Last Interview With Mathew Bryza?

By Diana Tosunian

What will be the policy of the White House with Obama? Today, politicians and analysts can only guess, but they all agree that Washington won’t change its foreign policy course greatly, especially because it will be headed by a well-known Hillary Clinton, and position of the Security Minister is still occupied by Robert Gates. It will be possible to make certain conclusions only in April, after the summit of the “Great Twenty” in London. This meeting of the Presidents of the leading countries will be a political presentation of Barak Obama. There the US and Russian Presidents will meet each other for the first time. Deputy assistant of the US Secretary of State Mathew Bryza dwells on future of Russian-American and Georgian-American relations.

Mr. Bryza, after new administration for Tbilisi issues came to power rumors arose that you will be appointed to another position. In recent years Georgia has got used to your active work…

- I can’t even express how I’ve got used to it! I don’t know what you will do without me (laughs), but I can’t really imagine what I will do without this job. Maybe there are such rumors, but I don’t know a thing. I love this region and all of you, people who live here. But I don’t know what will happen next. This depends on the State Secretary Clinton: today I’m at service, and I will continue my service in the place that she appoints. Hopefully, I’ll stay here at least a little longer. Although, frankly speaking, I’m tired, but only physically – as for my soul, I’m ready to keep on working and hopefully this is for long.
Today Georgians are concerned about further development of American-Georgian relations. Georgian opposition states that the prospects are pretty unclear, as Obama gives no positive signs to the Georgian President.

- It’s ridiculous – the relations between our countries are very firm, that’s what it is now and will be in future. It’s obvious.  Judging by claims new administration supported Georgia even during pre-electoral period – during the war and Russian invasion, and this policy of support keeps its course. There is a charter that defines our relations, and this document will be accomplished by new administration. I don’t understand what do the people that say that there are no positive signs from the White House expect from the USA, because there are plenty of such signs.
The charter on strategic partnership that you’ve mentioned has incited suspicions in Moscow: they say that the USA plans to turn Georgia into military platform with bases. How adequate these suspicions are?

- We don’t plan to establish the kind of bases in Georgia. However, I’ve already said and repeated it, that we intend to work with Georgia in the sphere of security, energy, economy. The document should encourage Georgia to promote reforms, and this process will enhance the partnership of our states and will help Georgia to comply with the NATO including criteria.

Developing our relations with Georgia, we are not interested in confrontations with Russia. At the same time, we are aware of the long struggle we’ll face, that will demand patience and cooperation with Russia.
Is a new cold war possible? The case is that, after Barak Obama’s victory in presidential elections, Russia became more positive about warming of relations with the USA, but after Munich’s speech of the Vice-President Biden people got back to earth.

- There will be no cold war, those times passed long ago. I think, Russia realizes its weakness in comparison with the USA. Everybody knows that. As Biden said we are ready to restart our relations with Russia, but we will never-ever recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This means that there are no changes within our relations with Georgia. And if our administration wants to lead negotiations on nuclear armament, it’s normal, it won’t influence our course of relations development with Georgia.
Are there any real mechanisms of pressure on Russia? It’s evident that pure diplomacy is not sufficient, because Moscow hasn’t yet withdrawn its troops to the pre-war positions – quite the opposite, new Russian military bases are located in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

- These intentions were declared and the fact that Russian troops haven’t withdrawn to the positions they occupied on August 6th  doesn’t comply with the agreement of August 12th and September 8th between the Presidents Saakashvili and Medvedev. As for a definite mechanism of pressure, there is no one. We simply believe that Russia intends (hopefully) to accomplish its liabilities under these agreements.
It’s probably not enough only to hope. Agree, that today diplomatic pressure is not that effective as we wish it to be – moreover, the result is quite poor.

- It’s poor, I agree. But diplomacy is urgent. What happened after the speech of our President during the war? Reporters, who observed the situation (I mean the road connecting Mtskheta and Gori) told me that when the President Bush made a speech, Russian tanks turned back from their way to Tbilisi.  It means that words, i.e. diplomacy, are significant. And I believe, that if all the world realizes that Russia still hasn’t performed its liabilities and that Tskhinvali impedes the progress of negotiation process and even doesn’t want to receive humanitarian aid to gain political scores and announces political statements, then step by step it will become a positive effect for Georgia.
By the way, on humanitarian aid. Do you mean the refusal of Tskhinvali to accept the aid, provided by the EU and UNO during Geneva discussions?

-  In Geneva I represent the USA in the second working group on refugees and there is another group for security. I can’t mark our meeting as productive. Why? Because the EU and UNO offered to provide an aid to people in need from North and South. My colleagues from Tskhinvali haven’t approved it. And it turns out that we are working in Geneva but are not able to fulfill our duties completely. It’s beyond my understanding. The UNO and EU offer aid, and one of the parties doesn’t agree – this is nonfulfillment of the UNO Security Council resolution, and this document has a power of international law. This is a very serious moment. The case is that the 4th article of resolution 1866 states that humanitarian aid should be provided freely, and the happening in our working group is an impediment from Tskhinvali. And I would like our Russian friends to contribute to the progress.
And what can be done about the unwillingness of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali to let the EU observers in? This is a violation of agreements. What can be the reaction of the European Union if new peacemaking format doesn’t work in Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

- I can’t answer this question. I don’t know what will happen. We should work to answer the kind of question, and to solve these problems. That’s why we should lead negotiations, dialogue.

We think that there is a single state – Georgia, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the parts of Georgia. The European Union declared that their observers have the right to monitor all the regions in Georgia, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But authorities in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi state the opposite. I think that we’ll still manage to find a common ground.
Another still debatable question is the return of refugees. Are there any improvements in this situation?

- The most important for this return to be safe. In Gala region and in South Ossetia security should be guaranteed. We should consider the idea of Georgia and others on what should be done for the return of refugees.
Mr. Bryza, I’ve been concerned about one question since August. In your first interview during the war you were quite another Mr. Bryza, not that smiling diplomat as today. You said severely, that the war was an unforgivable mistake. To whom did you address these words?

- You mean when I came to Tbilisi? There were plenty of reasons to be exasperated! Firstly, Russia attacked Georgia, and claimed Georgia to start this war. It was unfair. There were many comments of Russian authorities that simply were a lie. In addition, I considered that these statements enhanced the level of tension during the war. That is why I was so angry: I think that my task as a diplomat to assist the parties to come to agreements, as well as to establish peace, to live in friendship and to solve very urgent issues. Then and now I’m convinced that those declarations of Moscow aggravated the situation.

Mathew Bryza


Matthew J. Bryza assumed his duties as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in June 2005. In this capacity, he is responsible for policy oversight and management of relations with countries in the Caucasus and Southern Europe. He also leads U.S. efforts to advance peaceful settlements of the separatist conflicts of Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Additionally, Mr. Bryza coordinates U.S. energy policy in the regions surrounding the Black and Caspian Seas. He also works with European countries on issues of tolerance, social integration, and Islam.

In April 2001, Mr. Bryza joined the National Security Council as Director for Europe and Eurasia, with responsibility for coordinating U.S. policy on Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Caspian energy.

Mr. Bryza served as the deputy to the Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy from July 1998 to March 2001. In this capacity, Mr. Bryza coordinated the U.S. Government’s inter-agency effort to develop a network of oil and gas pipelines in the Caspian region.

During 1997-1998, Mr. Bryza was special advisor to Ambassador Richard Morningstar, coordinating U.S. Government assistance programs on economic reform in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Mr. Bryza served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during 1995-1997, first as special assistant to Ambassador Thomas Pickering, then as a political officer covering the Russian Duma, the Communist Party, and the Republic of Dagestan in the North Caucasus.

He worked on European and Russian affairs at the State Department during 1991-1995.

Mr. Bryza served in Poland in 1989-1991 at the U.S. Consulate in Poznan and the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, where he covered the "Solidarity" movement, reform of Poland’s security services, and regional politics.

He joined the United States Foreign Service in August, 1988.

Mr. Bryza graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He received his master’s degree in the same field from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He is fluent in Russian and Polish, and also speaks German and Spanish.
Translated from Russian-Georgian Informational and Analytical Site