The messenger logo

One year on: gains and losses

By Messenger Staff
Friday, August 7
One year has passed since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Georgia. In historical terms this is nothing, but for the people experiencing the lost war it’s a long time.

Some members of the present administration have said several times that Georgia has gained more than it lost and is almost victorious against Russia. To blow a little fresh air into the dramatic situation I start with a Georgian joke rather popular here today. “The countries which Russia defeated, Japan, Germany, Finland and France, have become the most prosperous in the world. Why were we Georgians destined to win the war against Russia?”

It is a simple exercise to try and quantify the gains and losses Georgia received during and after the Russian invasion. Let’s start with the gains. The first is that Georgia received great publicity throughout the world. The second is that Russia showed its true face to the same world. The importance of Georgia for European energy security was recognised. However the most important gain is that Georgia received an unprecedented amount of financial assistance. We can try together to think of other things Georgia gained from the war. We are open to suggestion from all quarters.

Now let’s go down to the losses. The immediately obvious and most serious one is the lost territories. Almost 1/5 of the country has now been occupied by Russia and ‘independent states’ have been established there, which are only recognised by Russia and Nicaragua but are still independent of Tbilisi in real terms and led by Moscow puppets. They are constantly being reinforced with more Russian soldiers, military equipment and infrastructure. Air, naval and ground forces are deployed there. Maybe we should have put this as the first loss, but Georgia claims that several hundred of its civilian population and soldiers have been killed and several thousand wounded. There have also been casualties along the administrative borders between Georgia and its breakaway regions since the ceasefire was signed.

There are tens of thousands of IDPs either in temporary shelters or specially built houses still unable to go home. The situation in the border zones is still very tense. People in the zones themselves or the rest of Georgia are under permanent threat and psychological stress. There is still continual speculation by politicians, analysts and the population that Russia might strike again. This permanent fear creates psychological damage to the population and there is a permanent threat that Russia could organise any kind of subversive action against the oil and natural gas pipelines in Georgia.

The war has very considerably damaged Georgia’s international image as a country attractive for investments. The Russian occupiers did their best to destroy not only the military infrastructure but the civilian one as well, doing things like blowing up the railway bridge in the centre of the country, thus cutting for several weeks railway communication between east and west Georgia, and dropping firebombs on the Borjomi gorge forests, destroying thousands of hectares of woodland.

Russia has successfully tried to remove the OSCE observer mission in South Ossetia and its counterpart, UNOMIG, in Abkhazia. This has left the remaining Georgian population living in these regions absolutely unprotected. In one or two generations the Georgian population will be assimilated with the Russian one if we cannot regain the territories. The Georgian armed forces infrastructure has been destroyed and so, more importantly, has been its morale. The defeated army syndrome infects it throughout. All of these factors have of course created heavy economic problems in various sectors.

There are some consequences to the war which are regarded as either gains or losses depending on your point of view. The Russian invasion did not result in the removal of Georgia’s current leadership. From the point of view of the country’s statehood this is a gain, but from the point of view of the opposition, who are sure that it was the fault of the leadership that the country got trapped into military conflict with Russia, it is a loss. So did Georgia really gain more than it lost, as the authorities claim? This question is still unanswered, and there is little hope that the EU fact finding commission led by Heidi Tagliavini will resolve it, even it puts all the blame for the war on the Russian side.

There is also another consequence of the war which might be seen as either a gain or a loss. Many political analysts in Georgia predict that separatism in Russia itself will flourish now that Russia has recognised separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In this scenario Russia is doomed to disintegration. Whether this will be a gain or loss for the world is the question.