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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More