Contributions of Georgian and European ExpertsThe Little War that Lifted the Fog
By Josef Janning
To open up with the conclusion of this piece: The short war between Russian and Georgian forces in 2008 has not altered the strategic landscape of Europe. Rather, the clash has cleared the air from the smog of illusionary rhetoric about a new order for the continent. After the fact, the realities of power and dependence, of cooperation and conflict, the dilemmas of order and principle have become more obvious and debatable. The coming discussions about the structure of international affairs and the policy options for security, cooperation and prosperity in Europe can and should be built on the sober recognition of the opportunities and options of the major players on the European stage: the Russian Federation and the European Union. In this context, Georgia’s role is likely to be that of an object rather than a subject. Like it or not, the country has lost from the war and will rather not be able to turn its aftermath to its own advantage. The ambivalences and ambiguities in the positions and priorities of both Russia and the EU – as discussed below – will weaken the transformation of the country’s economy and polity, mostly by providing a diffuse, sometimes threatening, mostly discouraging international environment that will come as a welcome scapegoat for half-hearted reforms and personalized policies.
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Two Years After the August War: Its Nature and Results
By Ghia Nodia
There are two ways to describe the war that briefly shook the world (or did it fail to shake it?) in August 2008. On the one hand, this was a war between Russia and Georgia because of the West (or NATO, which in this context is the same): Russia wanted to drag Georgia away from the West and force it to return to Russia’s fold. On the other hand, this was a war between Russia and the West for Georgia: its aim was to convince the West that there exists such a thing as Russia’s exclusive zone of influence, which has to be respected.
I recognize that these are not the only two ways, or even the two most accepted ways to interpret the war. It is still widely debatable who started it, who was motivated by what, who played what role, and exactly how wrong different players were. The diplomatically balanced report from the EU mission led by Heidi Tagliavini did not close the debate. It only supplied new data for the supporters of different points of view. I am not going to enter that debate here. When it comes to the nature of the conflict and motivation of main players, I am mainly in concord with Ronald D. Asmus and his book A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia, and the Future of the West, which is, I believe, the best analysis of the war available so far.
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Walk—But Learn to Chew the Gum Too
After the Russo-Georgian War of 2008: Transatlantic Approaches to a New Eastern Policy
By Constanze Stelzenmüller
The 2008 war between Georgia and Russia, far from having been a minor regional conflict in the outermost Eastern backwaters of Europe, was a watershed moment. It was a disaster for Georgia, because of the deaths and destruction it suffered, but also because the war was a setback for the country’s efforts to attach itself to the West. It also sent a shock wave across the post-Soviet space, leading countries from Belarus to Central Asia to wonder if they were next. Arguably, it was a major setback for Russia, too. The war showed up its military shortcomings, saddled it with additional Caucasus headaches (the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia), alienated even its friends, and, above all, seriously undermined its policy of rapprochement with Europe.
Yet the Russo-Georgian war was also a defining moment for the United States and Europe—and by implication, for NATO and the EU as well. It drastically showed up the flaws of Western policy for the region. In fact, it demonstrated the extent of dissent within the Western political community. To this day, the challenge of crafting a coherent and effective policy for Eastern Europe remains unresolved, on both sides of the Atlantic. What such a policy ought to look like is the subject of this article.
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By Paata Zakareishvili
The most important unresolved result of Russian-Georgian war of August 2008 was Dimitri Medvedev’s decision of 26 August to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia made the world face new challenges. In particular, in violation of all possible norms of international law Russia began to implement its newly declared policy: restoration of Russia’s influence in the post-Soviet realm.
Upon signing military agreements with the newly recognized territories, Russia restored and strengthened conditions for the long-term presence of its military bases in the Southern Caucasus. This was quite a clear message for Western democratic states, providing that realization of the interests of NATO were delayed until the withdrawal of Russian military bases from the region.
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The EU's Eastern Neighbourhood Policy after Lisbon
Janis A. Emmanouilidis and Paweł Świeboda
Before 1989 the world was much simpler. Belonging to the Western camp and projecting decent democratic credentials guaranteed that a country would sooner or later be welcomed into the fold of European and Euro-Atlantic organisations. Today, the relationship between the European Union (EU) and its Eastern neighbours is much more complicated, as the ultimate question of 'Europe's borders' continues to haunt the EU and its members. Following the 'big bang' accession of 12 new members in 2004/2007, EU enlargement has become the victim of its own success. In many corners of the Union one can witness symptoms of exhaustion and indigestion. And this fatigue has negative effects on the relationship between the EU and its Eastern neighbours. But political and economic changes in the region and beyond, as well as developments brought about by the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty could affect the future relationship between the EU and its Eastern partners.
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The Implications of the Russian-Georgian War and its Consequences for Pan-European Security
By Tornike Sharashenidze
After almost two years after the Russian-Georgian war the situation in the region is quite calm from a military point of view but it is very tense from political point of view. Russian authorities communicate with the Georgian opposition leaders over the heads of the legitimate Georgian authorities. The West, unwilling to estrange Russia because of Georgia, is trying to engage Moscow at an even greater scale than before the war thus creating a dangerous precedent of appeasement. By attacking an OSCE member country Russia has breached the existing security architecture in Europe and there is no guarantee that Russia will not do the same thing again if it decides to capture Tbilisi using some pretext. There is hardly any chance that such an adventure would be punished by anyone but it is obvious that such an act would destroy the existing European security architecture.
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By Ivlian Haindrava
The Russian-GeorgianWarofAugust 2008 anditsimmediateconsequencesresulted in changes to the military-political configuration in the South Caucasus:
1. Dividing lines in the zones of the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts were transformed into reinforced boundaries, like those that existed during the Cold War between Western and Eastern blocs.
2. The conflicting parties are left face-to-face with each other, while there are no peacekeepers in the border zones. The European Union Monitoring Mission, without access to territories controlled by Russia, is not able to perform functions that used to be fulfilled by UNOMIG in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, and by OSCE mission in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict;
3. The context of the concept of conflicting parties was changed; now Georgian and Russian military forces are first of all considered as such, and only after that come Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian. In the report of Tagliavini Commission, the events of August 2008 are described as a “combination of interstate conflict between Georgia and Russia and intra-state conflict”.
4. Russia’s military presence in the South Caucasus, which was significantly reduced after the Istanbul Agreements (1999) on the withdrawal of Russian military units from Georgian territory, was increased and reinforced.
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