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Georgia’s relations with Russia a balancing act

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, April 8
Regulating relations with Russia has been declared as one of the priorities of the current Georgian leadership. At the same time, Georgia has reiterated its Euro-Atlantic ambitions repeatedly. This is already yielding results: before June 2014, Georgia is supposed to sign the EU association membership agreement. While advancing in this direction, Georgia’s push to regulate its relationship with Russia is lagging behind. Some analysts question how these two directions can co-exist with together.

The problem is that the European Union concentrates its attention on six post-soviet countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, calling them members of the Eastern Partnership program. To counter balance this move, Moscow has initiated the Eurasian integration project. Both Russia and the EU have excluded the possibility of having membership to both simultaneously. This has placed the EaP countries in a difficult position.

Belarus took a pro-Russian direction from the very beginning. In November 2013, Armenia announced its consent to join the Eurasian Union with Russia, Azerbaijan decided to sign a bilateral agreement with the EU trying to balance the situation between Moscow and Brussels, and Georgia and Moldova signed the initial document for association membership with the EU.

Soon after, dramatic events developed in Ukraine. Kiev under President Victor Yanukovich refused to sign the agreement with the EU. This resulted in unrest in the country. Yanukovich eventually fled the country, which finally encouraged Russia to annex Crimean territory of Ukraine and integrate it into the Russian Federation. Now, the same is happening in the eastern part of Ukraine among the ethnic Russian majority.

Analysts suggest that under these circumstances Georgia and Moldova also face a threat from Moscow.

There is currently a tendency among some EU member countries – Germany, France and Poland in particular – that the EaP countries should be given an option to cooperate in both directions.

This position is comfortably fitted with Georgia’s stand – on the one hand to regulate relations with Russia, and on the other – to achieve closer integration with Europe. Georgia is going firmly in the direction of EU integration, but at the same time it should not cut the links with Russia. On the contrary, it has to search for ways for improving relations with Moscow.

Russia meanwhile continues its occupation of Georgian territories by further moving the administrative borders between the breakaway South Ossetia and the Georgian mainland. There are also signs that Moscow is actively distributing Russian passports in different regions of Georgia.

Everybody remembers that in 2008 when NATO refused to grant Georgia the membership action plan (MAP) at the Bucharest Summit, Moscow launched a military attack against Tbilisi. Six years later, Russia has occupied Crimea. Nobody in the world can predict what Moscow’s next steps will be. One thing is clear – neither the EU nor NATO will use military force in an attempt to keep an imperial Russia under control. This gives a big advantage to the Kremlin. It realizes that it can take certain steps without punishment. Economic and other sanctions taken against Moscow by the civilized world have given no results so far.