During last month Russia was busy conducting land seizures in Georgia. The mass media failed to adequately cover the process, which only shows that there is a danger of Georgia falling off the international agenda. There is a danger, as Georgia’s recent problems seem to be more internal than external. The outside world isn’t that much interested in conflicts involving Georgia and Russia.
Russia has been slowly taking land from neighboring Georgia for years and Moscow has done it again in early July, moving its borders about 2,300 feet into Georgian controlled territory.
Creeping Russian occupation usually involves Russian troops setting up wire fences, signs, or other obstacles to occupy Georgian land in small enough increments so that Georgia and the West do nothing more than verbally condemn the action.
The ongoing Russian expansionism appears to be a series of “smaller steps” towards annexation. Apparently this is the result of Moscow’s calculation that if it responds, Georgia would be blamed for provoking an escalation.
All this is designed to stymie Georgia’s efforts to join the EU and NATO. Georgia is the only South Caucasian state, which has its foreign and security policy oriented towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan appear to have interest in NATO membership.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg touched upon the recent installation of the “border sign” in the area of Bershueti village, Gori District, at a press conference following the NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels on July 13.
“We have seen that the border posts have been moved several times, and we don’t recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as any kind of independent republics or nations. They are a part of Georgia, part of the international recognized borders of Georgia or within those borders,” Stoltenberg added.
“From the perspective of the countries that threaten US – this is Russia. What Russia has done in Georgia, in the Crimea, and what is currently doing in Ukraine, and apparently will continue to do so” – US General Dunford called Russia the biggest threat to Washington.
While Georgia is falling off the international agenda, South Ossetia goes on to hold a quasi-referendum for joining Russia. It easy to predict that the Kremlin will decide what the result and outcome would be. If it happens, it will be a kind of mini-Crimea. And Georgia would like to think that there would be a strong response from the West. But probably Russia will choose to use South Ossetia as a threat. It’s a way of turning up the heat and maybe get something from the government in Tbilisi. The hard truth is that Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) is already a de-facto part of Russia and has been since the early 90s.
Georgia, because of its geographic position, will always have some leverage as long as it has pipelines going across it. But that geographical position is both an advantage and a disadvantage: Georgia is in a difficult neighborhood going through difficult times. Georgia should be very clear and realistic about what it can achieve.