What about Georgia?

by Marc W on 3/8/2008 · 7 comments

Yesterday I spent a lot of time researching Armenia and finding a couple of cool Armenia-related blogs, including a few reporters and bloggers who kindly offered to answer some of my questions. That said, right now I want to mix things up a bit and check out another Caucasian country: Georgia.

It turns out that there’s some pretty big news out of Georgia today as well, and it’s at least tangentially related to the situation in Karabakh. On Friday, the region of Abkhazia renewed its calls for Russia and Western countries to recognize its independence. That in itself is not really news, as the region has “enjoyed” de facto independence since 1993 and has repeatedly called for formal recognition. However, the bigger development is that Russia announced its withdrawal from a 1996 treaty that imposed sanctions on Abkhazia. A statement from the Russian government defended the decision on the grounds that Abkhazia, “unlike Georgia,” has been fulfilling its obligations on conflict resolution. Georgian parliament speaker Nino Burjanadze believes that the next step will be for Russia to start openly supplying Abkhazian separatists with arms.

It’s hard not to view the timing of this as something of a retaliation to the West for its recognition of an independent Kosovo, and part of a continuing effort of the Russian government to influence the near abroad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the ultimate goal is to annex Abkhazia and/or destabilize Georgia, but I’m sure that’s something that has been discussed.

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Michael Hancock March 9, 2008 at 1:59 am

Here are the concerns that I see, and they have to do with how I see the relations between countries. Forgive the labels, but I’m trying to state the basic relationship between countries.

Georgia: friendly with the US, not enemies with Turkey, Iran or Azerbaijan, not friendly with Armenia, enemy of Russia

Armenia: friendly with the US and Russia, not enemies with Georgia, not friendly with Turkey or Iran, enemy of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan: friendly with the US, Iran, and Turkey, not enemies with Russia, enemy of Armenia

Turkey and Iran prefer an alliance with Azerbaijan over Armenia.
Russia prefers control over the region to independent NATO-supported states
US wants a secure region, but isn’t willing to step on Russian toes so close to Red Army bases [Armenia being seen by some almost as a Russian puppet state]

So – can Armenia really be friendly with both Russia and the US?

Can Azerbaijan be friendly with both Iran and the US?

Can the Georgians survive caught between Russia and the ‘West’?

How am I doing? I’ve never tried to work through the complex relationships of the Caucasus before – is that little list at all a picture of reality?

Marc W March 9, 2008 at 12:33 pm

That’s probably more or less accurate, though I’m of course no expert myself.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call Armenia a puppet state of Russia, but the current leadership seems to have pretty close ties to Russia. As we’ve seen in Georgia, it can get pretty hairy when countries from the “near abroad” try to distance themselves from Russia and move closer to the West.

For some reason, I had kind of assumed that Armenia would be more pro-US and Azerbaijan closer to Russia, so I was surprised to find out that the opposite is true. I guess I was just figured that the US would have closer ties to the Christian country, and of course we have such a large and vocal Armenian community here.

As you mentioned, the Caucasus is an incredibly complicated place, and the more I wade into it the more I realize I don’t understand it at all!

Oil is the name March 9, 2008 at 8:21 pm

US is friendly with Azerbaijan only because there is oil being produced there now. Up until the Bush administration US was not friendly with Azerbaijan. Bush saw the oilfields as a reason to improve relations and helped Alzeries develop the oilfields.

Michael Hancock March 9, 2008 at 10:28 pm

And Russia only likes Armenia because they can put a base there, I imagine. Christian brotherhood isn’t making them any friendlier to Tbilisi, right?

Martin March 10, 2008 at 2:38 am

I have suggest you read this article: http://www.circassianworld.com/News/Abkhazia_Kosovo.html

anouk March 10, 2008 at 4:42 am

Martin, what are you suggesting with referring to that link?

That man writing that article knows so little about Georgia(the author George Hewitt is a husband of an abkhazian woman, enemy of Georgia)!
Abkhazia was part of Georgia as long as Georgia exists and abkhazians were as much Georgians as Megrelians, Svans (these two have also their own languages(so what? are they less Georgians?), Kakhetians, Imeretians, Gurians, etc, they all are very much Georgians! nowadays abkhazians are no aborigan abkhazians but apsuas living in north caucasus who came descended from mountains some centirues ago and assimilated with real abkhazians!
Aphazia is and was a part of Georgia as imereti, kakheti, samgrelo, etc from ancient times and the proof of that numeorus churches in Abkhazia written in GEORGIAN, the king X (every Georgian kings name), the ruller of Kathetians, Megrelians, Abkhazians, etc, this is the truth as even ancient churches state so and not as this so called ‘professor” George Hewitt who takes his abkhazian wife’s side and writes enormous nonsense! only the ‘fact’ that he writes Megrelians ans Svanis have their own languages and with this suggests that they are not real Georgians is ridiculous and great nonsense! what a lie and ignorance you can say.

Nick March 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Religion has very little to do with anything in this part of the world. Instead, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan will continue to fight because of their similarities. Each nation has legitimate land claims in the other countries that date back to before the Soviet Era, and this desire for more land will always be at the center of conflict here. Each ethnic group thinks of themselves as better than the other for whatever reason, despite the fact that each is nearly exactly the same mentally, culturally, and physically.

Stalin really worked wonders by dividing and conquering the region. How can one justify an ethnically Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan and an Azeri exclave cut off from its mother country.

All current probelms are the result of ridiculous Turkish nationalism at the end of the Ottoman Empire, Soviet Communism and its lasting effects, and Azeri Oil, which the US, Europe and Russia covets so much.

Iran may be the lone true stabilizing factor in the region.

I spent two years in Armenia and Georgia, and while many problems exist in the region, its is home to the most hospitable people on the planet and some of the world’s greatest landscapes.

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