dined with Ukraine’s opposition leaders in December, he shared a table and later a stage with the leader of the extreme far-right Svoboda party Oleh Tyahnybok. … Oleh Tyahnybok, he has claimed a “Moscow-Jewish mafia” rule Ukraine and that “Germans, Kikes and other scum” want to “take away our Ukrainian state.”

  8. BeccaM says:

    A military presence is only a projection of power if one is willing to use it. Otherwise it’s just a bluff. And it’s not even a bluff if the other side knows you don’t actually want to go to war.

    I’m still waiting for someone answer why America and/or NATO should risk a war with Russia — a war that could conceivably go nuclear, chemical, or biological — over Georgia or Crimea.

  9. BeccaM says:

    I’m no fan of Obama either, as readers of this blog know very well. Up to and including my admission I voted 3rd party for president in the 2012 election cycle.

    But the Putin-worship really annoyed me.

  10. dula says:

    January 24, 2014 – President Yanukoyvch identified foreign elementsparticipating in Kiev protests warning that armed radicals were a danger to peaceful citizens. Independent news agencies also reported that “not all of Kiev’s population backs opposition rule, which depends mainly on a group from the former Polish town of Lvov, which holds sway over Kiev downtown – but not the rest of the city.”

    January 30, 2014 – The State Department’s website Media Note announced Nuland’s upcoming travel plans that ”In Kyiv, Assistant Secretary Nuland will meet with government officials, opposition leaders, civil society and business leaders to encourage agreement on a new government and plan of action.” In other words, almost a month before President Yanukovych was ousted, the US was planning to rid the world of another independently elected President.

    February 4, 2014 – More evidence of Ms. Nuland’s meddling with extremist factions and the high level stakes of war and peace occurred in her taped conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing their calculations of who’s in and who’s out to replace Yanukovych. Note mention of Nazi leader Oleh Tyahnybok. Here are some selected excerpts:

    Nuland: “What do you think?”

    Pyatt: “I think we’re in play… the [Vitali] Klitsch piece is obviously the complicated electron here especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister. Your argument to him which you’ll need to make, I think the next phone call we want to set up is exactly the one you made to Yats [Yatsenyuk]. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario and I’m very glad he said what he said in response.”

    Nuland: “I don’t think Klitsch should go into government. I don’t think its necessary. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

    Pyatt: “yeah…I mean I guess. You think…what…in terms of him not going into the government, just let him sort of stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of the process moving ahead, we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok and his guys. I’m sure that’s what Yanukoyvch is calculating on all this.”

    Nuland: “I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. What he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside and he needs to be talking to them four times a week you know…I think with Klitsch going in at that level working for Yats, it’s not going to work.”

    Nuland: “My understanding is that the big three [Yatsenyuk, Klitsch and Tyahnybok] were going in to their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a three plus one conversation with you.”

    Pyatt: “ That’s what he proposed but knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitsch has been top dog; he’s going to take a while to show up at a meeting, he’s probably talking to his guys at this point so I think you reaching out to him will help with the personality management among the three and gives us a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.”

    Nuland: … “when I talked to Jeff Feltman this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy …Robert Serry – he’s now gotten both Serry andBan ki Moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday… so that would be great I think to help glue this thing and have the UN help glue it and you know fuck the EU.”

    Pyatt: “Exactly. I think we’ve got to do something to make it sticktogether because you can be pretty sure the Russians will be working behind the scenes. ….Let me work on Klitchko and I think we want to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help midwife this thing.”

    Nuland: ”…Sullivan’s come back to me saying you need Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an” ‘atta’ boy’ and get the deeds to stick so Biden’s willing.”

    February 20, 2014 – Foreign ministers from Poland, Germany and France visiting Kiev secured President Yanukovych’s agreement that would commit the government to an interim administration, constitutional reform and new parliamentary and presidential elections. With “no clear sign that EU or US pressure has achieved” the desired effect, opposition leaders rejected Yanukovych’s compromise which would have ended the three month stand-off. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the German, French and Polishforeign ministers to step in and take responsibility for upholding the deal they helped forge and not let “armed extremists” directly threaten Ukrainian sovereignty.

    February 21, 2014 – At a special summit in Brussels, European foreign ministers agreed to adopt sanctions on Ukraine including visa bans and asset freezes. The EU decision followed “immense pressure from the US for the European powers to take punitive action against the Ukrainian regime.” Washington had already imposed travel bans on 20 leading Ukrainians.

    February 22, 2014 – An hour after refusing to resign, the Ukrainian Parliament voted, according to Russian president Vladimir Putin, in anunconstitutional action to oust President Yanukovych and that pro-EU forces staged a ‘coup’. Yanukovych departed Kiev in fear for his life.

    March 1, 2014 – During a conversation initiated by the vice president, Biden delivered his ‘atta boy’ with a phone call to newly installed prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk reaffirming US support for Ukraine’s ‘territorial integrity.”

  11. RyansTake says:

    That article is bullshit. The choices on the ballot were “yes or yes” and it was a vote that was taken at the barrel of a gun. There were no international observers allowed in, yet plenty of reports that the only people allowed to vote were those who had Russian passports.

  12. RyansTake says:

    Russia needs to be so shut off economically that it reverts back to the stone age. Then maybe — just maybe — Putin and his ilk will permanently find themselves out of power and we can have some sanity back in the Kremlin again.

  13. GarySFBCN says:

    The subterfuge is that their hatred of Obama is so great that they’ll believe anything and make up anything to support their hatred.

    I’m no fan of Obama – NSA, gitmo, single-payer off the table, etc.

    But this is just idiotic.

  14. dula says:

    And the business community could have predicted the deliberate destabilization of Ukraine by the West:

    “April 11, 2011 – A Kiev Post article entitled “Ukraine Hopes to Get $1.5 Billion from IMF in June” states that the loan is dependent on pension cuts while “maintaining cooperation with the IMF, since it influences the country’s interaction with other international financial institutions and private investors” and further that the “attraction of $850 million from the World Bank in 2011, depended on cooperation with the IMF.” Well, that about says it all – if Ukraine played ball. then the loan money would pour in.

    November 21, 2013 – fast forward to the EU summit in Lithuania when President Yanuyovch embarrassed the European Union by rejecting its Agreement in favor of joining Russia’s Common Union with other Commonwealth Independent States.

    November 27, 2013 – it was not until February 23, 2014 when Anonymous Ukraine hackers released a series of emails from a Lithuanian government advisor to opposition leader and former boxer Vitaly Klitschko regarding plans to destabilize Ukraine; for example:

    “Our American friends promise to pay a visit in the coming days, we may even see Nuland or someone from the Congress.” 12/7/2013

    “Your colleague has arrived ….his services may be required even after the country is destabilized.” 12/14/2013

    “I think we’ve paved the way for more radical escalation of the situation. Isn’t it time to proceed with more decisive action?” 1/9/2014

    November 29, 2013 – well-orchestrated protestors were already in the streets of Kiev as European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso announced that the EU would “not accept Russia’s veto” of the Agreement.

    December 13, 2013 – As if intent on providing incontrovertible evidence of US involvement in Ukraine, Assistant US Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Victoria Nuland proudly told a meeting of the International Business Conference sponsored by the US-Ukrainian Foundation that the US had ‘invested’ more than $5 billion and ‘fiveyears worth of work and preparation” in achieving what she called Ukraine’s ‘European aspirations.” Having just returned from her third trip to Ukraine in five weeks, Nuland boasted of her ‘coordinated high level diplomacy’ and a more than two hour ‘tough conversation’ with Yanukovych. Already familiar with Nuland as former Secretary Clinton’s spokesperson at State, one can imagine her discourteous tone and manner when she says she made it “absolutely clear” to Yanukovych that the US required “immediate steps” …to “get back into conversation with Europe and the IMF.” While Western media have portrayed Yanukovych as a ‘weak’ leader, Nuland’s description of a ‘tough’ meeting can only mean that he resisted her threats and intimidations. In what must have been a touching moment, Nuland spoke about a show of force by government police on demonstrators who “sang hymns and prayed for peace.”

    What Nuland did not reveal on December 13 was that her meetings with ‘key Ukrainian stakeholders’ included neo-Nazi Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyahnybok and prime minister wannabe Arsenly Yatsenyuk of the Fatherland Party. At about the same time Nuland was wooing fascist extremists, Sen. John McCain (R-Az) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D- Conn) shared the stage in Kiev with Tyahnybok offering their support and opposition to the sitting government. The Svoboda party which has roots with extreme vigilante and anti-semitic groups has since received at least three high level cabinet posts in the interim government including deputy prime minister. There is no doubt that the progenies of west Ukraine’s historic neo-fascist thugs that fought with Hitler are now aligned with the US as represented by Victoria Nuland.”

  15. mirror says:

    You support the ethnic cleansing of non-Russians from Crimea in 1944 too, don’t you? You cherry pick the history for your pal Putin. This whole Crimea thing is the outcome of evil deeds done by Stalin, first starving half the population literally to death between 1922 and 1933, and then using the fight against Hitler as a smoke screen for ethnic cleansing the Tatars and other people. Now your Russian pals in Crimea are torturing the small number of remaining Tatars if they raise their voice to remind anybody of this.

  16. Naja pallida says:

    Except Bush didn’t stop the Georgian invasion, and there are still Russian troops occupying Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin is still actively threatening Georgia. The 6th fleet is already deployed to the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, it’s based out of Naples, Italy… but by treaty, most of the fleet’s ships are not permitted to enter the Black Sea. Our military presence in the region is a flaccid threat, at best.

  17. perljammer says:

    You’re confusing Sarah Palin with TIna Fey. What SP actually said was, “They’re our next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

  18. BeccaM says:

    Or, alternatively, this isn’t about the U.S. or its interests, but the actions primarily of an autocratic Russian leader hoping to reassemble the USSR empire, one piece at a time, world opinion be damned.

    So yeah, the new Kiev government is rotten. So was the last one. They appear to have exchanged one set of authoritarians for another. But I take issue with several of Whitney’s points, including details he conveniently leaves out, as he savages everything the Obama administration does, while giving every appearance of a massive man-crush on Putin.

    – Whitney mentions a near unanimous balloting in which 93 percent of Crimean voters approved splitting off and joining Russia. He omits the fact there was no “stay with Ukraine” option on the ballot. And since when do nearly 19 out of 20 people agree enthusiastically on anything? It looks to me like along with the USSR’s empire, Putin is also bringing back the traditionally rigged one-choice Soviet elections.

    – Whitney also ignores the voting irregularities, including 2x ballots printed than there were voters and credible reports of ethnic Ukrainians and Tartars being harassed.

    – In some respects, to use a fictional analogy, it would be as if Mexico invaded Texas and, upon a vote of 93 percent (in questionable balloting, including barring Anglos from voting) where the only choices were “become an independent republic” or “join Mexico”, invading and annexing the state. This all happening, of course, after Mexico tried to bully the U.S. Congress into passing a federalizing constitution more to its liking and all but ordering the country not to sign an economic treaty with Canada. And then saying the whole thing was a horrific embarrassment and diplomatic disaster for Putin, for not intervening or whatever. Crimea isn’t an American crisis. It’s a Russian / Ukrainian one, with European interests close by.

    – Whitney seems to see everything through the blinders of American self-interest alone, and can’t seem to comprehend that to an authoritarian like Putin, world reaction is very much secondary to this chance to seize and annex territory with vital military and geopolitical interest for Russia. You can’t force someone not to do something when their desire to do it overrides any non-violent means you have to persuade him otherwise.

    – Whitney gives entirely too much credence to information from the Russian media, especially with these Nazi accusations. With the way Putin and the Russian government have been coddling neo-Nazis back home, what makes you think they’ll try to stamp out the Nazis in Crimea or the rest of the Ukraine? Seems to me Putin’s likely plans for any neo-Nazis he finds in Crimea or the Ukraine will be to give them new orders and set them against his preferred targets — probably Tartars, ethnic Ukrainians, and of course gays and immigrants.

    – He thinks Putin actually respects democratic institutions. I boggle at the credulity it takes to believe something like that. And according to Whitney, Putin is totally in the right — politically and morally — in everything that’s happened.

    What was Obama supposed to do? Threaten sanctions? Done. Conduct naval and military exercises? Also done. Steam U.S. and NATO fleets right up to the edge of Russian territorial waters? What would be the point?

    This is a situation beyond where ‘sending signals’ would accomplish anything useful. Are we supposed to threaten to go to war over Crimea? Is that what’s being suggested?

  19. Buford2k11 says:

    That is amazing…SP said the same thing…Only this guy CAN see Russia from his porch…

  20. There is nothing Obama could have done to prevent the seizure of Crimea but he can act to prevent anymore seizure of Ukraine by deploying the 6th Fleet as GW Bush did to stop the Georgian invasion. It is the one smart thing Bush did as President.

  21. nicho says:

    Mike Whitney has a more informative and informed view:

    The Obama administration suffered its worst foreign
    policy defeat in 5 years on Sunday when the people of Crimea voted
    overwhelmingly to reject Washington’s Nazi-backed junta government in
    Kiev and join the Russian Federation. The balloting, in which more than
    93 percent of voters “approved splitting off and joining Russia”
    reflects the strong ethnic, cultural and historic ties its people share
    with Moscow as well as the understandable fear that being “liberated” by
    the US could lead to grinding third world poverty and widespread mayhem
    the likes of which are manifest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

    Putin, who was attending the Paralympic games in Sochi,
    has wisely stayed above the fray throughout the crisis brushing off the
    hysterical accusations and threats issued almost daily by President
    Obama or his vaudevillian sidekick John Kerry, the most incompetent
    buffoon to ever serve as US Secretary of State. Between Obama, Kerry and
    the irascible John McCain, who traipses from one media venue to the
    next spouting his cold war fulminations like an old man shooing kids off
    the front lawn, the US has made a spectacular hash of things leaving US
    foreign policy in a shambles. The Crimea fiasco shows that while Team
    Obama may be chock-full of fantasists, spin-doctors and crystal-gazing
    globalists it is sadly lacking in geopolitical pragmatists with a solid
    grasp of the way the world works. Obama has been no match for Putin who
    has tromped him at every turn.

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