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Two years on - McCain writes on August 8 events

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, August 9
Medvedev must know that cooperation on Georgia is a U.S. priority and that if Russia does not deliver on our priorities, he should not expect the United States to deliver on his priorities, such as accession to the World Trade Organization – states an article by the U.S. Republican senator from Arizona John McCain in the Washington Post, dedicated to the second anniversary of the events of August 8, 2008 and the post war situation In Georgia.

“Though disagreements remain over how the conflict began, there is no denying that two years ago this weekend, Russian troops crossed an internationally recognised border and invaded Georgia. They attacked the whole country with strategic bombs, pushed deep into its sovereign territory, displaced nearly 127,000 ethnic Georgians from their homes, recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and established a military occupation that remains in effect,” McCain said.

As the senator mentioned much has changed in these two years since the war, but not positively in the area of conflict resolutions. However Georgia, unlike Russia, has made significant advances in internal and foreign affairs. “Despite living under constant Russian threat, Georgia continues to move forward. Nearly 1,000 Georgian troops are fighting alongside us, without caveats, in the toughest parts of Afghanistan. Georgia is strengthening the rule of law, fighting corruption and expanding an economy that the World Bank considers the 11th best place in the world to do business. Mayoral elections this year in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, were internationally praised as free and fair. In Russia, however, human rights' advocates continue to be threatened, abused and even assassinated,” the Senator stated.

He went on to emphasis that, “For its part, the Obama administration could rally the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to develop a road map with Russia to end the occupation of Georgia – an incremental approach that could lead to the withdrawal of Russian troops, the return of displaced persons and the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity. If Russia does not make progress, there should be consequences: Medvedev must know that cooperation on Georgia is a U.S. priority and that if Russia does not deliver on our priorities, he should not expect the United States to deliver on his priorities, such as accession to the World Trade Organization.”

Looking at the present situation, it seems that the withdrawal of its military forces from Georgian territory is still not on Russia's agenda. “The process of recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot be avoided. This is very significant, however Georgia is creating serious obstacles to the process and is being helped by foreign countries,” commented Konstantin Kosachov, Head of the Duma International Committee. Though not all Russians share his view, “Two years ago, my country occupied little Georgia. Unfortunately, only now does the Russian media realise this. As a result we have changed the European map and unfortunately, the world has not adequately responded to that fact,” Andrei Nekrasov, from Russian opposition said, on August 8 in Georgia. Representatives of Russian opposition parties and public movements held a supporting rally for Georgia in the centre of Gori yesterday during which Andrei Nekrasov, Oleg Panphilov and other opposition members and public figures delivered speeches supportive of Georgia.

As an analyst in conflict issues, Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger, “Lately Georgia has realised that it is one part of the international chain and politics, which is positive and is the reason Georgia refrains form making unpredictable actions and statements. Georgia is trying to follow international directions towards Russia, meaning that it only uses civilised means to exert pressure, which is more profitable and effective than face to face attack and open confrontation. One such political aspect is for example the World Trade Organization as mentioned by McCain, which Russia is keen to join. Two years ago, Georgia with its hurried and unexpected activities was stopped from entering that international chain, but now we have managed to resume our place in the queue. Based on this international policy Russia is conceding and will also have to concede over the de facto regions, as the Caucasus and Georgia will always be in the interest of Europe and the United States because of its geo-politic position.”

Analyst Malkhaz Matsaberidze commented, “When talking about the August war, it is important to point out what the Georgian side has and has not managed over these past two years. It can be considered a success of Russian politics that Georgia’s participation in NATO remains unclear; the ceasefire agreement is not fulfilled in that Georgia has been unable to enforce the deoccupation of its territories; foreign missions have left the country and EU observers are still not allowed to enter the de facto regions. As for Georgia’s success: Georgia has managed not to become isolated and has strengthened its position on the international stage; it has become difficult for Russia to confirm its version of the war; another military conflict between Russia and Georgia has been ruled out; Russia has been unable to replace Saakashvili’s governance and it has also been unable to force any strong and influential countries to recognise Abkhazia and so-called South Ossetia as independent republics. It is expected that August 8, 2008 events will create significant problem for Russia from international viewpoint.”