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Will Georgia become attractive for the North Caucasus?

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, January 18
Georgia is trying to improve its relations with the North Caucasus. This has become particularly evident following the 2008 August war. Some analysts and opposition representatives think that this is a risky game, which could result in further aggression by Russia against Georgia.

Recently published research by the Jamestown Foundation has prompted further intrigue. According to its conclusions Georgia is competing with Russia in the northern Caucasus and could become a rival regional leader. The Jamestown Foundation research indicates that Georgia activated its policy towards the Northern Caucasus last year, preparing itself for a more serious role in the region.

It is well known that the region is very unstable and the crime situation uncontrolled. There is high unemployment; around 80% of the local budget is financed by Moscow and Islamisation processes are underway. The majority Slav community of the Russian Federation has very negative anti-Caucasus sentiments. In the Northern Caucasus itself nationalistic feelings are flourishing, so under these circumstances Tbilisi could become an alternative regional centre to Moscow. So, in light of this Moscow should either accept Tbilisi’s activities or carry out further punishment on Georgia. Analysts however think that Russia's internal situation makes any further aggression by Moscow practically impossible and the Georgian analysts are rather skeptical about the possibility of Georgia becoming a regional leader. Some think that the threat of Russian aggression still exists. Russia still occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory, with its tanks and arms located just 40 km from Tbilisi. In addition the Kremlin is building up its military presence, further developing the military infrastructure, introducing more and more weapons and showing not the slightest intention of complying with the world demands to fulfill its commitments according to the Sarkozy Medvedev agreement. In short the Kremlin does not appear to be withdrawing militarily from Georgia. Former Russian ambassador to Georgia, Felix Stanevsky claims that Georgia’s influence on the north Caucasus is strangely ridiculous, saying that following the August 2008 war, Georgia’s capacity did not increase but decreased substantially.

How can Georgia become a leader in South Caucasus? Maybe by supporting anti-Russian moves there. Islamism in the region is labeled by Moscow as terrorism and Moscow has already frequently accused Tbilisi of supporting such terrorism. Moreover such moves could be used by Moscow as a reason for further attack, which could become very serious for Georgia.

However there is another way, this is if Georgia develops quickly economically and democratically demonstrating to its northern neighbours either in the northern Caucasus or further deeper in the north, the preferred road it has chosen - democratic development over an authoritarian regime. But to achieve such a result, lengthy and serious work is needed. The reforms which the Georgian government claims to have carried out could move the country into stable and sustainable economic development increasing the welfare of population. Georgia must also seriously reconsider the democratic development of the country and abandon partially free or hybrid regime categories, because this is not how to attract neighbours. So to become a regional leader Georgia first of all has to create confidence in itself, but this takes time.