Aspects of Russian-Georgian "cold war"
19/07/2012 17:14
Simon Kiladze

war front in international organizations

After the August war in 2008 the military confrontation between Georgia and Russia once again returned to the pre-war political level though with some radical adjustments: break of diplomatic relations, sharp contradictions on the international arena, cascade of mutual accusations, strong statements, resolutions... In short, "hot" war was replaced by the “cold” war: relentless and uncompromising war "on the war fronts" that were created spontaneously in the nineties acquired new intensity. Main objectives for Tbilisi in this fight are : to permanently expose Russia in carrying out aggression four years ago, establishment of the occupation regimes on the territory of Georgia after the aggression and in violation of the fundamental norms of international law - the principle of territorial integrity; In addition, Georgia's diplomatic efforts are directed at blocking anti-Georgian steps of Russian diplomacy in support of Abkhazians and Ossetians, to prevent recognition of the separatist regimes as independent, prevent their de jure recognition.

The front line of the Moscow-Tbilisi "cold war" passes through the international organizations - UN, EU, EC, OSCE and other regional or international organizations at plenary sessions of which problematic issues in Russian-Georgian relations are addressed. As we know, even before that Georgia was actively using international platform for realisation of its national interests, including denouncing separatism. But at the present stage, the most important issue in relation to Russia is recognition of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (the so-called South Ossetia) as occupied territories. Naturally, in this context, Russia should automatically become a state-occupant.

As to pro-separatist and ant-Georgian circumstances of the Russian diplomacy: Moscow is actually just engaged in a policy of response to Georgia - Russia tries to neutralize intensive frontal "attack" of Georgia and its friends in the UN and regional structures of Europe using usual Kremlin methods: vetoing the resolution or ignoring and denial of the latter altogether. In addition, Moscow's efforts are aimed at filling of the "club of admirers of Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists" with new members - members that have quite an infamous reputation in the world - from Marxist Nicaragua-Venezuela to doomed to drowning in the Pacific Ocean Tuvalu-Vanuatu. "Russia is not an occupant, and the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are independent states. Russia is just protecting their security and peace "- that is how Moscow justifies itself on the world stage when it is incriminated in suspicious diplomatic games.

If we remember, Georgia has already achieved some positive results in the matter of recognition of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) as occupied territories. Oficial documents of a number of individual states (U.S., European Union) and international organizations (NATO, the European Parliament) as well as public statements of Western politicians prove the above-mentioned parts of Georgian territory are occupied by Russia. Of course, the Kremlin is unhappy with this wording and is irritated, which is mainly manifested first in the Russian Foreign Ministry comments, and also in "terrifying" statements of the Sukhumi and Tskhinvali puppet regimes sheltered under the cover of Moscow...

The Russian government and the Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists have recently received yet another depressing message from the European community. On July 5-9th, in Monaco, the 21st session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted a significant resolution on Georgia ("Resolution on the situation in Georgia”), where in addition to confirming respect to the territorial integrity of our state, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" are named as occupied territories. 

Here is the document:

1. Bearing in mind the Kyiv Declaration of the OSCE PA from 2007 underlining the importance of a resolution on conflict settlements in the OSCE area, 

2. Referring to the commitment of the former OSCE mission to Georgia aimed at facilitating a political settlement of the tensions and conflicts on the northern frontiers and territories of Georgia, 

3. Underlining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia in the framework recognized by the international community and stated in the UN Security Council resolutions, 

4. Concerned about the humanitarian situation of the displaced persons both in Georgia and in the occupied territories of Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, as well as the denial of the right of return to their places of living, 

5. Welcoming the further democratization of political life in Georgia, including the local elections on 30 May 2010,which were closer to international standards, constitutional reform, and the process of electoral reform, including opposition parties, aimed at creating the conditions for a free and fair upcoming Parliamentary Election in October 2012 and Presidential Election in 2013, 

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

6. Calls upon all parties involved to abide by the principles of international law, implement fully the EU-brokered ceasefire agreement and strengthen the Geneva Process, as the most comprehensive international mechanism to settle the protracted conflict and its subsequent effects; 

7. Urges the Government and the Parliament of the Russian Federation, as well as the de facto authorities of Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, to allow the European Union Monitoring Mission unimpeded access to the occupied territories of Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia as was previously agreed in the ceasefire agreement, and to co-operate fully with the EUMM; 

8. Calls for the safe and dignified return of all internally displaced persons to their places of living, ensuring access to international humanitarian aid when needed, with the goal of gradual rapprochement of the societies of Georgia and Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia; 

9. Calls upon the OSCE participating States to re-establish the OSCE Mission to Georgia as a mechanism for confidence-building; 

10. Calls on the Georgian authorities to ensure that the upcoming Parliamentary Election in October 2012 and Presidential Election in 2013 will be organized in line with OSCE commitments and recommendations, especially with regard to equal conditions for all participants in the election process and the free and independent functioning of the media. 

As we can see, the fourth and seventh clauses of resolution indeed pretty clearly indicate the international legal status of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" (the "occupied territories"), reaffirm the territorial integrity of Georgia and the international effort to resolve the conflict.

Although, when reading the resolution, there arises a certain sense of uncertainty and discontent. When Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" are referred to as "occupied territories” was it not impossible to directly say what state is the occupant on these "occupied territory"? And although the seventh clause mentions the Russian Federation, to which the OSCE requests about unhindered access for the European Union Observer Mission to the occupied territories of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", "restrained adherence to principles”, so to speak, is quite

apparent here. It looks as though Russia is innocent in occupation and its only obligation is to participate in promoting settlement process (that is, to grant admission to the mission). The document does not show a very principle position on Russia's role in the Geneva process, where it as an involved party must abide by international law and improve efficiency of this process ... I think it would have been better, based on the above, to have directly and concretely stipulate the status of Russia (i.e. occupant) in this part of the resolution and its destructive actions to have been registered.

Interesting and intriguing are actions of the Russian delegation in the process of OSCE vote on the resolution: the document refers to the occupied territories, which Russia considers as independent states, and at this time, Russian delegates close their eyes to the term "occupation" and only "abstain." It is a paradoxical situation: it appears as though Moscow betrayed a long-term tradition and went not for "against", but just "abstained"!?

The head of the delegation, member of the State Duma from the United Russia party Nikolay Kovalyov made an ambiguous rather unexpected and yet undefined comment on this pretty sensational step in his interview to Regnum news agency (July 10): "... the resolution has some reasonable moments, objecting against which would have been inappropriate... Therefore, in this case (at the time of the vote on the resolution of Georgia) position of the delegation is balanced and in no case is aimed at aggravation of the relationship. It is our position not to lead the confrontation to absurdity. «it is obvious that, the Russian delegation would not have made such decision independently or without permission: We can assume that Russians got in touch to Moscow from Monaco, informed the Kremlin about the situation and afterwards behaved according to the directive received from Moscow. So their decision to "abstain" was not taken in the Kremlin and not in Monaco.

And anyway, what does "reasonable moments" mean?

So far, no one in Moscow has specified what "reasonable moments" positive for Russia are in the resolution of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. So many political experts and politicians have expressed surprise at the Russian "abstinence" in Monaco and many could not even hide their anger, " ... in all other countries, a head of delegation like Mr Kovalyov would be thrown out. Everywhere, but not here, because he is a member of the United Russia party, is a member of its leadership, and thus untouchable. So let us wait, what other "reasonable moments" will be supported by loyal soldiers of the United Russia Party in future meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, "- said the former Duma member Viktor Alksnis.

As it was expected, the document has caused strong dissatisfaction among the separatists. "Why did not Russia vote against the resolution, and why did it abstain? Nikolai Kovalyov’s words cause a surprise, to put it mildly... We are waiting for an explanation of relevant bodies of the Russian Federation ", - said chairman of the committee on foreign relations of the «parliament "of the Abkhazian separatists Yuri Zukhba. Even more categorical was expert Beslan Kobakhia: "... when the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly without opposition of Russia adopts a document which states occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, does it mean that the official authorities of Russia recognise " occupation "of Abkhazia and South Ossetia? If so, we witness a complete change of Russia's position on this issue. If we believe the logic for "occupation" should be followed by "de-occupation", i.e. withdrawal of Russian troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia ... I think the Russian Foreign Ministry should disavow the statement of Kovalyov. "

Almost the same opinion was expressed by Ossetians, "... «explanation " of Kovalyov is unacceptable to us. No moment can be reasonable if it is contrary to interests of Russia, violates its authority and when it is named as "occupant", "- said Tskhinvali political analyst Inal Pliev.

Unclear situation established in the Russian political circles in the expert community around OSCE vote on the resolution was supposedly relaxed by comments of the Information Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs made on July 14, which reads: "... at a recent plenary session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Monaco a resolution entitled" Situation in Georgia” was adopted in which, namely, used propaganda cliché about " occupation of Georgian territories". The Russian delegation has acted decisively against this biased document stating about its absolute unacceptability. "

As we can see, there is a clear discrepancy between the positions: Nikolai Kovalyov said that, the delegation "abstained" during the voting while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that "the Russian delegation was against". Everyone knows the essence of abstain – a party takes a neutral position, ie says neither 'yes' nor 'against', avoiding to aggravate the situation. As to go "against" means radical "no" and clearly reflects the negative attitude of a party with respect to a concrete matter or document.

So which one should we believe the head of the delegation Nikolai Kovalyov or Sergei Lavrov’s Foreign Ministry? To this day, we do not have the outcome of the vote on the resolution and the transcript of the session that would assist in establishing the truth. Although we can assume that the Kremlin has apparently felt it made a mistake, became seriously worried about pronounced negative position of the separatists in connection with its "abstinence" and decided to "beautify" and more clarify the position of Nikolai Kovalyov.
It is clear that the above comments of the Russian Foreign Ministry were made for this purpose. Let’s pay attentions to dates. On July 9 the resolution was passed, on July 10 Kovalev’s comments were published, and on July 14 (after 3 days), the Foreign Ministry issued completely opposite information.

The fact is that a strange statement of Nikolai Kovalyov was followed by quite scandalous trail, at that the one that has attracted considerable international attention. A question of dignity and authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia was put on the agenda ... I guess that's why, Kovalyov caught in a whirlpool of intrigue was forced to disavow his statement any way possible, so he thought and found a culprit ... Georgian media: "... information that a number of members of the Russian delegation alleged abstained during the vote, was first reported in the Georgian media. It is a blatant lie and provocation! Russia was strongly against the resolution”. The extent to how unbiased Kovalyov is, is not difficult to establish: It was already mentioned above the first one to report about the "abstinence" was the Russian news agency Regnum, which is known for its scandalous image, and afterwards it was reported (with comments by surprised experts) by Russian online newspaper Georgian Times - Georgia Today chief editor of which is Moscow Russian journalist Anton Krivenyuk. Apparently Nikolai Kovalyov was mislead by Georgian-associated name of the online edition ... What can we say, it happens. 

How effective is the term "occupied territories"? Is the resolution that recorded "occupation» a success of the foreign policy of Georgia? In general it can be considered successful, although this success, unfortunately, will hardly have practical results. We remember very well such strict resolutions, which were taken within the last 20 years but remained only on paper and eventually moved to the archives of the UN and the OSCE. Modern international relations are often substantially far from ideal. Both recognition and non-recognition of independence of a state and recognition and non-recognition of occupation of any part of the state are generally recognized not at the level of resolutions, but according to interests of individual states. Diplomacy knows examples when international legal entities ignore resolutions of the UN and other influential organizations, and often act in their own interests. As for "de-occupation", i.e., in our case, withdrawal of occupation forces from Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", it is extremely difficult to address this issue just by dry resolutions. One that is needed here is wither good will, or the powerful military-political and economic pressure on the state that is an occupant. 

Another significant detail: the resolution of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is only advisory in nature and its implementation is not required, i.e. as we have said, implementation of the resolution clauses depends on goodwill of states.

Anyway, at this stage a victory in a local battle in the ongoing Russian-Georgian "cold war" should be still saluted. After all, future generations will know that Georgians did not accept loss of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region and tried all our methods to bring back our "prodigal sons".

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