On Thursday, Nov. 3, Richard Miles, former United States ambassador to Georgia, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, spoke at UC Irvine’s Social Science Plaza about his involvement in peace efforts in Eastern Europe, as well as personal experiences during his 35 years in the Foreign Service.
Paula Garb, an anthropology professor at UCI, introduced Miles by highlighting his achievements.
‘I want to stress that he is the state champion of 2004 of the Robert Fraser award for his unrelenting efforts to alleviate disagreements and creating alternative channels for violent confrontations,’ Garb said.
Miles’ work as ambassador included maintaining peace in Georgia by mediating between the Georgian government and protesters. He encouraged communication between the government and opposition groups and provided advice for conflict resolution.
‘There was a danger of civil war,’ Miles said. ‘Training sessions for crowd discipline allowed for avoidance of unnecessary violence.’
The U.S. government was frustrated with the corruption in Georgia before 2002 and Miles described Georgia as essentially helpless.
‘Georgia was like a passenger ship sinking,’ Miles said.
His efforts for maintaining stability in Georgia during his appointed time there included promotion of the Caspian oil pipeline, which starts in Azerbaijan, passes through Georgia and ends in Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.
‘It was an economic investment for Georgia,’ Miles said.
The $3 billion Caspian pipeline is expected to have a unifying effect for the region, reduce tensions, and create stability within Georgia from the economic benefits.
Western interest in Georgia is based on many factors. In addition to the United States, Europe and Japan also have stakes in the region.
‘Georgia connects Eastern Europe to the Middle East,’ Miles said. ‘The geo-strategic region of Georgia is important for many reasons. Its control of gas resources in the Caspian Basin region is one. Other interests concern issues such as terrorism. Maintaining relative peace there is a priority.’
Mario Mariotta IV, a second-year ecology and evolutionary biology major, is optimistic about peaceful interventions but worries about ulterior motives.
‘I think it is acceptable that the United States intervene in the region in the interest of peace,’ Mariotta said. ‘However, I am ashamed that our government’s primary motive may be oil.’
Vickie Chan, a second-year double major in political science and history, felt that U.S. intervention could be beneficial.
‘I think it’s great that there was intervention to prevent a civil war in Georgia,’ Chan said. ‘Any peace-building efforts are important.’
Bryan Burton, a second-year criminology major, felt that efforts in the region should not be based on capitalistic interests.
‘We should address people’s needs,’ Burton said.
Miles served in the Marine Corps and graduated from UC Berkeley, Indiana University, and the U.S. Army Russian Institute in Germany.
In the 1960s he was involved with the Civil Rights movement in South Carolina. He began his career for the United States Foreign Services in 1967 and served in Oslo, Moscow and St. Petersburg. He was also the principal officer of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall. From 1992 to 1993 he served as ambassador to Azerbaijan, from 1996 to 1999 as Chief of Mission to Belgrade, and from 1999 to 2001 as ambassador to Bulgaria.
Miles’ last appointment as ambassador was in Georgia on a special case after resigning as ambassador in 2002.
Miles has been honored many times for his diplomatic accomplishments. He has been awarded the Meritorious Honor Award from the State Department and the Presidential Meritorious Service Award in 1992.