Kodori & The World

by Nathan Hamm on 7/31/2006

Georgia has restored control over the Kodori Gorge and declared its intent to move the official Abkhaz government-in-exile to the Gorge. Though many other issues and conflicts are taking up the world’s attention, this one looks quite poised to leap into a more prominent position.

The former Soviet Union’s “Axis of the Unrecognized” — Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Trasnistrira — appear to be banding together, and South Ossetia’s Eduard Kokoity has pledged assistance to Abkhazia in case of fighting with Georgia and claims formal recognition is on the horizon for the three breakaway regions. Kokoity is perhaps just a bit too optimistic, but Russia is going to bat for Abkhazia.

“Actions by the Georgian leadership in the Kodori gorge … could provoke developments under a dangerous scenario and lead to a new bout of tension and unpredictable confrontation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“Russia calls on Georgia to withdraw troops from the Kodori gorge and continue negotiations,” it said.

Russia deploys peacekeepers in the region under a 1994 peace deal. Georgia accuses Russia of supporting separatists and wants an international force to replace the peacekeepers.

The Abkhaz separatist government says it could use force if Georgia’s government-in-exile moves into the gorge.

Even giving Russia as much of the benefit of the doubt as I can, Georgia has ample reason to want Russian peacekeepers replaced. After all, Russia’s impartiality and motives certainly are called into question when it does things like issue passports to citizens of these aspiring states. Georgia certainly knows that the current road to peace is a threat to its territorial integrity and an obstacle to stability in the Caucasus.

Alexei Makarkin claims that Georgia is risking international condemnation for its actions.

First, Georgia’s military presence in the gorge is recognized as illegitimate by Abkhazia, Russia and UN officials who act as observers of the peace-keeping operation. Tbilisi regards Russia as a patron of Abkhazia, and, consequently, an interested party, while the United Nations is playing the part of an “honest broker” who is equally distanced from all the parties and checks their compliance with the existing agreements. The Georgian authorities have failed to honor these agreements of late.

Saakashvili will likely have to restrain himself, unless he wants to face serious problems with the international community.

While much of the international community may not get around to showing much care for the conflict unless it continues to heat up, RFE/RL’s Richard Giragosian says that Georgia’s operation in Kodori may be underme its hopes of joining NATO.

There are two core issues comprising this dilemma. First, Georgian satisfaction with the effectiveness of its limited campaign in the Kodori does little to allay growing concerns within the NATO alliance over Georgian motivations.

Specifically, the Kodori operation only underscores the danger of a shift by Tbilisi away from a political to a military approach to the unresolved Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts.

For Georgia, the Kodori operation affirms its readiness for an intensified dialogue with NATO, representing a graduation in relations and a step closer toward outright membership.

For NATO, however, the process of developing and increasing the professionalism of the Georgian armed forces was never aimed at endowing it with an offensive capability to tempt it to strike against the breakaway republics.

The second element of the dilemma of Georgia’s courtship of NATO concerns not Georgia, but the future of the NATO alliance itself. NATO has already surpassed, and survived, a significant structural redefinition, based on both a newly defined concept of security and a newly delineated area of responsibility.

…Georgian membership in NATO, given the country’s division and unresolved conflicts, may actually weaken the alliance by incorporating insecurity rather than projecting security. Georgian ascension would also undoubtedly affect NATO’s already tenuous relationship with Russia, heightening tension to an even greater degree than the two earlier rounds of NATO enlargement.

h/t to Chirol for a handful of the links.

UPDATE: There are, and will probably be more tomorrow, additional links to coverage on the situation under the Georgia tag at my del.icio.us page. Be sure to check out this post at neweurasia as well.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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