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Russia’s intractability

By M. Alkhazashvili
Tuesday, June 10
The St Petersburg meeting between Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and President Saakashvili was never expected to provide breakthroughs—it was a first meeting for two men at the top of countries very much at odds.

Both gave the boilerplate talk of hope for bettered relations, but looking past the words to Russia’s actions it becomes clear there is little immediate chance of progress.

Medvedev signaled that Russia would suffer no European interjections into the disputes between the two countries. The Russian bear wants to deal with Georgia on its own terms.

The Russian foreign minister again said that Georgia needs to give up its NATO membership bid or face violence in its breakaway regions. He also made it clear that Moscow, using the pretext of Abkhaz wishes, will never accept a change to the farcical Russian-led peacekeeping format in Abkhazia.

Russia also wants Georgia to remove its so-called “illegal armed forces”—police forces, really—from Abkhazia’s upper Kodori Gorge, the sliver of the region under state control. That would leave the gorge completely vulnerable to attack.

It is clear from these statements that Moscow has no intention to listen to international calls for it to reverse course in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where it is increasingly and brazenly lending material and moral support to its separatist puppet regimes.

Left alone with Russia, Georgia—or at least two of its regions—will be swallowed up. Only with more forceful and more unified pressure from the West will Moscow conclude that a stable, whole Georgia at its southern border is something it can live with.