Torn between Russia’s growing influence and increasing frictions in a historic alliance with the U.S., European states face new challenges to their security architecture. Olga Oliker calls Europe to embrace a dialogue on security and threats in the neighbourhood to build sustainable peace all across the region.
Originally published in EUREN Brief
Originally published in World Politics Review
In major political development, anti-govt protests in breakaway territory of Abkhazia forced the resignation of Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba, snap presidential elections in Abkhazia are now scheduled for 22 Mar. In Abkhaz capital Sukhumi, dozens of activists 9 Jan took over main building of govt headquarters armed with wooden sticks and boards, sequestering Khajimba, security forces showed little resistance; local opposition leaders joined protesters demanding Khajimba’s resignation with support of local elite; 12 Jan Khajimba resigned. In attempt to ensure Khajimba’s peaceful resignation, Russia 10 Jan dispatched deputy head of Security Council Rashid Nurgaliyev, one of its curators for Abkhazia, without success; Russia 12 Jan then sent Vladislav Surkov, aide to President Putin, but Khajimba had already resigned by the time Surkhov arrived. Abkhaz presidential candidate Aslan Bzhania, former head of local security service, 16 Jan said to Georgian media his readiness to initiate direct contact with Tbilisi, in apparent effort to get support for launch of future economy-related programs in breakaway territory.
Informal trade is increasing between Georgia and the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and between Abkhazia and countries outside the region. Trade alone cannot transform the parties’ core political differences. But talks among them on mutually beneficial commerce could open lines of communication long cemented shut.
Whether the smooth transfer of power Georgia achieved after October’s bitter election sets a standard for democracy in its region depends on whether the new government can strengthen the independence and accountability of state institutions in what remains a fragile, even potentially explosive political climate.
On the third anniversary of their war over South Ossetia, talks between Georgia and Russia are needed to create positive momentum in a still unstable environment.
Georgia has maintained political and economic stability despite the shock of the 2008 war with Russia, but the government needs to use the two years before the next elections to create public trust in democratic institutions by engaging in meaningful dialogue with the opposition over further reforms.
The historically coveted region of Abkhazia has become even more dependent on Moscow since Russia’s controversial recognition a year and a half ago.
Ten months after the “August war” between Georgia and Russia, violent incidents and the lack of an effective security regime in and around the conflict zones of South Ossetia and Abkhazia create a dangerous atmosphere in which extensive fighting could again erupt.
The Georgian government has been in crisis for quite a long time. Mr. Ivanishvili’s comeback and popular protests are just symptoms of this process.
Over the last three years, we have been seeing a serious decline in the situation in the districts [of South Ossetia] mainly populated by ethnic Georgians.
There was a social media campaign two years ago [in Abkhazia] encouraging people to boycott the funerals of anyone who died after seeking medical care in Tbilisi.
Renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine is quickly turning into a litmus test of Russia’s intentions in backing Ukrainian separatist rebels, and the real willingness of the West, in particular the United States, to support Kyiv. Fears over Washington’s wavering may also cause positions to harden in the protracted conflicts in Europe’s East, most immediately in Georgia.
Unresolved conflicts and breakaway territories divide five out of six of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries, most of them directly backed by the Russian Federation. But a policy of isolating the people living in these conflict regions narrows the road to peace.
Originally published in Today's Zaman
Originally published in Bloomberg