Research Proposal: Georgia Russia Crisis

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Georgia-Russia Crisis - an Overview

Background Facts

Georgia gained independence from the Soviet Union when the U.S.S.R. broke up at the end of 1991. Georgia was racked by the economic and social collapse that affected the states of the former Soviet Union as they attempted to restore capitalism. (Jones, 2008)

The national minorities, in particular, the ethnic Russians in Georgia, and groups such as the Ossetians, had always been more pro-Russian than pro-Georgian and began to get concerned for their own position. Pro-Russian movements were deliberately propagated to undermine the Georgian government -- sometimes by the Russian state. Unhappy with the lack of economic progress, other sections of the ruling elite moved against then President Gamsakhurdia.

Ministers resigned and the army divided into pro- and anti- Gamsakhurdia factions. No one really understands, today, what the differences were within the Georgian government. (Jones, 2008)

Brutal clashes developed in 1991-1992 between forces loyal to Tskhinvali, the South Ossetia capital, and Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, and left one thousand dead before Russia brokered the Sochi Agreement in June 1992. Eduard Shevardnadze, long-time head of the Georgian communist party and former Soviet foreign minister, was appointed acting chairman of the new "state council" in 1992, then elected to a restored presidency in 1995. Shevardnadze's rule brought a degree of stabilization, but increasing internal political instability with poor economic growth, high crime and corruption all of which culminated in the bloodless November 2003 "Rose Revolution." After flawed parliamentary elections in November, the opposition mobilized mass protests and ousted Shevardnadze. (International crisis group (conflict), 2008)

Western-supported, and Columbia University-educated, President Mikhail Saakashvili was elected January 2004 with 96 per cent of vote. Saakashvili vowed to restore Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under the control of Tbilisi. In 2007 Georgia proposed changes to the Sochi peace agreement which would replace the existing negotiation commission and the established provisional administration in Georgian-controlled areas of the conflict zone. Russia and South Ossetia rejected the proposal and negotiations broke off. (International crisis group (conflict), 2008)

Having come to power with the open backing of the U.S., Saakashvili clearly allied his government with the defense of U.S. interests. Georgia applied to NATO, troops were sent to Iraq, and the main road from Tbilisi's airport was renamed "George Bush Street." (Jones, 2008)

As long has Shevardnadze had been in power in Georgia, Russia maintained its influence over the country. Now, in order to maintain it, Russia stepped up its use of a political weapon -- divide and rule. The leaders of the breakaway republics -- South Ossetia, Abkazia, and Adjara -- were encouraged to strengthen their borders with Georgia to prevent "internal Georgian disruption spilling over." South Ossetia decided to breakaway from Georgia and ally itself with Russia. Georgia saw this as a threat and increased their protests against the increasing Russian economic and political presence in the region, and against the "uncontrolled" military of South Ossetia. (Jones, 2008)

The Beginnings of a Crisis

November, 2006. South Ossetia organized a referendum to ask its people if they "agree that South Ossetia should retain its current status as an independent state and be recognized by the international community?" The results, which were fixed by the Kremlin, showed a 99.9% yes vote, but when authorities looked at the numbers it revealed that thousands more people voted than was possible. (Jones, 2008) Needless to say, Georgia was not impressed.

Russia's Policy

Why, one asks, does Russia care? According to Anatol Lieven, a correspondent for the London Times in the former Soviet Union, including Georgia, for six years, their policy is driven by a mixture of emotion and calculation.

The Russian security establishment, (which is the organization Vladimir Putin headed before he became president), likes the Ossetes, who have been Russian allies for more than 250 years" says Lieven. "They loathe the Georgians and, in particular, Saakashvilli, for their anti-Russian nationalism and alliance with the U.S. They had hoped to use South Ossetia to keep Georgia within the Soviet Union and later, at least, under their sphere of influence. They had to abandon that ambition due to the Georgians' stubborn determination to be independent.

But when Georgia threatened to attack South Ossetia," Lieven continued, "Vladimir Putin made it clear several times that Russia would not be defeated by Georgia and that they would attack if Georgia attempted any military action against South Ossetia. Western "experts" claimed that Russia was bluffing. They weren't. Russia would later claim they attacked "for humanitarian purposes." They didn't. (the georgia-russia crisis and the responsibility to protect: background note, 2008)

War

Thursday, August 7, 2008. Georgia launches a surprise attack sending a large force into South Ossetia and reaching the capital of Tskhinvali. Russia's envoy in South Ossetia, Yuri Popov, calls on NATO to reconsider plans to offer Georgia membership. (BBC news, 2008) Some find it curious that this was his first move. Perhaps it reinforces the belief that the attack by Russia could have been a knee-jerk reaction to another sign of Georgia's independence?

Friday, August 8, 2008, Russia attacks the Georgian forces occupying the South Ossetia capital city. It conducts its first airstrikes on Georgian targets. (Schwirtz, Barnard, & Chivers, 2008) the world condemns the violence and calls for an immediate cease-fire and some call for Russia to withdraw its forces. They don't. (BBC news, 2008)

Saturday, August 9. Russian troops take control of the capital city of Ossetia, Tskhinvali, from Georgian troops. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says his country is seeking "to force the Georgian side to peace," while his Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, accuses Georgia of committing "genocide." (BBC news, 2008)

Sunday, August 10. Georgia claims its troops have withdrawn from South Ossetia and declares a ceasefire. Russia doesn't. It claims clashes continue and launches airstrikes near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. Russian warships are deployed to Georgian ports, but later withdrawn. The U.S. says Russia's actions could have a "significant" long-term impact on U.S.-

Russian relations. They don't. (BBC news, 2008)

Monday, August 11. Russian and Georgian forces continue operations. Moscow accuses Tbilisi of ignoring its own ceasefire and of attacking the South Ossetian capital city again. European diplomats meet Georgia's president in Tbilisi, convincing him to sign a draft ceasefire agreement. Russia rejects it. Claims and counter-claims are thrown about from both sides regarding who attacked who and where. (BBC news, 2008)

Tuesday, August 12. Russian president Medvedev announces that his forces will end the operation in Georgia. Medvedev, later says that Russia has agreed to a six-point peace deal. All troops would return to the positions they held before the conflict. Georgia accepts the plan.

Wednesday, August 13. President George Bush backs up his tough rhetoric by announcing that U.S. military will deliver aid to Georgia. It does. Bush warns that Russia must end the crisis. In Georgia, there are many reports of Russian troops active well inside the borders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia claims they are only dismantling ammunition and artillery left by the Georgian military. (BBC news, 2008)

After world pressure from all corners and mediation orchestrated by French President Sarkozy, a final ceasefire called for Russia to begin pulling out its troops. On August 16, Russian President Medvedev said his forces would start to pull out on the 18th. Finally, on the 22nd the withdrawal began. To this day, Russian troops remain in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Major Players -Medvedev/Putin, Saakashvili, and Bush is clear to all who don't live in a cave, that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and not President Medvedev, who calls the signals in Russia these days behind the scene. It is more than rumored that, due to some twisting of the Russian constitution, Putin will return to the "throne" in the near future. (Kasparov, 2008)

And it was he, as indicated by our descriptions above, who called the real shots during the Georgia-Russia crisis. Note that it was the "Russian security establishment," and not "the Kremlin," that likes the Ossetes and loathes Georgia and its president -- as we said, Putin's former occupation. Putin was the instigator of the Russian attack on Georgia, and all that happened since. His attempt to blame the U.S. For triggering the conflict failed miserably in the world "court of opinion."

As one of the sources I have cited says,."..Medeved was elected president by one vote...Vladimir Putin's." (Kasparov, 2008) He is the figurehead diplomat to spread Russian good will. Medeved is the good cop to Putin's bad cop. Nothing more need be said.

Mikhail Saakashvili, president of Georgia, replaced Russian favorite Eduard Shevardnadze. As we have said, Saakashvili is a supporter of the United States and strongly allies himself and his country with Western nations. Saakashvili, for his part, had staked his presidency on reintegrating" Georgia's two breakaway territories into Georgia proper. (Purvis, 2008)

Under his leadership, the rate of corruption in the country has been drastically reduced;

according to World Bank accounts, Georgia is named as the number one economic reformer in the world; Saakashvili supports a free market economy;… [END OF PREVIEW]

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