7 Years On from War, Georgia Still Plagued by Russian Occupation

Georgia has long experienced serious difficulties proving that Moscow had planned and implemented a military operation against the country in 2008, as most of the information sources in the aftermath of the war between Russia and Georgia cited the EU-sponsored report stating that the war was started by a Georgian attack. It added that this was not justified by international law, disregarding the context at the time in which the country was subjected to long-term intensive Russian provocation along the administrative boundary line, where the Russian Federation had been mobilizing heavy military armor and troops.

Even though the Russian military aggression in Georgia was obvious and there were facts that the Kremlin launched a large scale military attack against the country, many in the West disregarded Tbilisi’s claims of being the victim. Alongside the American reset policy, countries in Europe and elsewhere continued “business as usual” with Moscow.

The Georgian state would restate its position with regards to Russian actions only five years after the war, as Ukraine, another post-Soviet state, faced open military confrontation from the Russian side, when in 2013 Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine and started supporting destabilization efforts in Eastern Ukrainian regions, arming rebels and sending Russian troops on the ground.

The crisis in Ukraine reaffirmed that Russia’s war with Georgia had been part of a fight the Kremlin had started in the region to counteract the spread of democracy with the help of the EU’s transformative policies. Moscow had become seriously concerned with the developments in the post-Soviet space, as some neighboring states began to pursue a European agenda.

The transformative power that comes with closer association with the West, and in particular with the EU, is seen as a major threat to the authoritative regime in the Kremlin. Democratic developments in Russia’s immediate neighborhood may motivate the Russian population to question their form of governance, leading to a process that could result in a regime change, or could stimulate the Russian oligarchic system to become involved in a power struggle, a process which may end with mass chaos in the country.

In order to thwart Georgia’s continued pro-European democratic course, Russia continues violating the EU-brokered 6 point ceasefire agreement which was concluded in 2008. In the last 7 years, Moscow has declared the two breakaway regions in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as “independent states” and signed the so-called “treaties” on integration with them.

In 2011, Russian troops in South Ossetia launched the so-called “borderization” process, installing wire fences deep into Georgian territory. Such actions were conducted in the immediate vicinity of the villages of Didi Khurvaleti and Kveshi, southeast of Tskhinvali. Later, in 2013, a new wave of intensified fencing efforts by the Russian Federation took place in the village of Ditsi: metal fencing posts were installed about 120 meters into Tbilisi-administered territory. Also, in the village of Dvani, Russians moved the administrative boundary line deeper into Georgian territory.

As Georgia proceeds with the implementation of the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA), together with further plans to liberalize travel with the EU, and its decision to open a NATO-Georgia joint Training and Assessment Centre this year, there is no sign that Russia will ever respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. In July 2015, illegal placement of signposts on the territory adjacent to the village of Tsitelubani of Gori municipality, and the village of Orchosani, in the occupied Akhalgori district, near Georgia’s main highway continued. Similar border signs were placed on the territories adjacent to the villages of Tseronisi and Tamarasheni.

As Georgia and Ukraine continue to be affected by Moscow’s destructive policies, the West is focused on the Iran nuclear deal and the anti-terrorism campaign in the Middle East, where Russia plays an important role. In this situation, the Russian Federation remains perceived an “indirect” threat to security and peace in Europe, and its aggression continues to quietly trouble the governments and people in non-EU Eastern European states.

Nino Japarashvili

13 August 2015 22:55