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What does Russia want from Georgia?

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, December 2
Georgians never cease to ask Russia what it wants from this country, and nowadays politicians, analysts and media figures in several parts of the world are asking this question. Before it invaded in 2008 Moscow said several times that it wanted a neutral Georgia, and in particular a Georgia which is not a member of NATO. But everyone should remember that Georgia only started flirting with NATO after Russia undermined Georgia's territorial integrity in the early nineties of the last century through its subversive actions. Georgia wanted to protect itself from Russian aggression by sheltering under NATO's umbrella. Georgia applying to join NATO did not create Russian aggression, on the contrary, Georgia applied for NATO membership to stop an already existing Russian aggression.

Today, when The Kremlin occupies 20% of Georgia’s territory and recognises the zones it occupies as 'independent states', it has become clear that Moscow wants to exert influence over the entire former Soviet space and has already started trying to integrate this area into something like the homogenous Soviet Union. The CIS has proved to be practically stillborn, even though through various manipulations and efforts Moscow is keeping it alive, so an alternative approach to reintegrating the empire has now emerged. Russia now offers a direct military threat to its neighbours and has even 'legalised' its imperialistic aspirations by passing a law which will allow Russian forces to start shooting anywhere they choose, as long as they can say that Russian citizens, of unspecified number, are under threat. .

Just recently Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan established a new customs union and other CIS countries have been invited to join it. This means, as President Medvedev has stated, that these countries will delegate part of their sovereignty to supranational structures run from Moscow.

Russia no longer hides the fact that those former Soviet countries which try to distance themselves from Russia will be punished like Georgia was last August. The next country to be targeted in this way could be Ukraine, if present attempts at manipulating its elections and last winter's gas war are anything to go by.

We here in Georgia believe that Moscow wanted to attack Georgia long before it did, but did so only when it noticed that the West would not lift a finger to protect us. It became obvious that this would be the case in April 2008 when NATO refused to grant Georgia MAP and leading European countries, including France, Germany and Italy did not support Georgia’s application because they were too interested in Russia's reaction. The Kremlin used this situation very efficiently to begin conducting naked aggression cloaked in the diplomatic language the West fell for to begin with. It amended the Russian Constitution to allow it to use military force anywhere in the world, and now it wants to buy the Mistral, a French made warship which offers no defensive advantages, while still attempting to impose its own rules of the game on the rest of the world.

Every step it takes shows vividly that Moscow is ignoring the existing world order and is cynically testing it out to see what level of misconduct the world will withstand. The detention of the four Georgian teenagers from the conflict zone and the unwillingness to release them despite top level Western involvement shows the world that Russia has become so powerful that it can do whatever it wants without being punished. It also shows the Russian audience how feeble Western democracies are and how they are incapable of upholding civilized rules and justice.

The Tskhinvali puppet regime is just a front for The Kremlin. Whoever does not understand that any step taken by the Tskhinvali or Sokhumi puppet administrations is inspired, triggered and masterminded in Moscow is just naive if not stupid. But if this person then turns a blind eye to Moscow’s manipulations this is a crime. Every criminal code in every country has an article on taking preventive measures against possible unlawful actions, and even those who support Russia and its playthings cannot deny that the actions they take are violations of international and even Russian domestic law.

Russia sends two types of messages to Georgia. One is aggressive, the threat of staging a further assault, a message sent by conducting a series of provocations along the administrative border, shooting at Georgian citizens and kidnapping them to make their lives as miserable as possible. Such an assault could take place at any moment. The second message is a ‘peaceful’ one, and is sent by the toast PM Putin made at Primakov’s birthday party, his open statements about respect for the Georgian people and his hypocritical gestures about possible cooperation and contacts, all despite the fact that The Kremlin is activating pro-Russian forces in Georgia with renewed vigour.

The Georgian political spectrum does not have a united position concerning Russia. Most parties agree that cooperation with Russia would be possible only if it renounces its recognition of the separatist regimes and removes its troops from Georgian territory. However the Government is prepared to open the border with Russia at the Larsi checkpoint, explaining that this is an expression of humanitarian concern for Armenia. The opposition is also not consistent, with some figures such as former premier Zurab Noghaideli favouring the resumption of contacts with Russia without precondition. These divergences serve Russia's interests rather than Georgia's, but no politician would actively admit to supporting Russia or advocate anything which the public might see as a compromise with the aggressor.

Of course Georgian-Russian relations should be understood in the context of the general situation in the South Caucasus, the broader region (including the Middle East and North Caucasus) and of course the world in general. Turkish-Armenian relations also could influence Georgia’s position. But overall we can assume that any kind of complication of the situation in the region will serve the interests of Russia If disliking Russia is the only thing which will unite its former satellites, that is better than nothing.