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Russia’s tactics bring the region closer to violence

By M. Alkhazashvili
Wednesday, July 23
On Monday the UN Security Council met behind closed doors for Georgia to again lay out its case for what needs to be done—and what should not be done—in its conflict regions.

Georgia’s envoy told council members about “all of Russia’s recent acts of aggression and violations of its peacekeeping mandate,” a Georgian government statement said.

Most council members supported Georgia’s position, including its push to reassess the role of Russia’s peacekeepers in the conflict regions, troops which in reality are doing anything but facilitating peace.

Like most Security Council session, including one convened after a UN investigation concluded that a Russian jet shot down a Georgian unmanned spy plane over Abkhazia, this one produced no official statement from the members. Nor was there any sign of Georgian-Russian conflict abating.

That is because a deeply intractable problem remains, which is not entirely within Georgia’s control, as the Guardian’s Luke Harding pointed out this week: “In reality, the conflict between Russia and Georgia is not just about Abkhazia but about Russia's lingering resentment at what it regards as Western encirclement.”

Georgia’s bid for NATO membership is perceived in Moscow as a threat to its national interests. But with the Cold War over, surely Russia has a greater interest in a peaceful Caucasus—something which would come from a stable, Western-ensconced Georgia—than in beating back an alliance that has moved beyond concerning itself with countering Russian might.

Yet Russia presses ahead with dangerous and provocative signals like the military flyover of Georgian territory. Moscow’s self-interest may be legitimate, but its aggressive tactics are not. So Georgia must push ahead with its own diplomatic offensive, aimed at removing the Russian troops which enables the Kremlin to hold Abkhazia and South Ossetia hostage.

The international community should continue to support Georgia in this. It offers the greatest chance of long-term peace in the region: a goal which Moscow apparently does not hold in high regard.