News / Europe

Relations Between Russia, Georgia Still at Standoff

James Brooke

Two years after war broke out between Russia and Georgia over two Russian secessionist areas, the confrontation has become yet another frozen conflict in the post-Soviet space.

With the war anniversary looming this weekend, Russia's President Dimitri Medvedev told reporters in Moscow this week that  "normal relations" will be impossible as long as Mikhail Saakashvili is president of Georgia.

From Tbilisi,  the Georgian president told troops gathered Wednesday at a military cemetery that Russia is 'the enemy' and that his government's survival is part of  the "irreversible dismantling of old empires and imperial sphere of influence."

On the ground, there is little movement after a war that killed 850 people and displaced 35,000. In March, a lone border crossing opened between Georgia and Russia. Sporadic charter flights link the two capitals.

Cut off from Russia, young Georgians increasingly do not speak Russian. In a break with two centuries of close ties, a generation of Georgians is growing up more oriented to London and Paris than to Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Although Russia won the war, it did not win the diplomatic peace, says Aleksey Malashenko, a Causasus - Central Asia expert for Moscow's Carnegie Center. With the exception of Russian, no other country of the former Soviet Union extended diplomatic recognition to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two Georgian separatist regions that Russia has promoted as independent countries.

This rebuff, he said, reflected nervousness about tinkering with post-Soviet borders and undermined Russia's leadership of the post-Soviet space.

On the Georgian side, President Saakashvili has weathered his military defeat of two years ago. A major wave of street rallies by opponents failed to dislodge him. Two months ago, his party swept mayoral races across the nation, including the key race for Tbilisi City Hall.

Emerging from isolation, the Georgian president started traveling again to Europe this summer for state visits. In the last month in Tbilisi, he has hosted four foreign ministers, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton pointedly referred to the "occupation" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Although Nicaragua's president Daniel Ortega recently announced that he will visit South Ossetia next month, the reality is that two years after the war, only Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific island nation of Nauru, recognize the two breakaway areas as independent nations.

Anatoliy Tsyganok, head of the Military Forecast Center Center in Moscow, argues that Russian soldiers saved these two small peoples from Georgian aggression.

But, he notes, Russia failed to make its case around the world for the five-day war.

Looking ahead, a key date on the Kremlin calendar will be February 2014, when Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games. With some of the venues within sight of Abkhazia,  analysts predict Russia would like to make peace with Georgia by then.

But for now, there are no signs of a détente with Georgia. Russia's state controlled press continues to demonize the Georgian leader and his government.

Last week an old photo emerged of Vera Kobalia, now Georgia's economy minister, dancing on a table with scantily clad girl friends at a Florida bar. Russia's tabloid and TV stations gleefully pounced, devoting stories to Saakashvili's 28-year-old 'Stripper Minister'.

Maxim Shevchenko, a television journalist and member of Russia's official Community Council, expressed this week a hostile view shared by many officials in Moscow.

Addressing a round table in Moscow, he said: "We don't have a problem with Georgia, we have a problem with Saakashvili, who we see as a war criminal, a killer of Russian peacekeepers."

As the war anniversary nears, there is little sign of compromise from Tbilisi.

In an interview with AFP on Thursday, Nika Gilauri, Georgia's prime minister, said that Georgia will veto Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization if Russia refuses to allow Georgian government officials to staff customs checkpoints at Russian border crossings with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In a separate dig at Russia, Georgia's parliament two weeks ago approved a resolution to mark Feb. 25 as Soviet Occupation day. On that day, in 1921, Georgia was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Next month, when Georgia's new school year starts, students are to receive a new history textbook detailing 200 years of Russian occupation of Georgia.  

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid