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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs