ANKARA: Georgia: An Important State For The Stability In The Caucasu

View by Kamer Kasim, PhD (USAK)

Journal of Turkish Weekly, Turkey
Feb 10 2007

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Georgia became an independent
state, however, since its independence Georgia faced severe internal
crisis and security problems, which were the great obstacle for
the implementation of reforms and the success of the state-building
process. Having border with Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia
and access to the Black Sea make Georgia important transit routes to
the Europe and Central Asia. Internal conflicts and lack of stability
prevented Georgia to utilize its location in the Caucasus and delayed
the possible regional cooperation, which would be beneficial for all
the countries in the region. Given the fact that Georgia has lack of
natural resources and weak economic structure, it is very difficult
for Georgia to exploit its geographical location without support from
the regional powers and the United States. In fact, Georgia is the
one of the biggest beneficiary of the US aid in the world. Georgia
has received approximately $ 800 million aid from the US.

Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands are also
important donors for Georgia. To analyze the roots of Georgia’s
continuing problems and its difficulty to solve them despite the
financial and political support from the outside world; we need to
look at Georgia’s frozen conflicts and Russian role in the region.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation has
emerged with 60 percent of the population and 76 percent of the
territory of the former Soviet Union and followed the policy of
domination in the former Soviet territories. The Soviet Union was
a multinational empire and its foreign policy agenda was designed
accordingly. The foreign policy of the Russian Federation had to
be different than the Soviet Union. Internal discussing about the
direction of the Russian foreign policy produced the two main groups:
Atlanticists and Eurasianists. Atlanticists considered Russia as
a Western nation and according to them cooperation with the Western
states would help Russia to absorb Western values, including democracy
and human rights. Atlanticists believed that Russia must avoid
assuming a leading role in the Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS). Russia’s active role in the CIS would slow down Russia’s
integration with Western economic institutions. Until the end of 1992
Atlanticist view was dominant in Russian foreign policy and they aimed
to liberate the Russian Federation from the burdens of the empire
and to make Russia a part of community of democratic states. In that
period, Russia’s administration was concerned with transforming of
the Russian economy into a genuine market and to integrate Russia with
the Western system. As a result, Russia showed a lack of interest in
its relations with the new Caucasian and Central Asian republics.

Eurasianists criticized Atlanticist view and they emphasized Russia’s
distinctive identity from the West. The Eurasianist approach affected
Russia’s foreign policy after 1992, and produced the policy of ‘Near
Abroad’ (blizhneezarubezhe) promoting Russia’s relations with the CIS.

Eurasianists believed that the security of Russia and its "Near
Abroad" was inseparable and Russia should not ignore the Caucasus
and Central Asia. As an indication of the change in Russian foreign
policy, the "foreign policy concept" was introduced in 1993, which
emphasized actual and potential conflicts of interests with the West
and envisaged a more active role for Russia in security and economic
affairs in the "Near Abroad". After that Russia used every tool to
restore its dominance in the Caucasus and small states in the region
were severely affected by that policy. Georgia was one of the worst
affected states with the Russian policy in the region.

Georgia was rejected became a part of the CIS and Russian military
presence in the country. Russia showed its ability to use internal
dispute in regional states in order to exert its influence and to
keep its military presence in newly independent states. Georgia was an
easy target for the Russian foreign policy, since Georgia has diverse
minority groups and fragile political and economic structures. As a
result Georgia faced internal turmoil and conflict with Abkhazia and
Ossetia. Abkhazia was an autonomous republic within Georgia and the
conflict, erupted between Georgians and Abkhazians.

The Russian forces played a role in supplying arms, training and
assisting Abkhazian units in direct combat. The main reason for the
Russian support of Abkhazia was to put pressure on Georgia to enter the
CIS and allow Russian troops to be deployed on the Turkish-Georgian
border. Abkhazia’s strategic position along the Black Sea coast was
probably another reason for the Russian support of Abkhazia. In fact,
the conflict forced Georgia to enter the CIS.

Russia got four military bases in Georgia. The Russian bases were
in the most sensitive areas. One was in Abkhazia and was believed
to be a support point for the Abkhazian separatists. Another was in
the southwestern region of Adjara, which was also in rebel hands. A
third one was at Akhalkalaki; the heart of a region populated mainly
by Armenians. The fourth one was on the outskirts of Tbilisi where
there is also an air base.

On April 4, 1994, the "Declaration on Measures for a Political
Settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict" was signed,
even though the resumption of armed conflict remained a future
possibility. According to this document, Abkhazia would have its
own constitution, parliament and government and appropriate state
symbols, such as an anthem, emblem and flag, and would maintain
its own internal sovereignty. Georgian officials complained about
the agreement and Deputy Prime Minister, Nadareishvili, said that
"agreements signed between Georgia and Abkhazia had no legal basis
and were harmful for Georgia".

Georgia also faced Ossetia problem just after the independence. Some
south Ossetians wanted to unite with North Ossetia and become part of
Russia. Having used Abkhazians and Ossetians, Russia had the chance
to meddle Georgia. After Ossetians’ declaration of sovereignty,
Georgian Parliament abolished Ossetia’s autonomous status. 100,000
people became refugee as a result of the fighting in Ossetia. In
1992 a Russian-Georgian-Ossetian peacekeeping force was created in
South Ossetia. Crisis gave Russia a chance to intervene the internal
affair of Georgia. It might be argued that unification of south and
north Ossetia was not Russia’s interest. Therefore Russia benefited
from the crisis, but it did not also want Ossetians to reach their
final objective.

Dispute between Russia and Georgia continued about the Russian
military bases in Georgia. In 1995, the treaty was signed between
Georgia and Russia about permission to the Russian military bases
in Georgia. The Treaty was in effect for 25 years, and automatically
extent five years at a time if the parties did not agree otherwise.

However, the treaty was not ratified. In 1999, Georgian Foreign
Minister Menegarashvili stated that the reason for the non-ratification
of the 1995 treaty was that it was in fact breaching the limits of
the original Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. In March
2005 the Georgian parliament passed a resolution ordering Russia
to withdraw from Georgia no later than 2006 and allowing Georgia
to exercise its right to take measures against the bases before May
2005.12 According to the recent deal the withdrawal of the Russian
military bases from Georgia will be completed within 2008.

The developments after the 11th of September 2001 terrorist attacks
have a great impact in the Caucasus. The US military presence in
the region increased the US influence and in this aspect, together
with Azerbaijan, Georgia became an important state to fight against
terrorism. The stability in Georgia became more important for the US.

First, Georgia provides air link for the US troops to Central Asia
and important check point in the Caucasus. Second after 11 September
and the War in Iraq in 2003 made crucial to the realization of the
East-West energy corridor and particularly the transportation of
Caspian oil to the world markets. Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline
became partly operational on 25th of May 2005.

Therefore, the US will not want any destabilization of Georgia,
which might prevent the flow of oil from the pipeline. Despite the
fact that Georgia was benefited from the international environment
after the 11 September 2001, Russia also used this environment for
its benefit, which to some extent put Georgia in a difficult situation.

Russia imposed more assertive policy towards the Chechen conflict
and blamed Georgia to provide shelter for terrorists in Pankisi Valley.

Russia argued that Pankisi Valley became the area as a training ground
and arms smuggling route for the Chechen rebels. The area also became
home for approximately 7.000 Chechen refugees and full control of the
region is beyond the Georgia’s capacity. Russia aimed to established
anti-terror centers in Georgia. However, Georgia considered this
suggestion as a Russian strategy to re-label its military bases in
Georgia as anti-Terror centers.

Georgia faced also tension in Javakheti province and its capital
Ahalkelek, where was home for Ahiska Turks and currently Armenian
minority lives there. The return of the Ahiska Turks to Georgia was
discussed in the Council of Europe within the framework of Georgian
membership to the Council of Europe. Ahiska Turks’ return to Georgia
has not been realized yet. The province is adjacent to Turkey and on
the important transit route between Turkey and Georgia. Separatist
tendencies of the Armenian minority of the province might destabilize
Georgia and even the potential danger exists for the creation of
second "Karabakh". During the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenians in
Javakheti aided to the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and Nagorno-Karabakh
problem is stimulated Armenian nationalism.13 After 11th September
2001 increased importance of Georgia in the region and the US military
presence in Georgia reduced the risk of possible conflict in Javakheti

After the completion of the Baku-Tbilisi-Cayhan pipeline Georgia
became a key state for Turkey, Azerbaijan and the US. Georgia’s
relations with Turkey improved on the political and economic front.

The project to construct railway link between Turkish city
Kars to Georgian city Ahalkelek would be important for improve
the transportation in the region. However, Armenia objected the
Kars-Ahalkelek railway link. Armenia argued that proposed railway line
would contribute the isolation of Armenia. The construction of the
Kars-Ahalkelek railway line and the rehabilitation of the existing
Tbilisi-Ahalkelek line need approximately $ 400 million.

Georgia’s significance will grow in the region and the US and Turkey’s
assistance will continue in the future. Political stability in the
Caucasus will be very difficult to achieve in the near future.

The increase of political and economic stability in Caucasus countries
will contribute the regional stability. After the "velvet revolution",
the positive atmosphere emerged for the stability of Georgia and
stability will create the suitable atmosphere for the solution of
Georgia’s "Frozen Disputes".

JTW 10 February 2007

Kamer KASIM: Assoc. Prof. Dr. & USAK (International Strategic Research
Organization) Caucasus Expert. BA (University of Ankara), MA and PhD
(University of Manchester)

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS