Georgia, a former Soviet republic that suffered its own Russian invasion in 2008 and Moscow’s destabilising support for its breakaway regions, is treading carefully on the war in Ukraine, fearing that if it upsets the Kremlin, it may be left to face the consequences alone.
Authorities took further steps to align with European Union’s (EU) candidacy status demands and expressed concerns over “illegal” arrests in breakaway Abkhazia.
Georgia and Western actors sought closer cooperation. European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi 15-16 Nov visited Tbilisi, underscoring EU’s interest in strengthening energy and security cooperation; leadership viewed visit as new chapter in Georgia-EU relations. Following trip, parliament 28 Nov paused adoption process for law on de-oligarchisation – one of EU’s demands as precondition for candidate status – to hear suggestions from Council of Europe’s Venice Commission amid pressure from EU officials; EU 28 Nov welcomed decision, saying it is “important to consult international standard setters and implement their recommendations”. Meanwhile, NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg 21 Nov called for “more support” from Western defence alliance to Georgia, which he said is “vulnerable” to “Russian coercion and aggression”; NATO Allies 30 Nov agreed to “step up tailored support” to Georgia.
De facto authorities in breakaway Abkhazia detained more Georgian citizens. De facto security service 4 Nov detained Asmat Tavadze in Gali district on charges of illegal drug purchase and storage; de facto authorities also reported seizing Georgian flag and other Georgian state symbols found in her apartment. Georgia 5 Nov condemned de facto Abkhaz security forces for illegal detention and said “work was underway to release” her. Tbilisi 8 Nov announced another arrest of Georgian citizen in same area with similar charges.
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.
As elections draw near, increased tension at the line of separation with South Ossetia has helped put the future of normalisation with Russia in doubt. But whoever wins at the polls should not abandon dialogue, but rather build on it to frankly discuss these problems.
In this testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan analyses the conflict dynamics in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the breakaway territories from Georgia recognised as independent by Russia, and explains how Washington can promote stability there.
This summer’s protests in Georgia led to changes to the country’s electoral system. But the country’s new Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, is a man protesters wanted ousted from the last government, in which he led the Interior Ministry. In this interview with World Politics Review, Europe & Central Asia Program Director Olga Oliker and Analyst for EU Eastern Neighbourhood Olesya Vartanyan consider what Gakharia’s tenure will bring, and how the parliamentary elections next year might play out in this atmosphere.
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.
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.
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.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.