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Moscow appeals for new international security strategy

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, February 20
The international community needs to work out a plan of unified actions to ensure the security of the world, stated Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as quoted by Interfax news agency, on February 21.

Medvedev considers that only such a “new strategy” can “protect” the world from the danger of a repeat of the Russian-Georgian conflict and those of a similar type. “We live in very difficult times and the dramatic events in South Ossetia have clearly shown us that localised conflict can flare into real war even in our seemingly peaceful times.” Medvedev stated that Russia had conducted “necessary measures to stop the aggressor, protect the people and prevent humanitarian catastrophe” in South Ossetia, however Russia can’t keep the “peace in the region” alone. Medvedev stated that “the international community needs to take unified measures to create a reliable security system which will allow us to prevent such events [as the Georgian-Russian war].”

Russia entered Georgian territory in August 2008, explaining this as the protection of its citizens from the “genocide” conducted by the Tbilisi central authorities in its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Military actions lasted for 5 days, after which an EU-mediated ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia was signed. After the cessation of military actions Moscow recognized the independence of the Georgian separatist regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia and announced plans to create large-scale military bases there. Georgia regards the Russian actions as the occupation and annexation of Georgian territories.

“This statement should come as no surprise, for it was Russia, which either through its own efforts or with the assistance of the proxy regimes, disrupted all attempts to defuse the tension in Georgia’s conflict zones that eventually resulted in the occupation of 20% of Georgian territory, ethnic cleansing and attempts to forcibly redraw the state borders of our sovereign country. Russian officials must be perfectly aware that they are isolating themselves from the international community due to the culpable policy they have been pursuing against Georgia since the 1990s, for the justification of which they still continue to assert absurd claims, which can have no other effect but to mislead their own population,” stated the Georgian Foreign Ministry on February 19.

In the light of Medvedev’s statement Georgia is also seeking new ways to ensure its security. On February 19-20 the Georgian Defence Minister participated in the unofficial NATO summit in Krakow, Poland, focused on ways of keeping alive the membership hopes of Ukraine and Georgia. After this meeting U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told journalists that both the United States and NATO would continue to expand cooperation with Georgia, despite opposition from Moscow.

"We have a continuing security relationship with Georgia. We are involved in training. We are involved in military reform in Georgia," Gates said. "So this is an ongoing relationship. And it is a relationship that we are pursuing both bilaterally and with our NATO allies." Poland’s Deputy Defence Minister Stanislaw Komorowski said,. “NATO allies realized during the Russian-Georgian crisis in August 2008 that the enemy may be closer to the alliance's borders than previously thought, which is why the organization will take this fact into account in the future,” he said. "We now face a different situation. It’s after the crisis in Georgia and I can assure you that there is much more of a discussion right now within the alliance, to a large extent because many partners realize that the enemy unfortunately can be much closer to our borders."

Georgian Minister of Defence David Sikharulidze has proposed offering Georgia as an alternative route for supplying the NATO peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. However he noted that he has not mentioned anything about allowing NATO to establish military bases in Georgia. On February 18, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze had announced that Georgia is going to send troops to assist in the Afghanistan operation. The number of soldiers and the dates they will be sent are still to be defined.

Comparing the two vectors of global security, Georgian independent political expert Gia Khukhashvili considers that Moscow has “every chance of really transforming the security system of the world.” He considers that the West acknowledges the level of Russia’s influence and will have to consider it. He stated that Georgia’s positions are quite weak in this situation because the West is “afraid to deal with the country because of its unstable and unpredictable authorities.” “The Euro-Atlantic bloc will be really helpful to Georgia when it is sure that the level of risk in Georgia is low and the country is developing in a predictable direction. But for that some changes are needed in Georgia itself,” considers the expert.