Colin Powell On Russia/Georgia Conflict: Georgia Started It

Colin Powell On Russia/Georgia Conflict: Georgia Started It


I watched part of CNN’s “The Next President: A World of Challenges” forum on Sunday, but I missed this bit that reveals Colin Powell not only saying that Georgia started it, but it also appears that he backs away a bit from McCain’s response to the crisis.

As I’ve said before, Colin Powell’s endorsement could be one of the most important to swing voters this season, so how he views each candidates’ approach to this situation could actually be very important.

Complete transcript after the jump…

AMANPOUR: Except for, General Powell, it basically hopes that Russia is not going to be the aggressor. And if Russia is and you have to, you know, keep your NATO allies’ security, aren’t you then committed?

POWELL: Under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which is the NATO Treaty, when one member of the alliance is attacked from abroad — meaning outside the NATO geographic limits — then all members of NATO treat that as an attack.

AMANPOUR: And yet…

POWELL: Article 5 has only been invoked once in the history of the alliance, and that was on the 12th of September, 2001, when it was invoked in our favor, when the whole NATO alliance said we were attacked, the alliance was attacked on 9/11.

Now, in the current situation, the Russians acted brutally. I think they acted foolishly. But it was also absolutely predictable what the Russians would do. You could see them stacking up their troops.

And I think it was foolhardy on the part of President Saakashvili and the Georgian government to kick over this can, to light a match in a roomful of gas fumes.

SESNO: So you’re saying the Georgians provoked this?

POWELL: They did. I mean, there was a lot of reasons to have provocations in the area, but the match that started the conflagration was from the Georgian side.

AMANPOUR: And yet…

POWELL: And that’s a given.

AMANPOUR: And some debate in the presidential elections has basically been, “We are all Georgians now.” What does that mean? It’s the same as was said after 9/11.

POWELL: One candidate said that, and I’ll let the candidate explain it for himself.


SESNO: You can help a little, if you’d like.

POWELL: No, the fact of the matter is that you — you have to be very careful in a situation like this not just to leap to one side or the other until you’ve taken a good analysis of the whole situation.

This was something that might have been avoided if people had looked at the Russian troops that were stacked up, if people had realized that the Russians were serious about South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and if perhaps more guidance and suggestions had been given to President Saakashvili beyond those that he received, it might have been avoided.

But it wasn’t. It’s over. The Russians are the offenders right now. And we have to see that.

We cannot say to the Russians, “We are not going to allow the Georgians or Ukrainians or anyone else to start down the path toward NATO membership.” It’s not for the Russians to decide that.

But I think it is wise for us to look at the whole strategic situation and all of our equities before deciding how fast that should happen and whether it’s the time to do it right now.

The Russian Federation is not going to become the Soviet Union again. That movie failed at the box office. But they do have interests. And we have to think carefully about their interests.

So you have to treat Russia as a proud country that lost a lot of its pride some 15, 16 years ago, and it’s restored with a political leadership that is enormously popular in the country and with a level of wealth they’ve never had before, and with concerns about their near abroad, and treat them in a straightforward, business-like, objective way and not emotionally.

  • Hypnomorph

    I personally am, and have been, quite impressed with Colin Powell overall. As an independent voter, I would seriously consider voting for him should he ever choose to run for president. Even after taking into account his role in Bush’s first term.

    This clip just wowed me!

  • Erik Sickinger

    I did not RTFA (video), but if the title is a fair breakdown of the video – then Obama was right? Or less wrong…

    Obama –> even handed, balanced response. Wasn’t quick to blame it all on Russia.

  • The Emperor

    I am amazed. A guy that had ties to the Bush Regime finally realizes that Russia is not the Evil Empire that the conservatives and senile old fools think it continues to be.

    Russia did over do it when they used overwhelming force but it was Georgia that started it when they attacked a region of Georgia (South Ossetia) that CHOOSE to secede from Georgia by popular sovereignty. (In other words, Democracy. They voted to secede from Georgia)

    For a country that loves to speak the democracy choir, it fails to realize one universal truth about the way the world works and that is “The rules work both ways.” An example of this is the free elections they had in Palestine. You remember hearing about those right? The elections where Hamas came in first place.

    Also, morons like Sean Hannity, Michael Weiner, Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly love to evoke Hitler’s name and how he was a bad man and a dictator yet none of them seem to know how he came to power and the way he came to power was Democracy. People voted for him and when he was in power he took advantage of an event (the Burning of the Reichstag Palace) that scared the German people and duped the German Republic into giving Hitler “emergency powers” (I.E. Patriot Acts) to “protect” Germany which allowed him to transform a democratic republic into a Fascist state with him as Der Fuehur.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    You could see them stacking up their troops.

    He forgot to mention that the Russians actually sent heavy armor into Georgia through the Gori tunnel, and used jet fighters to bomb Georgian villages in south ossetia on august 16th, the day before the Georgians moved in. In other words, he’s lying.

    The only reason that Powell is saying that Georgia started it is because Georgia is the American ally, not Russia. He is deliberately leaving out that information so that he can set up his own narrative so that Nato would not intervene in the situation.

    Remember what the “Powell doctrine” says: don’t ever fight anyone ever. He didn’t even want to liberate Kuwait in ’91, he just wanted to defend Saudi Arabia before Saddam moved in. He didn’t want the U.S. to get involved in the Balkans and stop the ethnic cleansing there. He is a dinosaur who doesn’t understand the world we live in today. He doesn’t even think radical Islamic theology inspires terrorists.

  • Spacecortez

    Jimmy don’t make stuff up that didn’t happen.

  • ken

    speaking of endorsements…. What about Paul Volker (former chairman of the fed)?

    The dude was absolutely correct about financial crisis, hes been advocating against the deregulation that caused this for decades.

    He also was the man who killed the high inflation of the 70s/80s, with inflation soaring recently don’t you think he would be the man to listen to?

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Sorry Spacecortez, you were right. It was the Roki tunnel, not the Gori tunnel. I got those names confused. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Vigilante

    Thanks for the transcripts! Linked!

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi


    It was august 6th and 7th that the Russian forces moved into South Ossetia and reports of Russian fighter bombers were made, not the 16th. The Georgians moved in on the 8th. My bad. Spacecortez, you are very observant! thanks for pointing out my mistakes.

  • gerryf


    I believe you mean the Roksky Tunnel on August 7?

    What is your point? Russia warned Georgia it would intervene if Georgia launched a military action into South Ossetia on August 5. Georgia did on August 6, by bombing the South Ossetia city of Tskhinvali. They bombed Tskhinvali againt the following day on August 7, and it was the second bombing that resulted in the Russian military entering the Roksky Tunnel just before midnight.

    If you’re trying to say that bombing didn’t count because Georgia didn’t put boots on the ground until August 8, well, that’s all we need to know about where you stand.

  • rob

    An in great detail look at what happened.

  • gerryf

    to be fair to Jimmy, I began wrote my response before his addendum appeared; however, it doesn’t really change anything–Georgia began bombing the city of Tskhinvali before the Russian’s were ever alleged to have entered the tunnel between Russian and South Ossetia.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    From the Totten article that rob cited:

    The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994.

    This event is what instigated Georgian shelling of Tskhinvali, according to Totten. Everyone should read this article. The overall feeling you get is that Russia deliberately ratcheted up the violence after a NATO summit in Romania a few months earlier, in order to set up the annexation of Ossetia and Abkhazia (there was no Georgian offensive into Abkazia, yet that territory got annexed for some reason), before Georgia gets accepted to NATO, whereby any further escalation of the conflict may have led to NATO forces fighting alongside Georgia.

    According to Powell, this would be OK because Georgia is far away from the United States.

  • James

    I totally agree, Jimmy the Dhimmi.

    Russia has provoked it, it was getting ready for it and… Georgia is the one to blame? How?? South Ossetia IS WITHIN the internationally recognised territory of Georgia… So how did Georgia provoke it? I say Russia did, by sending it’s army officers to bomb Georgian villages days before Georgians responded.


    All I can say is WOW, Mr. Powell… you suck as a human being! –>

  • Natasha

    Don’t mess with RussiaThe Gazette
    Published: 10 hours agoI read that Mccain/Sarah Palin, the Republicans’ vice-presidential nominee, stated that if Georgia were a NATO member, the United States would go to war with Russia to defend it.”What was she thinking? That Russia is another Iraq? A short bombing campaign à la “shock and awe,” then the U.S. army rolls into Moscow?Please, somebody tell this woman that Russia is capable of turning the entire U.S. into a radioactive parking lot in half an hour, and not to make foolish statements like that.

  • Marcel F. Williams

    Why would anyone push for NATO military expansion all the way to the border of a country that is historically paranoid about invasions and still has the power to destroy the entire planet– several times over. How does that make the world safer?

    The Ossetians don’t like Georgians and they don’t want to be part of Georgia, they want to be part of Russia. Georgia needs to let Ossetia go.

  • JMarra

    As to Colin Powell’s endorsement: based on his performance before the UN, where he played the fool for the Bush Administration, KNOWING he was lying (“this is bullshit!”), I expect him to wishy-wash around for a while, make a bunch of complimentary statements about Obama, and come out for MCCAIN. “Because he’s a vet.”

    Wouldn’t trust this jerk any farther than I could flick a booger at him.