The reverse of the Georgian political elite’s artistry is unbridled arrogance and the poor perception of its environment it entails, plus a disregard for logic and common sense. It would seem that Georgia’s political artists have been omnipresent since President Shevardnadze’s time. They spend days on end in Washington, Brussels, Strasbourg and Vienna. The world’s powerful are their personal friends; they are favored by the Western media; and statements are issued and resolutions adopted in support of Georgia’s demands. But the truth is that people in the corridors of power of the European capitals and at international forums, meetings and plenary sessions are bored silly with the emotional antics of the delegations of Georgian political elite; and if they do not say so out loud, it is only out of politeness and considerations of Realpolitik. Tbilisi sulks at the West for not providing actual assistance during the war of August 2008. They show concern that the West’s position toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia’s recognition of their independence is less than monolithic. However, the West has been hampered both by Kosovo and by the lack of logic in Georgia’s claims, which, incidentally, needs to be present to some small extent even when double standards are applied most broadly. The inertia of the past, the West’s own interests in the South Caucasus and the associated requirements for applying informational pressure on Russia persuaded the Western media to take radically pro-Georgian positions in 2008. Who does not remember how easily they turned a blind eye to Georgia’s artillery shelling of sleeping Tskhinvali and its tank attack on South Ossetia?! But what looks especially eloquent in hindsight today is this: at no point did NATO or the United States, much less any other Western country, have any intention of defending their protégé in the Caucasus. Moreover, their interest in making Georgia a member of NATO has waned, although it is still on their agenda—to the bitter disappointment of Georgia’s leaders, who apparently still do not understand that it mattered to Western officials that it was Georgia and not Russia that started the war in South Ossetia. Who would want to partner with a bully that has never been able to establish normal relations with its neighbors, the Abkhazians and Ossetians?!
Tbilisi can console itself as much as it wants with Western resolutions supporting Georgia’s territorial integrity within the borders of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic. However, Georgia’s arguments make the authors of those documents very uneasy. Through an exotic distortion of logic, rejecting virtually the entirety of Soviet experience, Western diplomats have been forced not simply to agree with it as it applies to Georgia but to rely on decisions by the top Communist authorities in defending Georgia’s Soviet socialist integrity. Of course, people in the West are not told that Abkhazia was annexed to Georgia by that builder of Communism, Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, who is widely known under the name of Stalin. And there is total silence regarding that other creator of Georgia’s current “integrity”— Stalin’s KGB chief, Lavrentiy Pavolovich Beria, who forcibly resettled Georgians to Abkhazian territory. But the foreign ministries of the Western countries, their intelligence services, their government offices, and thus the authors of the resolutions supporting the inviolability of Georgia’s Soviet Socialist borders know the details of how Abkhazia was forcibly incorporated into it. Oh, how awkward it is for them to defend the national policy of what they say was a tyranny and a dictatorship! The Western resolutions that Tbilisi flaunts as being aimed at Russia cannot affect it. For they are the type of diplomatic document that makes you want to throw up your hands and say, “Well, what can you do?! Surely you understand…!”
Nor is anyone inspired by Georgia’s arguments based on the distant past. Even leaving aside the issue that the ancient combined state of Abkhazians and Georgians was formed by the expansion of the Kingdom of Abkhazia towards present-day Georgia and not vice versa, Europeans find the reference to ancient times as proof of Georgia’s rights to Abkhazia extremely unconvincing. In Europe, borders have been redrawn and countries have arisen and disappeared so many times that even when a present-day nationality has been in a given state for millennia that is not accepted as proof that it belongs there. According to the logic that Abkhazia should be part of Georgia, Ireland should be returned to Great Britain; Finland to Sweden; Lithuania to Poland; the Czech Republic to Germany or Austria; Norway to Sweden or Denmark; and Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc., not to mention Kosovo, should not even exist now because they did not exist as independent states before the last century. That is not logical. That is the nationalist ravings of Georgia’s political elite. And the strange thing is that Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine were able to secede from Russia; Ireland from Great Britain; Slovakia from the Czech Republic; and the Italo-Franco-German state of the Carolingians was able to split up, as were the Holy Roman Empire, Austro-Hungary, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. But now Georgia cannot?! It is an even greater political absurdity that Abkhazia is one of Europe’s ancient states. The Abkhazians have a different language, a different culture, a different past and a different present. They have no fewer rights to an independent existence than their neighbors in Georgia. Which is also well understood by those who are spawning resolutions about Georgia’s territorial integrity.
The endless references to statements that the “international community does not recognize Abkhazia’s independence” fade and lose their significance against all that. Most countries in the international community consider it unsafe to challenge the United States and the European Union on this issue for a number of reasons that would require a separate discussion. However—and this needs to be stressed—they support the idea of Georgia’s territorial integrity within the borders set by Josef Dzhugashvili for reasons of geopolitics. In other words, they see the injustice of their actions against Abkhazia clearly, but they do not admit it publicly. However, they have a problem justifying the West’s policy in the South Caucasus with Georgia’s “ohs” and “ahs” or with references to Stalin. Their policy comes across as extremely weak and is unable either to influence Russia or affect the establishment of Abkhazian statehood.
The pathetic incantations of Georgia’s propaganda, it must be admitted, work at the level of public opinion in Western countries. But neither the sobbing nor the hand wringing that Russia has failed to live up to agreements between Medvedev and Sarkozy have any effect on serious Western politicians and diplomats. Clearly, Tbilisi has felt no shortage of statements by the West on that issue either. The failure lies elsewhere: these statements have an efficiency rating of zero at the level of international relations. In contrast to Georgia’s leaders, Sarkozy is aware that his agreement with Medvedev pertains to the time that military actions between Georgia and Russia ended. It cannot obligate anyone to recognize or not recognize the new realities that emerged from the war. It deprives neither Russia nor the states that emerged of the right to conclude treaties, including military agreements, i.e., those that serve as the basis for the current presence of Russian units in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If Tbilisi does not understand that the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement and the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are two different issues, Paris, Bonn, Rome, Brussels and even Washington understand it as well as they know that two times two equals four.
Western politicians can be accused of committing a lot of sins. But we cannot say that they allow their emotions to rule their logic. For all the West’s propensity to apply double standards, the United States, NATO and the EU need to justify them if they are going to influence Russia. Without logic there is no impact. And that means Western officials can expect Georgia to cause them a lot of grief.
Felix Stanevsky is Chief of the Caucasus Department of the Institute of CIS Countries and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. This article was written specially for the New Eastern Outlook.
Source: New Eastern Outlook