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Russian sphere of interest revisited

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, April 28
The Georgian leadership seems to be turning a blind eye to developments in the international arena and repeating that it has continuing Western support. President Saakashvili is in the USA almost fortnightly, visiting important people and accumulating ‘extra arguments’ for doing this. However the opposition and a number of analysts are airing their suspicions that events might be developing in a way unfavourable for Georgia and the country is under great threat of being pulled back into the Russian sphere of influence.

The ‘reset’ policy towards Moscow declared by the Obama administration has been perceived by the latter as a green light for its aggressive policies towards it near neighbours. The recent elections in Ukraine, which brought a pro-Russian leadership to power there, and the military coup in Kyrgyzstan which had a clear pro-Russian slant have nullified all the progress made in those countries since the colour revolutions some years ago. Democratic dreams have been frustrated and those two countries have returned to Russia's orbit.

What has been the consequence? President Yanukovich of Ukraine and his supporters have decided that the Russian fleet can stay in Sevastopol until 2042 and the USA and EU have met this decision with understanding. Russia is also taking advantage of the strained relations between the USA and Azerbaijan and frustrating the reestablishment of Turkish-Armenian relations. Furthermore a fateful political present has been delivered to The Kremlin in the form of the tragic death of Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his team. Apart from the Baltic republics who have managed to get into NATO and the EU Georgia is the only spot of resistance to the new Russian imperialism. However even Georgia has already lost 1/5 of its territory as a result of direct military aggression from Russia.

The Times of London highlighted that The Kremlin is demanding three things from the USA and European countries: that they not push former Soviet states into NATO, not support opposition movements in countries with pro-Russian Governments and not undertake new initiatives in Russia’s neighbourhood, particularly in the military sphere, without discussing them with Moscow first. President Bush ignored all these demands, which were on the agenda even then, but the Obama administration seems to be more pliable. Therefore Russia has already shown the world that it is prepared to use military force to establish its influence in the territory of a disobedient neighbour. Many analysts here in Georgia suggest that the Bucharest NATO summit in 2008, at which Georgia and Ukraine were refused Membership Action Plans, unbound Russia’s hands. Ukraine is now withdrawing its application to NATO and Georgian territory has been occupied by Moscow, which is building military bases there.

The Kremlin’s plans for Georgia could be diverse. They could be seeking the Ukrainian scenario in which the existing leadership is removed by elections but if this does not work maybe the Kyrgyz scenario is the next option. Of course not all the opposition will play Russia's game, as the ruling party and some opposition parties agree that the country should be Western-oriented. Therefore there is a way to counter Russia: by conducting the forthcoming local elections as fairly and transparently as possible. The opposition should be given the votes they actually get and the ruling party should be prepared to give up some of the positions its members fill now. They should sacrifice personal well-being for the well-being of the country. Such genuine elections will increase the trust of the population and the opposition in the ruling party. If this does not happen the scope for outside forces to interfere in Georgia to suit their own purposes will increase, as not many trust the authorities, they will put their trust in whoever will bring them the results they personally desire.