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Georgia’s influence in the North Caucasus

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Tuesday, January 11
Georgia is emerging as a competitor and an alternative to Russian power, capable of influencing the situation in the North Caucasus region, reads an article titled 'Moscow’s Position in the North Caucasus Worsened Dramatically in 2010', published by the Jamestown Foundation, on January 10.

Several reasons are cited in the article for the current situation in the North Caucasus region in which the Russians seem to lack control: “High unemployment in the region, a high level of crime, 70 to 90 percent of the local budgets being subsidized by Russia’s central government, a high level of migration of the Russian population from the North Caucasus republics, the deepening Islamization of the region, growing anti-Caucasus sentiments in Russian society and rising nationalist feelings in the North Caucasus – gives no reason to assume that the situation in the North Caucasus is changing to Moscow’s advantage.” On the “alternative force” to Russia in the region, the author of the article says, “In 2010, Tbilisi dramatically shifted its policy toward the North Caucasus and now seems to be poised to play a more dynamic role in this part of the region. Russia will either have to reckon with the changing circumstances or embark on a more aggressive policy toward Georgia, which looks unlikely against the background of its own problems.”

The article also mentions that the strained situation in the region might effect the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, “While in 2009, the violence and unrest was concentrated mainly in Ingushetia, in 2010 the much larger Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria came to the forefront, which could not but also have an impact on Russia’s Black Sea area, where it hopes to host the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.”

The anti-Caucasian politics of Russian government are gradually becoming visible to the whole world - this is how Georgian officials have assessed the article published by the Jamestown Foundation regarding Russian policy towards Georgia and the North Caucasus region.

The Georgian authorities say, “The assessment of authorized analysts is very important for Georgia, because Russia’s policy will lead them to self-destruction.”

There are different viewpoints of the Georgian authorities’ policy towards the North Caucasus among some opposition forces. According to the leader of the Democratic Movement-United Georgia, Nino Burjanadze, “The Georgian authorities’ actions with regards to the North Caucasus might bring the country to another conflict with Russia.”

In addition there is controversy among Georgian analysts regarding the issue. Analyst in Caucasian issues, Giorgi Mamulia said, “I have mentioned several times that this is the right direction, however a bit late. The alienation process between Russia and the North Caucasus nations has become uncontrolled and at the same time is more and more opposed to the Putin- Medvedev regime. The Russian regime’s current intention towards North Caucasus has nothing in common with the real interests of Russian people; that is why the Kremlin's attempts to fight against the separatism threats are becoming more and more unpopular among Russian citizens.” The analyst also stated that based on this created situation, “Georgia should make its policy active towards its North Caucasian neighbors and should follow the dynamics of the process.”

Analyst Gia Khukhashvili 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 both nearby and within the borders, increasing the threat.”