As the West debates diplomatic and military means to end the war in Ukraine, it cannot ignore the lessons of its own past mistakes. Some of the most serious date back to Russia’s war on Georgia in 2008, when, as the invaded country’s head of state, I was in a situation similar to that of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.
There are many voices across the world calling for a “freezing” of the conflict in Ukraine, which would allow Russia to hold on to part of the country. But the Georgian experience shows that such a policy of appeasement is nothing but a time-bomb, a stage of escalation.… Seguir leyendo »
As the United States and its NATO allies are focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, Russia’s efforts to bring another country into its orbit has gone largely unnoticed. Like many countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, Georgia has a population that is largely pro-EU and pro-NATO, an orientation that has only been strengthened in the years since Moscow’s 2008 invasion of the country, which left Russia occupying some 20 percent of its territory. Yet Georgia’s current leaders have not only failed to support Ukraine in its own struggle against Russian aggression. They have also ramped up anti-Western propaganda efforts, earned praise from Moscow for not joining Western sanctions and trade restrictions on Russia, and emulated a Russian-style crackdown on Georgia’s vibrant civil society.… Seguir leyendo »
When Georgian lawmakers backed a controversial Kremlin-esque bill late Tuesday night, mayhem erupted outside Parliament. As the crowd of protesters grew larger and larger, riot police gathered at their flanks. All hell broke loose.
The riot police fired tear gas canisters into the crowd. They used batons and water cannons. The images were remarkable. In one, a woman waving a European Union flag takes on a fire hose — an apt metaphor for Georgian democracy.
By Thursday morning those protests had proved a success. The ruling party retracted its “foreign influence” bill, which would have required organizations receiving 20% or more of their annual income from abroad to register as “foreign agents” or face heavy fines.… Seguir leyendo »
As the world remains rightly focused on Vladimir Putin’s barbaric war in Ukraine, the Russian leader continues to advance his destabilizing, antidemocratic agenda in other places in the world. Among them is the small but strategically vital nation of Georgia, wedged between Russia and Turkey on the coast of the Black Sea.
Right now, Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili is languishing in detention there — by some accounts inching closer to death. The Biden administration and its allies can’t let that happen. It’s time for a global campaign to free Saakashvili now — precisely because of his past services to the cause of democracy in his homeland.… Seguir leyendo »
“Tbilisi is filled with Russian refugees”, read the 18-year-old woman’s diary entry. Soon after it was posted on social media in Georgia, it went viral, summing up the popular mood.
What’s striking about these words is that they were written in 1920, by a writer whose diary is a record of an era of uncertainty and hope. The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution had finally given tiny Georgia a chance at independence from the Russian empire. It also turned it into a refuge for thousands of Russians.
“They are running from the Bolsheviks and they are all coming here”, wrote Maro Makashvili as the newly-born liberal Georgian democracy opened its doors to thousands of Russians fleeing the revolution and the civil war it triggered.… Seguir leyendo »
When Russia’s modern tsar escalated his war by announcing the partial mobilisation of reservists on 21 September, another wave of anxiety swept over Georgia. With due acknowledgment that every word written from this region at the moment should be about, or in support of, the Ukrainian people and their struggle, this anxiety is why I’m diverting to focus briefly on how we see this brutal war from Georgia, which, thanks to historical and geopolitical misfortune, happens to be a southern neighbour of Russia.
The invasion of Ukraine has revived painful collective and personal memories of Russia’s 2008 war on Georgia. The trauma from this not-so-distant past rose to the surface again in February and has remained there.… Seguir leyendo »
¿Qué representan la guerra en Ucrania y los conflictos recientes en el espacio post soviético?
La reanudación de las hostilidades en Nagorno-Karabaj entre Armenia y Azerbaiyán y en la frontera de Kirguistán y Tayikistán, así como las tensiones continuas en los conflictos congelados de Transnistria (en Moldavia) y Osetia del Sur y Abjasia (en Georgia), han puesto de nuevo el foco sobre el espacio post soviético, planteando la cuestión de si la guerra en Ucrania es la causa de las hostilidades recientes y si podría tener un efecto dominó y crear más inestabilidad en la región.
La guerra en Ucrania no es la causa de las hostilidades, porque estas datan de mucho antes de aquella.… Seguir leyendo »
En menos de siete días tres Estados europeos han presentado su solicitud de adhesión a la Unión Europea. Entre el lunes 28 de febrero y el viernes 4 de marzo, Bruselas recibió sendas peticiones por parte de Ucrania, de Georgia y de Moldavia. Tres exrepúblicas soviéticas que, según la concepción geopolítica putiniana, habrían puesto en peligro la seguridad de Rusia con su acercamiento paulatino a Bruselas y, lo que es aún peor, a la órbita de la OTAN.
Desde Kiev los motivos para solicitar su adhesión al club de los 27 son más que evidentes: la invasión rusa y el consiguiente conflicto bélico.… Seguir leyendo »
Moscow’s disinformation tactics aimed to sow chaos, confusion, and panic both before and during the invasion of Ukraine – trying to paint a picture of Ukraine as the aggressor, conceal the civilian cost of the conflict, and even the dates of military operations.
Back in early January, US intelligence warned the Kremlin was planning a ‘false-flag operation’ as a precursor to the invasion, and Ukraine also suffered cyberattacks against government websites and banks, some of which have been attributed to the GRU – Russia’s military intelligence agency.
Ukraine is not alone in this, as Georgia has also been attempting to cope with a long-term information warfare storm from the Kremlin.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the Russian attack on Ukraine began on 24 February, popular support for the besieged country has been everywhere to be seen in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. Ukrainian flags hang on balconies and windows in distant suburbs, as well as by the doors of cafés and shops on downtown avenues. Every evening, the city centre becomes a sea of yellow and blue as thousands gather to show solidarity with Ukraine.
For many Georgians, the war recalls the Russian invasion of their own country in 2008. Following that five-day conflict, Russia recognised two Georgian breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and stationed its troops there.… Seguir leyendo »
Ever since Georgia gained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the country has aspired to full membership in European and transatlantic institutions. Saturday’s local elections come at a critical moment: Democratic institutions are under serious stress. And if that weren’t enough, now another crisis looms. On Friday, the authorities announced that they had arrested ex-president Mikheil Saakashvili.
Saakashvili excites intense emotions among his compatriots. He came to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003, which swept away a corrupt and stagnant predecessor regime. He and a group of dedicated reformers proceeded to accelerate the modernization of the country, making it the envy of advocates for change around the world.… Seguir leyendo »
One hundred years ago today, in February 1921, the Red Army marched into Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia. On that day, Georgia found itself under Soviet occupation and lost its freedom and place in the West. On Tuesday, Georgia once again stumbled on its Western path, as police forces stormed the main opposition party’s headquarters and arrested its leader, Nika Melia.
The United States and its European allies have been warning the current Georgian government to stick by the rules of democratic fair play. Now any such sense of restraint on the part of the authorities has fallen away.… Seguir leyendo »
Let’s starts with the conclusions. On 21 January 2021, The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) established Russia’s “effective control” over the Georgian occupied regions and found Russia responsible for five major categories of violations: “killing of civilians, torching and looting of houses in Georgian villages and expulsion of Georgian civilian population”; “denial of Georgian nationals to return to their homes in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia”; “unlawful and inhuman detention and treatment of Georgian civilians”; “torture of Georgian prisoners of war”; “failure to carry out an adequate and effective investigation into the killings committed during the active phase of hostilities and in the period of occupation.”… Seguir leyendo »
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia already operate within a fractured region, with large migrant populations abroad, and assume varying degrees of responsibility for the region’s separatist entities - Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorny Karabakh - whose long-term isolation makes them highly vulnerable to the pandemic.
All three South Caucasus states reported their first cases early - between February 26 and March 1 - and started responding shortly after. And the form and success of their response has been defined by the work each had put into developing their political, healthcare and economic institutions over the long term, and has put their ability to protect their citizens into stark relief.… Seguir leyendo »
The main thoroughfare of Tbilisi, known as Rustaveli Avenue, has borne witness to many a political reversal, from civil war to revolution. Since this summer, the tree-lined boulevard has once again seen throngs of protesters rise up against eccentric billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, who has ruled the country, both formally as prime minister and informally as the ultimate decision-maker behind his Georgian Dream party, since 2012. The protests are entering a critical phrase this week, and their success or failure could determine the democratic trajectory and geopolitical future of Georgia.
Since his ascent to power, Ivanishvili — an oligarch-turned-politician — has attempted to warm relations with Russia, which occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.… Seguir leyendo »
Nearly 11 years ago, on 14 August 2008, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced the preliminary examination of the situation in Georgia. The matter referred to the international armed conflict in Georgia’s breakaway region, South Ossetia, in what some commentators have named the first European war of the 21st century.
The region had been under the control of pro-Russian separatists since the early 1990s. Ongoing tensions and periodic armed clashes between the Georgian army and separatist forces escalated during July to early August 2008 with a series of explosions targeting, among others, both Georgian and separatist military and political leaders in South Ossetia.… Seguir leyendo »
Thirty years ago today, the dying Soviet empire lashed out at the people of Georgia. April 9, 1989, launched our country on its path to independence, freedom and democracy.
I was a teenager attending Public School No. 1, on the central avenue in my hometown of Tbilisi. The school stood just a short distance from the spot from where, on that fateful spring day, Soviet troops assaulted my countrymen in an attempt to crush our thirst for freedom. Thousands of people — some of them on hunger strikes — gathered spontaneously to demand independence from Russian rule. Moscow dispatched Soviet troops under the command of Russian general Igor Rodionov to stop it.… Seguir leyendo »
Days before the hotly contested Ukrainian presidential election on March 31, incumbent Petro Poroshenko’s party faces credible allegations of voter bribery. It’s not hard to guess what will happen next. The oligarchic clique will steal the election, and in response, international observers will accuse local authorities of vote-rigging. But instead of addressing the symptoms of democratic backsliding, it’s time to treat the root cause: informal power.
Moldova offers a textbook example. Oil and banking tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc bankrolls the country’s second-largest political force and has forged alliances with other parties to consolidate power. Although Plahotniuc exerts total control over parliament, law enforcement and the courts, he has no interest in running for office.… Seguir leyendo »
Georgia’s election on 28 November of former French diplomat and Georgian foreign minister Salome Zurabishvili as the region’s first elected female head of state since independence might appear to be a substantial achievement for a country that has been positively cited in its moves towards a more democratic culture.
But the election was marred by physical violence, vote-buying, misuse of state resources and a substantial imbalance in donations between the parties. And the presidency itself is, after constitutional changes, largely ceremonial. The assumption that Georgia continues to move along a trajectory of democratic governance is far from the reality.
Although mostly free, with voters having a genuine choice between a record number of first round participants, the elections were not fair.… Seguir leyendo »
The stakes in the second round of Georgia’s presidential elections, scheduled for Wednesday, could not be higher — for Georgia and the West. Either Georgia will demonstrate that it has passed the point of being a transitional, post-Soviet democracy and earned its place in the European family, or its image as a modernizing democracy will suffer a major blow, pulling Georgia back into a post-Soviet limbo.
Most important is that this election be peaceful, free and fair, and that both sides must accept the outcome, regardless of who wins. In the first round of the election on Oct. 28, emotions ran high, political debate often turned into ugly personal attacks, and the threat of violence and popular unrest came close to becoming a reality.… Seguir leyendo »