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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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