Dangerous games in the North Caucasus
By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Monday, October 25The Georgian authorities’ actions with regards to the north Caucasus might bring the country to another conflict with Russia – stated Nino Burjanadze, former parliamentary speaker and head of the opposition faction Democratic Movement-United Georgia, on October 21.
“The Georgian authorities’ dangerous games concerning North Caucasian issues (meaning the visa free regime for the north Caucasian nations and Georgia, adopted by the Georgian Government, whereby citizens of the north Caucasus states can cross the border without visa and stay in Georgia for up to 90 days) might be used by Russians in a context effective for them. The outcome might be another conflict with Russia, which would reflect extremely negatively on the country,” stated Burjanadze.
The former speaker of parliament also commented on an interview on the issue for the Russian media given by former Georgian Defence Minister, Irakli Okruashvili in which he states that north Caucasus militants are being trained in Georgia. Burjanadze believes that the Russians might use the interview as an excuse to launch further aggression against Georgia. She said, “I have also hinted towards the issue that north Caucasian militants are being trained in Georgia and that dirty money is being laundered here, however I have no proof of this.”
Responding to Burjanadze’s statement, Mairbek Vachagaev, former representative of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (currently an analyst, historian and specialist on the north Caucasus), said, “Madam Nino, your statements that playing games with the north Caucasus issue might bring the country to the new armed conflict have no foundation. When you were the speaker of the parliament speaker of Georgia, when the state tried to please the Russians using every means and when tens of Chechens were killed by Russians, what did this policy bring for Georgia? – A stab in the back. And now, in order to criticise your opponents you still suggest that Georgia kneels before the Kremlin.
Reacting to the response, Burjanadze stated, “All analysts have their own opinion on my statements, however I have little interest in them.”
Analyst Giorgi Khutsishvili told The Messenger, “It is nice to have good relations with the north Caucasus countries; however opening borders with them primarily means opening borders with a country which you call an occupier and this is illogical. It creates a real danger as movements will increase nearby and within the borders, increasing the threat. This was a unilateral unexpected decision by Georgia. Similarly a visa free regime with Iran also creates a dangerous corridor for Georgia and might be used by anti-Georgian forces. I don't suppose our European and American allies are very happy with this decision, however they are concealing their views by ordinary statements as if there is nothing serious happening. The visa free regime with the north Caucasian countries really carries risks.”
Analyst Giorgi Mamulia has a different view. “Russian threats towards Georgia significantly decrease in the context of increasing solidarity towards the north Caucasian nations. As for Burjanadze’s and similar politicians statements’ concerning the issue, they might cause some provocation in Russia; however, considering their political position in the eyes of the Georgian people and the international community, I don’t expect those provocations to have any affect,” commented the analyst.