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After Sochi: Russia sets its sights on Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, February 27
As soon as the Sochi Olympic Games were over, the Russian “bear” began showing its teeth to Georgia. It appears that Moscow is reluctant to move back the 11-kilometer border zone, which was snatched from Georgian territory in Abkhazia by Russia, and justified by “Olympic security measures”. The Kremlin also resumed its installation of barbed wire fencing along the administrative border in the Tskhinvali region.

It looks like Georgia’s attempts at regulating relations with Russia have not satisfied Moscow’s greedy appetite. The Kremlin wants more than the Georgian administration deems constructive or acceptable with regard to building the relationship.

An increasing number of Georgian politicians have expressed their frustration and protest towards Moscow’s steps, underscoring the threats that Georgia faces from the north.

During the critical period in Ukraine, many here in Georgia mentioned that Georgia’s fate will also be shaped by the events in Kiev. Some even said that if Ukraine manages to resist Russian pressure, this would result in relief for Georgia as well.

However, even though Ukraine managed to escape the long nose of Moscow up to this point, Russia’s pressure on Georgia is escalating.

As political analyst Vakhtang Dzabiradze suggests, after losing in Ukraine, perhaps Moscow will start to impose its will on Georgia instead?

Georgian officials state that the country is prepared for all sorts of challenges from the north.

Georgia’s special representative for Russian relations, Zurab Abashidze, announced that while Georgia is taking constructive steps to re-establish a friendly bridge between the two countries, the Russian side continues to separate the breakaway territories from the mainland, which does not contribute to the improvement of bilateral relations.

Abashidze also mentioned that it has become a tradition that before the regular meeting with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Gregory Karasin, Russia starts placing equipment along the administrative border.

It is significant that the Kremlin started its activities along the administrative border the very day after the Sochi Olympics concluded.

The Georgian government is committed to avoiding unnecessary provocations, and not getting backed into a corner like the previous administration did. As such, Georgian officials exercise a great deal of tolerance in response to these unhelpful gestures. However, this enthusiasm and willingness to tolerate Russia’s measures has its limits – for both the government and the Georgian people.

It is clear that Moscow will do everything it can to prevent Tbilisi from joining and signing the EU Association Agreement.

Unfortunately Georgia has little opportunity to resist its aggressive neighbor. The only weapon Georgia has at its disposal is soft power (the verbal support of the West). How powerful this instrument will be to protect Georgia depends on the NATO, EU, the US and other international organizations –all of which need to exercise their influence in a more active way to delegitimize Russia’s actions.