Georgian Russophiles’ dream did not come true. They thought that "Georgian Dream" would pursue distinctly pro-Russian course, but they were wrong. The core of statements made by the new government of Georgia after the parliamentary elections on the long-term policy in the area of external relations is still European integration, accession to NATO and, generally, allegiance to the Western course. These postulates are nothing new - this was the main vector of diplomacy of the United National Movement – the former ruling forces rejected by the Georgian electorate and defeated in the elections. But even the winning Georgian Dream coalition is not changing this course. Although we cannot ignore opinion of the majority of the population of Georgia: the need to establish relations with its northern neighbour is becoming more obvious. This is confirmed by numerous surveys. NATO, the EU, the U.S. and France, it’s all very good, but it is obvious to everybody that if problems in relations between Russia and Georgia are not solved, many obstacles will arise on the road of Georgia’s development. By the way, most of western politicians and political science experts share the same view.
Moscow - Tbilisi: relationship paradoxes
Present relationship of Russia and Georgia is truly paradoxical: it is hardly possible to find an analogue in the history of international relations. On the one hand, direct political contacts are cut off; until recently, Moscow and Tbilisi had been using "pretty" epithets towards each other, there was acute confrontation. But on the other hand, the lion's share of investment in the Georgian economy comes on Russia, there is quite a large number of Russian products on the Georgian market, both air and land border is open, many Georgians go to Russia for work or to visit friends and relatives, Russian citizens too often come to Georgia and the flow of Russian tourists is steadily increasing.
The new government begins restoration of ties with Russia in economy and trade, culture and contacts between peoples. But this idea is not new. As the above-said shows relationship between Moscow and Tbilisi in the economic, cultural and other humanitarian fields (including religious sphere) more or less has been started and developed, i.e. the first stage of economic and cultural-humanitarian relations has long been passed. Of course, it will be nice if they are to deepen – direct trade of Saperavi wine and Borjomi mineral water would bring substantial income to Georgian businessmen and Georgian treasury, but it is also clear that only an increase in export-import will not solve political problems. Given all this it is quite logical and natural that the subsequent stage in the Russian-Georgian relations should be restoration of direct political and diplomatic relations.
But here lies a major challenge.
On the one hand, it is impossible to have diplomatic relations with Russia, which has occupied 20 percent of our country and recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On the other hand, ironically, whether we like it or not, it is with Russia that we have to negotiate, since without restoration of direct relations the desired result cannot be achieved. Georgia is an interested party and as we need to solve the problem, arrogance and statements "we am right" in the negotiations with Russia will not help us.
Unfortunately, however unpleasant it may be to some to realize, it is obvious that the role of a catalyst in recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" was played by false-patriotic and short-sighted policy of the United National Movement-led government. As a result, during of the events of August 2008 Mikhail Saakashvili’s adventure first resulted in losing the Dali (Kodori) gorge and the Akhalgori district area which later prompted subsequent rise of the limited international legal status of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali.
As a result we came to a place when thanks to blunders by the previous government the process of settlement of the territorial problem of Georgia was practically stalled.
Weak anti-separatist effect of the pro-Western course
What does the West, association to which Georgia seeks, do at that time? To eliminate all doubts that the U.S., NATO and the European Union might have had the new government have already publicly declared its desire for allegiance to close relations and integration with them.
The fact that the Western course is in national interests of Georgia is indisputable, but based on the current situation, the question arises whether territorial integrity of Georgia will be restored through efforts of Western countries or “concern/worry/solicitude” of international organizations? For the last twenty years, we hear statements from the West in support of Georgia, asserting that Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" are recognized as part of Georgia; groups of friends of Georgia are created; peacekeeping missions, observers are sent to us; the UN and the OSCE pass resolutions favourable for us; Russia is criticized and called upon to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and inviolability of borders; Moscow is urged to abandon assisting and instigating Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists; we are urged to hold a dialogue ... Recently, on October 15th, at the meeting of the European foreign ministers in Luxembourg the territorial integrity of Georgia was reaffirmed and a spark of hope has once again been re-kindled for Tbilisi.
Hope is hope, but despite such efforts of the international community, we are still here, more so, now the situation gets worse for Georgia: Russia supports Sukhumi and Tskhinvali more and more, integration deepens, the puppet governments of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" are happy to receive Russian financial injections ... It is true that the recognition by Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Pacific island-states Nauru and Vanuatu is not that important for them but the Kremlin's support is enough for Tskhivali and Sukhumi separatists since "Russia outweighs everyone and everything", not only Brussels, but even Washington itself is helpless before Russia.
It has recently become clear that the efforts of the Georgian government and the West to stop the process of recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence were not very successful. Moreover, unfortunately, the precedent of Kosovo recognition by EU states and the U.S. revived the idea of the sovereignty of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia", resulting in the "Caucasian revenge" of Russia, which was defeated in the Balkan geopolitics. Washington and Brussels may argue as long as they can that the status of Kosovo, Abkhazia and "South Ossetia" are not linked but facts are stubborn things: It was the Kosovo precedent that gave a kind of push for this anti-Georgian step of Russia. The only positive thing, where the credit is due to the West – is that the wave of diplomatic recognition of the breakaway regions was suspended. However, unfortunately, no one knows how and what exactly needs to be done to break the triangle Moscow-Sukhumi-Tskhinvali.
Since at present Russia is most concerned about the western course of Georgia, Georgia must somehow convince Russia that the Western vector of Georgian diplomacy does not threaten Russia. In this sense, perhaps, to some extent, we should learn from the experience of the Baltic States. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have long been members of the EU and NATO, and in the very beginning they had problems with Russia too. Also, more efficient and productive use of the Geneva discussions is needed, where, under the auspices of the UN, the OSCE and the European Union issues of security and stability in the South Caucasus are being discussed. It should be noted that with this regard the 21st round held on October 10-11 was quite effective, where it was decided to prepare a joint document between Russia and Georgia on non-use of force. Also very interesting and important statement was made by the leader of the Georgian Dream coalition Bidzina Ivanishvili, according to which Georgia would not interfere with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, it would take part in it and would do everything for the Olympics to be held peacefully and without incidents.
I think the main role in the resolution of conflicts should be attributed to development of economy and culture of Georgia. We can no longer return Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region by military force, so maybe economic, cultural and humanitarian efforts will be effective. Obviously, this idea is not new, and the former ruling party also shared the same vision, but we all have witnessed to what their conducted reforms in economy and culture led us: citizens of Georgia are still some of the most vulnerable people in the social plan in the region. If the West gives Tbilisi significant financial support for social and economic development, funds should be accumulated in a special fund established by friends of Georgia for their target expenditure and not for entertainment and shows. In short, for reintegration of Abkhazians and Ossetians we have to create a real and, at the same time, favourable for them situation to come to Zugdidi, Kutaisi, Batumi and Tbilisi rather than go to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Withdrawal of independence: precedents of Russian diplomacy
Today, many foreign government officials or politicians call on Russia to withdraw its recognition of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia". The same is stated by renowned experts and analysts ... But we must take into account that generally, withdrawal of recognition of independence and cutting off of diplomatic relations is not an easy step to make, especially when it comes to breakaway territories. It is honour and prestige of the state that is put on the scales, as it, in fact, comes to recognition of the committed error. It is hard to imagine that today or tomorrow, the Russian President would announce about cancellation of orders 1260 and 1261 on recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia signed on August 26th, 2008, would unilaterally denounce all treaties signed with them, would officially severe diplomatic relations with the separatist entities and withdraw its military units ...
And yet, what is the practice of withdrawal of recognition of a state in terms of international experience? Will Russia withdraw its recognition or not? We should not forget that Moscow through its Foreign Minister has already stated that the negotiations with Georgia on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not possible. The Kremlin believes that Abkhazians and Ossetians must decide the fate of their own republics. "When we decided to recognize their independence, we were convinced that this was the only way for their security and possibly survival" - this is the opinion of the head of the Russian foreign office, although Sergei Lavrov deliberately forgets that the Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists made a decision about independence without ethnic Georgians that were expelled from their homes. That is why the de facto leadership of the Abkhazian and Ossetian separatists do not want return of refugees - they know that by doing so their “independence” will be over.
I wonder whether in diplomatic practice of Russia there are precedents of withdrawal of recognition of a state. Has Russia ever taken such step? Let us remember the history.
It should be noted that over the last century, taking into account the history of Soviet and Russian diplomacy of the period of 1922-2012, facts of withdrawal of de jure recognition of independence of a state unit has been extremely rare. We can recall only a few cases. But they, by their nature, political situation and international background are different from each other.
First: On April 13, 1941 the Soviet Union, to deepen relations with Germany, first acknowledged independence of the northern Chinese province of Manchuria, which was occupied by the ally of the Third Reich - Japan, and then, in August 1945, when Soviet troops occupied the territory of Manchuria the Kremlin withdrew recognition and returned the province to Communist China.
Second: in February 1958, when Syria and Egypt entered into the union and establishment of the United Arab Republic (UAR) was officially announced, the Soviet Union officially recognized the new state, and at the same time it cancelled the act of recognition of independence of Syria and Egypt passed in 1943-44. Later, in 1971, after the collapse of AAR, Moscow again recognized newly independent Syria and Egypt.
Third: In September 1962, the Soviet Union recognized independence of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and in 1967 - People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). In 1990, after the unification of North and South Yemen in one state, Moscow recognized its sovereignty and simultaneously cancelled the act of recognition of North and South Yemen.
Fourth: In October 1991, following the merger of the two German states - the Federal and Democratic Republics of Germany (East and West Germany), the Soviet Union withdrew the Act on recognition of the GDR (1949).
As we can see, the above precedents cannot be used as criteria, based on a comparative analysis of which it would be at least theoretically possible to restore diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia. Today there are quite different conditions, political and international situation. Accordingly, historical precedents cannot be of any significant help in this matter.
As for the leading foreign states, and withdrawal of recognition of independence in their practice is a very rare phenomenon too. Such facts are relatively more common in regard to the "third world", such as Taiwan. This breakaway part of China was often recognised (to financial gain) by countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America but later broke off relations with it.
It is clear that the unjust order signed by President Dmitry Medvedev is quite a heavy burden for the international image of Russia. At the same time it is also clear that, there is a big likelihood that Russia will not take back his words, and it can last for years.
In case, if Russia stubbornly refuses to take its notorious recognition and if even the international community fails to compel Moscow to make this move, Georgia may be offered any other form of relationship with Abkhazia, for example, a legal status which, for example, is like an international status of Andorra.
Andorran model for Abkhazia
Indeed, the status of micro European nation of Andorra nestled somewhere in the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of France and Spain, is very interesting. Remembering the historical background might stray us away, so let us look at the Constitution of Andorra, adopted on March 14th, 1993:
- Andorra is a Democratic and Social independent State abiding by the Rule of Law. In accordance with the institutional tradition of Andorra, the Coprínceps are, jointly and indivisibly, the Cap de l'Estat, and they assume its highest representation.
The Coprínceps, an institution which dates from the Pareatges and their historical evolution, are in their personal and exclusive right, the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic. Their powers are equal and derive from the present Constitution. Each of them swears or affirms to exercise their functions in accordance with the present Constitution.
The Coprínceps are the symbol and guarantee of the permanence and continuity of Andorra as well as of its independence and the maintenance of the spirit of parity in the traditional balanced relation with the neighbouring States. They proclaim the consent of the Andorran State to honour its international obligations in accordance with the Constitution. The Coprínceps arbitrate and moderate the functioning of the public authorities and of the institutions, and are regularly informed of the affairs of the State by their own initiative, or that of the Síndic General or the Cap de Govern.
Except for the cases provided for in this Constitution, the Coprínceps are immune from suit. The acts of the Coprínceps are under the responsibility of those who countersign them. The Coprínceps, with the countersignature of the Cap de Govern, or when appropriate, of the Síndic General, as politically responsible:
- Call for general elections in accordance with the Constitution.
- Call for a referendum in accordance with articles 76 and 106 of the Constitution.
- Appoint the Cap de Govern following the procedure provided for in the Constitution.
- Sign the decree of dissolution of the Consell General following the procedure of article 71 of the Constitution.
- Accredit diplomatic representatives of Andorra to foreign States. Foreign envoys present credentials to each of the two.
- Appoint the holders of office of the other institutions of the State in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.
- Sanction and enact the laws in accordance with article 63 of this Constitution.
- Express the consent of the State to honour its international treaties under the provisions of the Constitution.
This is the brief content of points of the international legal status of Andorra. And no matter how we call it - double subordination, double protectorate, or double suzerainty, the essence is clear: Andorra is an independent state, but its sovereignty is more or less limited by Spain and France.
We also note that in the history there are facts, when Abkhazia was to some extent under the "dual subordination" (at certain periods Abkhazian feudal principality was subordinated to both Georgia and the Ottoman Empire, while the Abkhazian Soviet Socialist Republic - to the Georgian SSR and the Transcaucasian Federation ).
The new government of Georgia should take into account that a local mistake in politics can be fixed relatively quickly, but when on top of this local mistake there is a strategic foreign policy one too, sometimes it may take decades to fix.
We have to realize one thing: whether we like it or not, all borders in the world are relative - it's a fact. There is no borders and territories established once and for all for one or another state. They permanently change according to changes occurred in the distribution of forces on the world political map. In other words, borders are directly linked to the position of a state: the state is weakened so its borders change, area is decreased; the state strengthens - borders change again, but in the opposite direction - territory expands ... Everyone thought that after the Second World War and especially after the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (1973) borders of the European states were finally established, but less than two decades after the conference and things have changed ... Unfortunately, erosion-disintegration processes affected Georgia severely. Mistakes were made, but the main thing now is to recover from this "global disease" with as smaller losses as possible.
Improvement of Russian-Georgian relations and neutralization of Abkhazian and South Ossetian separatism are closely related to each other. And economic ascent of Georgia (of course, with cooperation and efforts of Western countries) can play a significant role in resolving the problem of separatism. Georgia needs to get stronger, but not in a virtual world, as it was done by the now former ruling party but in reality through improving living standards, sharp improvement in social conditions. I think that this will help to speed up the process of resolution of problems with our northern neighbour.