The messenger logo

The Geneva challenge

Thursday, October 16
Russia has withdrawn from the so-called buffer zones which it illegally created itself and thus pretends that it has fulfilled the terms of the Sarkozy-brokered six point plan. Moscow states that it needs to make no more ‘concessions’ as it has done everything it was asked to do.

The Russian behaviour is a challenge for the EU at the Geneva talks which began yesterday. Either it will turn a blind eye to the Kremlin’s wicked and treacherous conduct and “cooperate” with it, or it will act on principle and demand that Moscow follows the Sarkozy-Medvevev agreement and return to its pre-August 7 positions. The choice the EU makes will significantly determine the future development of events.

The abovementioned document initially envisaged that all armed forces should be removed from the conflict zones by October 10 and returned to their pre-war positions. But now Russia is openly stating that it does not intend to pull out from the territories it occupied during the war and now recognizes as “independent states.” This is yet another violation of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement. What it means in effect is that Russia wants to force the EU to indirectly legalise its forceful snatching of around 30% of Georgia’s sovereign territory, by saying that the situation now differs from that addressed in the agreement, an excuse any side can use to do anything if it is deemed acceptable.

Moscow insists that the breakaway Georgian regions are already independent states, despite the fact they are not recognized by any country except Russia and Nicaragua. The October 15 Geneva conference started discussing this issue and the EU and Russia fixing their positions. Moscow hopes that the EU will eventually come to terms with the idea of its annexation of Georgia’s territories. This may depend on what form of words the EU uses to convince itself they are or are not part of Georgia, as the case may be.

The Kremlin’s confidence in the EU’s ultimate capitulation is based on the desire of certain EU countries to cooperate more deeply with Russia. Different interests have already demonstrated that there is no unity in Europe’s approach to the Georgia issue. Among the most active Russian lobbyists is Italy. Germany and France also try to maintain a ‘moderate,’ in effect advantageous to Russia, position. The clear cut supporters of Georgia are Great Britain, Sweden, and the Eastern European countries – the ones which have directly experienced the taste of Russian aggression and occupation. The Baltic republics and Poland argue that the EU must adopt a strict position towards Russia if it doesn’t fulfill its commitments and doesn’t return its troops to their prewar positions.

Georgian political analysts have differing opinions. Some think that Europe will make concessions towards Moscow. Others consider that certain countries of the EU are so strongly opposing the Russian aggression that it is unlikely that the EU will make any serious concessions to the Russians. Both views may ultimately be proven correct. A statement which both sides claim as a victory is the usual sort for a large international body with no army of its own to come out with at the end of the day.

The Russian aggression against Georgia and its recognition of the separatist regions as independent states were a cold shower for the West. They require an adequate response. If Europe agrees to the Russian rules of the game, it will be encouraging the same aggression elsewhere, encouraging the rule of force, not the rule of law. The consequences the rest of us will have to face for long afterwards will then be totally the responsibility of the leading Western countries, whether they like it or not.