Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Introduction

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, territories in the South Caucasus – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – all sought independence. Intercultural ethnic disputes for ethnic survival and self-determination then escalated in Georgia. Some clashes were already evident at the beginning of the 1990’s in South Ossetia. Major clashes then occurred in 1992-1993 between Georgia and Abkhazia. Finally, another one occurred in August 2008. This five-day war started between Georgia and South Ossetia, but later involved Abkhazia. After the war, Abkhazia and South Ossetia pursued independence, strongly backed by Russia. Now, the situation is in a frozen deadlock, where Georgia, backed by the West, refuses to recognize regions’ independence and seeks to restore the Georgian Republic to its full territorial integrity instead.

Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia region and the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia.

GEORGIA

Georgia was an independent kingdom until being annexed by Russia in the 19th century[1]. According to the Georgian Government, Russia ignored Georgian habits and traditions and sought to eradicate Georgian language and culture[2]. Nevertheless, with Russia’s recognition, Georgia regained independence in 1917, but, in 1921, was invaded by the Red Army[3]. The territory then remained a part of the Soviet Union until 1991.

Georgian nationalism began to emerge in the late-1980’s and intensified in the 1990’s, causing tension[4]. Largely due to radicalizing nationalist movements, Georgia finally gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union[5]. Abkhazian and South Ossetian ethnic independence movements were excluded from this process. Hence, Georgia’s, which is home to over 80 ethnic groups, ethnic diversity added to the cause of violent clashes[6]. Mistrust and suspicion of unfolding events made it difficult for Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia reach any effective peace agreement; instead, disputes for ethnic survival escalated into violence and war[7]. During the clashes in the early 1990’s and in 2008, Georgian forces were repressive and aggressive by targeting civilians and their property[8]. At the same time, Georgia claimed that Russia sought to annex Abkhazia and was placing pressure on South Ossetia. Since Georgia believed the regions were highly influenced by Russia, Georgia considered it to be its responsibility to maintain sovereignty of these autonomous but separatist regions. Hence, even in the post-2008 war, Georgian government remained committed to reintegrating rebellious regions[9]. Today, Georgia is, arguably, highly influenced by the West, namely the US and European Union (EU), with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) membership aspirations[10].

RUSSIA

In the wake of its rise at the beginning of the 20th century, the Bolshevik party formed a 70-year long one-party rule over the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, as some ex-Soviet Union states argued, Russia, its successor state, sought to re-establish its dominance through economic and cultural influence[11]. Under the rule of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s politics resulted in many domestic and foreign policy changes. The central foreign policy of his administration has been foreign trade, improving Russia’s investment position[12], and securing reliance on Russia’s energy, oil and gas exports.

Additionally, the oil line running through Abkhazia has become an important resource strategically, allowing Russia to use natural resources as leverage[13]. The Abkhazian dispute strained relations between Russia and the West such as the EU and US. Nevertheless, countries continued to send peacekeeping missions, arm the respective parties, and hold conferences to find a peaceful solution[14]. Tensions with Georgia increased in mid-2006 as Russia was backing separatists’ demands in South Ossetia[15]. Additionally, in the post-2008 war period, Russia formally recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states while the West and Georgia refused to recognize the regions separate from Georgia.

ABKHAZIA[16]

Abkhazia is a region in the north-western corner of Georgia,[17] with Russian as one of the most-spoken languages after Abkhazian. The Russian Revolution in 1917 allowed for the formation of an independent Georgia, which also included Abkhazia. But in 1921, after the Red Army occupied Georgia, Stalin granted Abkhazia the status of an autonomous republic within Georgia and encouraged ethnic Georgians to migrate to the region[18]. Despite an increase in Georgians, Abkhazia formally remained an autonomous republic within Soviet Georgia. A genuine autonomy was low with rising Georgia’s nationalistic sentiments suppressing Abkhaz ethnic culture[19]. The Georgian Communist Party widely practiced the Georgianization of Abkhazia, e.g. closed Abkhazian schools, forbade and stopped publishing Abkhaz books, ethnic Georgians comprised the majority of government officials[20]. Nevertheless, after Stalin’s death, Soviet government encouraged Abkhazia to develop its own ethnic culture through language and literature, strengthened Abkhazia’s autonomy and role in the government[21].

In the early 1990’s Georgian independence from the USSR led to fears in the future of Abkhazia’s newly exercised autonomy. Hence, Abkhazians believed that the only route to ethnic survival was a nonalignment from Georgian territory[22]. Supporters wishing to break from Georgia became increasingly vocal, leading to a fight in 1992-1993, which resulted in a war. Nearly the entire Georgian-speaking population fled the republic in what Georgia described as a campaign of ethnic cleansing[23]. Following the events, in 1994, the parties agreed on a ceasefire, but the dispute remained unresolved because of political status disagreements. Eventually, in 1999, Abkhazia officially adopted an independence act, naming Sukhumi as its capital[24]. Because of Russian recognition and eased conditions to obtain Russian passports, Abkhazia became highly dependent economically on Russia[25]. The dependency also rose again after the 2008 war, since Russia and its allies – Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Nauru – formally recognized Abkhazia’s de facto independence. Due to this changed environment, three years after the Russia’s 2008 recognition of Abkhazia’s independence, on 26 August 2011, Abkhazia was already holding its fifth presidential elections[26]. Russia took no visible role, claiming that whoever won would not change relations, while Georgia deemed another election to be illegal and unlawful[27]. In 2010, Russian and Abkhazian separatists signed an agreement to establish a Russian military base in Abkhazia. It was also a focal point for Russia during the August 2008 war[28], which allowed Russian guards to patrol the boundaries of Abkhazia (as well as South Ossetia). This caused tensions, which resulted in an April 2011 shootout[29]. Between 2009 and 2013, Russian investment in Abkhazia amounted to 60% of Abkhazia’s annual budget, making Russia its primary trading partner. Recent Abkhazia-Russia meetings have additionally strengthened the economic ties, [30] while relations with Georgia remain unchanged.

SOUTH OSSETIA

South Ossetia, also known as Tskhinvali Region, is officially part of Georgia and is separated from Russia’s North Ossetia region by a border in the Caucasus Mountains[31]. Following the Russian Revolution, South Ossetia became a part of Georgia. The tensions were growing since South Ossetia was highly excluded from central government policy proceedings, which later turned into ethnic disputes[32]. In the 1920’s North Ossetia sided with Bolshevik forces. South Ossetia, in 1922, formed an autonomous region in Georgia granted by the Bolsheviks in return for their help in fighting Democratic Republic of Georgia[33]. In the Soviet Georgia, autonomous South Ossetia enjoyed cultural autonomy such as speaking their own language and active ethnic interaction with other minorities and Georgians[34]. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union’s collapse and Georgian’s nationalistic movements strengthened South Ossetia’s ethnic intentions for self-determination. After several outbreaks of violence between Georgians and South Ossetians, in 1990 the region declared a secession from Georgia and de facto independence[35]. However, until the summer of 1992, fighting was constant suppressing South Ossetia’s ethnic self-determination. The peace agreement was reached only after the deployment of Georgian, Ossetian, and Russian peacekeepers[36]. Until 2006 the environment was stabilized, despite some disputes.

In 2006 referendum, South Ossetians overwhelmingly voted to restate their demands for independence. Georgia did not recognize the referendum, and tensions continued to rise, reaching a peak in early August 2008. After nearly a week of clashes between Georgian and South Ossetian forces, Georgia launched an air and ground assault attack, briefly gaining control of South Ossetia’s capital Tskhinvali[37]. Consequently, Russia declared protection with tanks, air raids and ground troops to South Ossetia and took control over the region[38]. Following the 2008 conflict, Russia, alongside its Latin American allies and a few islands in the Pacific, recognized South Ossetia’s independence[39]. The region appointed a de facto president, and officially announced plans to review a reunification with Russia[40]. Such plans came from intentions to join North Ossetia. However, the referendum was not held. Moscow declared that the referendum was badly timed due to severe diplomatic and international relations issues within the international community[41]. Russia’s influence over South Ossetia continued and in 2015, Russia signed an “alliance and integration agreement” with South Ossetian separatists that abolished border checkpoints[42].

ADDITIONAL ON GEORGIA, SOUTH OSSETIA AND ABKHAZIA[43]

Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s secessionist aims were highly influenced by Russian support[44]. However, David Darchiashvili – a senior Georgian parliamentarian and the Chairman of the influential Parliamentary Committee on European Integration, – argues that the ‘process of ‘awakening’ in these ethnic groups was due to a Georgian ‘rebirth’[45]. As the Soviet Union unravelled, several of Georgia’s myriad ethnic groups intensified their calls for self-determination. By the time of the rise of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a strong nationalist and the first democratically elected president of a post-Soviet Georgia, in the 1990’s, Abkhazia and South Ossetia had become suspicious of the Georgian state. Because of nationalistic slogans such as ‘Georgia for Georgians’, Abkhaz and South Ossetians were fearing for their fate of ethnic and cultural rights and ethnic identity loss. This also threatened the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Georgia, especially when Zviad Gamakhurdia forced South Ossetia to demand reunification with the Russian territory of North Ossetia. Abkhazia, on the other hand, had been incorporated into Georgia by Stalin. Historic ties with the USSR, and then Russia, were thus long established. Additionally, regions’ divergent historical, cultural, political aspects determined high pursuits for independence. Therefore, the hostility made ethnic Georgians living in the two regions become refugees themselves, posing high threats to country’s integrity and peace. While the conflicts in Abkhazia and in South Ossetia were highly similar, they still posed different challenges and outcomes. The West’s preliminary hostility towards Russia in the post-Soviet environment encouraged it to side with Georgia as conflict arose.

References

[1] “Georgia Profile – Overview.” BBC News, 22 January 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17302106. Accessed April 30, 2017.

[2]“About Georgia.” Government of Georgia, 2014, http://gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=193. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[3] “About Georgia.” Government of Georgia, 2014, http://gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=193. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[4] Wolff, Stefan. “Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Encyclopaedia Princetonians, 2016, https://pesd.princeton.edu/?q=node/274. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[5] “Georgia Profile – Overview.” BBC News, 22 January 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17302106. Accessed 30 April 2017.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Golliday, Lynn, and Jessica May. “Who’s to blame? Western Responses to the 2008 Georgia – Russia – South Ossetia Conflict.” 2009, https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:d69f9859-4c0c-4e94-9d1e-9fb3a778378d. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[8] “Georgia/Russia, Human Rights Watch’s Report on the Conflict in South Ossetia.” International Committee of the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, 23 January 2009, https://casebook.icrc.org/case-study/georgiarussia-human-rights-watchs-report-conflict-south-ossetia. Accessed 6 March 2017.

[9] McCulloch, Caitlin. “Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Russia’s Troubling Policy Towards Post-Soviet States.” Muftah, 16 September 2016, http://muftah.org/abkhazia-south-ossetia-case-russias-troubling-policy-towards-post-soviet-states/#.WKZ1xvl97Dc. Accessed 17 February 2017.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Burke, Justin. “Post-Soviet world: what you need to know about the 15 states.” The Guardian, 9 June 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/09/-sp-profiles-post-soviet-states.  Accessed 2 March 2017.

[12] “Library of Congress – Federal Research Division.” Library of Congress, October 2006, https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/cs/profiles/Russia.pdf. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[13] “Russia Profile – Overview.” BBC News, 20 September 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-17839881. Accessed 30 April 2017.

[14] Ibid.

[15] “Library of Congress – Federal Research Division.” Library of Congress, October 2006, https://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/cs/profiles/Russia.pdf. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[16] Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, 2017, http://abkhazia.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG. Accessed 19 February 2017.

[17] “Abkhazia profile.” BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.

[18] German, Tracey. “Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Collision of Georgian and Russian Interests.” IFRI, June 2006,  https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/germananglais.pdf. Accessed 29 January 2017.

[19] “Abkhazia profile”. BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.

[20] Shenfield, Stephen. “The Stalin-Beria terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953.” Abkhaz World, 30 June 2010, http://abkhazworld.com/aw/history/499-stalin-beria-terror-in-abkhazia-1936-53-by-stephen-shenfield. Accessed on 2 May 2017.

[21] “Abkhazia profile.” BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.

[22] Wolff, Stefan. “Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Encyclopaedia Princetonians, 2016, https://pesd.princeton.edu/?q=node/274. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[23] “Abkhazia profile.” BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.

[24] “Abkhazia profile.” BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.  

[25] “Abkhazia profile.” BBC News, 7 December 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18175030. Accessed 9 January 2017.

[26] “Abkhazia: Presidential Choice made.” RT International, 28 August 2011, https://www.rt.com/news/abkhazia-elections-president-ankvab-275/. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[27] Schwirtz, Michael. “In Russia’s Shadow, Abkhazia Elects President.” The New York Times, 27 August 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/world/europe/28abkhaz.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FAbkhazia. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[28] Schwirtz, Michael. “Russia: Military Pact with Abkhazia.” The New York Times, 17 February 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/world/europe/18briefs-MILITARYPACT_BRF.html. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[29] Barry, Ellen. “Georgia: Shootout in Abkhazia.” The New York Times, 8 April 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/europe/09briefs-Georgia.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FAbkhazia. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[30] “Abkhazia – Russia’s tight embrace.” European Council on Foreign Relations, 1 September 2016, http://www.ecfr.eu/article/essay_abkhazia_russias_tight_embrace. Accessed on 2 March 2017.

[31] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[32] Souleimanov, Emil. “Understanding Ethnopolitical Conflict: Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia Wars Reconsidered”. Palgrave, 2013.

[33] “Russian Federation: Legal Aspects of War in Georgia”. Library of Congress, 6 September 2015, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/russian-georgia-war.php. Accessed 2 May 2017.

[34] “Russian Federation: Legal Aspects of War in Georgia”. Library of Congress, 6 September 2015, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/russian-georgia-war.php. Accessed 2 May 2017.

[35] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[36] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[37] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[38] Walker, Peter. “Georgia declares ‘state of war’ over South Ossetia.” The Guardian, 9 August 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/aug/09/georgia.russia2. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[39] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[40] Lomsadze, Giorgi. “South Ossetia Plans Referendum on Unification with Russia.” Eurasianet, 20 October 2015, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/75626. Accessed 20 January 2017.

[41] Lomsadze, Giorgi. “South Ossetia Plans Referendum on Unification with Russia.” Eurasianet, 20 October 2015, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/75626. Accessed 20 January 2017.

[42] “South Ossetia profile.” BBC News, 26 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18269210. Accessed 19 January 2017.

[43] German, Tracey. “Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Collision of Georgian and Russian Interests.” IFRI, June 2006,  https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/germananglais.pdf. Accessed 29 January 2017.

[44] Gerrits W. M., Andre, and Max Bader. “Russian patronage over Abkhazia and South Ossetia: implications for conflict resolution.” East European Politics, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2016, pp. 297-313.

[45] Darchiashvili, David. “The South Caucasus: a challenge for the EU.” Chapter 7, Institute for Security Studies, December 2003, Chaillot Papers No. 65, pp. 107-128.

HISTORY[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]     

1989: Demonstrations occurred in Tbilisi as Georgians protested Soviet rule. Ethnic clashes occurred in Abkhazia, as well as more violent clashes between Ossetians, who demanded more autonomy, and Georgians in South Ossetia.

1990: South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia.

1991: Georgia became independent on 9 April after being a part of the USSR since 1921. Abkhazia voted in a Soviet referendum to stay in the Soviet Union, but it dissolved in December. From March to April and then again in mid-September, the most intense violent clashes between Georgia and South Ossetia occurred.

1992: Abkhazia declared its territory as a sovereign state. Fighting began between separatist Abkhazian troops, who fought for self-determination, and the Georgian army. In June 1992, Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia signed the Sochi ceasefire agreement.

1993: Georgian troops were driven out of Abkhazia by separatist forces. In July 1993, in addition to June 1992 Sochi agreement, Abkhazia and Georgia signed another ceasefire. In August, the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) began to verify compliance with the July 1993 Sachi ceasefire agreement, which was signed between the Government of Georgia and the Abkhaz authorities in Georgia[14].

1993: In September the ceasefire broke down, clashes between Georgian and Abkhazian forces renewed.

1994: On 14 May, Georgia and Abkhazia signed a ceasefire witnessed by representatives from Russia, the UN, and the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russian peacekeepers began to patrol the disputed region. Abkhazia created the Presidential post. UNOMIG’s mandate was expanded following the 1994 Agreement signing[15].

1999: Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia.

2004: Mikheil Saakashvili won Georgian presidential elections, promising to bring South Ossetia and Abkhazia under governmental control. Unrecognized second presidential elections were held in Abkhazia, ultimately demonstrating Abkhazia’s commitment to self-determination. However, the elected president was accused of being pro-Georgian, while Georgia did not recognize the candidates or elections. This created some disturbances and eventually led to third presidential election in the following year.

2008:[16][17][18]

April: After a NATO summit, Russia declared that NATO’s expansion was a direct threat to its security. Consequently, Russia officially authorized relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia by signing a decree[19] and increased the number of their peacekeeping troops in Abkhazia to counter alleged plans of Georgia’s attack.

May: Georgia opposed an increase of Russian peacekeepers and showed a footage, claiming that the footage proved that Russia was conducting military deployments instead of peacekeeping troops[20].

June: Russia deployed forces for railroad restoration, Georgia responded with a use of force. Abkhazia threatened to close the border with Georgia because of explosions and military attacks by Georgian forces in Sukhumi and where Russian peacekeepers were situated[21].

July: Russia undertook military exercises in the North Caucasus. South Ossetian separatists became aggressively hostile towards Georgia because of aggravating security situation, when a few South Ossetian soldiers were killed. In response, South Ossetia attacked the Georgian-backed Ossetian government leader. Georgia started carrying out US-led military exercises near Tbilisi. The area became increasingly militarized. Eventually, firefights broke out between South Ossetian and Georgian forces[22]. Violent clashes from June continued between Abkhazian and Georgian forces.

August: An improvised explosion on Georgian police near Tskhinvali escalated further fighting between Ossetian and Georgian forces. Georgia tried to take Tskhinvali by launching an operation and opening fire targets in South Ossetia, but Russia responded with air raids and assisted South Ossetia from being taken by Georgia. In response to Georgian aggression in South Ossetia, Abkhazia started a military operation in Kodori Gorge[23], a river valley in Abkhazia. Russia sided with Abkhazia and sent additional peacekeeping troops. Russians and Georgians signed a peace agreement negotiated by France, but occasional attacks continued.

Casualties of the 5-day conflict[24]:

Georgia: 170 servicemen, 14 policemen, and 228 civilians killed, 1,747 wounded;

Russia: 67 servicemen killed, 283 wounded;

South Ossetia: 365 servicemen and civilians killed;

Abkhazia: 1 killed, 2 wounded.

Additionally, more than 100,000 individuals were displaced, of which 20,272 remain displaced[25].

September: Russia signed treaties with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which allowed it to maintain military bases in both areas. Moscow declared this would deter outside attacks on the regions.

October: Following the ceasefire, Russia and Georgia commenced the Geneva Talks, which offered a mediation process for Georgia and Russia over breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

2009: Russia signed a five-year agreement with South Ossetia and Abkhazia to take formal control of their frontiers with Georgia. The UNOMIG ended, which the UN failed to extend because of a Russian veto. This termination created more ambiguity in the region.

2014: Russia’s and Abkhazia’s presidents signed a treaty to set up a collective defence, coordinated foreign policy, and integration of trade laws. Georgia responded by calling this a ‘de facto annexation’ while NATO refused to recognize the treaty. Meanwhile, EU and Georgia signed an association agreement, a far-reaching trade partnership deal.

2015: Russia started putting more pressure on Georgia over South Ossetia by signing an ‘alliance and integration agreement’ with South Ossetia that abolished border checkpoints.

2016: The Hague International Criminal Court authorized an investigation of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Georgia and Russia in South Ossetia and ‘buffer zones’[26].

References

[1] “Timeline: Georgia and South Ossetia.” Al Jazeera English, 5 May 2009, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2008/08/2008881110549876.html. Accessed 2 February 2017.

[2] “Timeline: Georgia.” BBC News, 31 January 2012, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1102575.stm. Accessed 2 February 2017.

[3] Jones, Stephen. “Clash in the Caucasus: Georgia, Russia, and the Fate of South Ossetia.” ORIGINS, November 2008, http://origins.osu.edu/article/clash-caucasus-georgia-russia-and-fate-south-ossetia/page/0/1. Accessed 17 February 2017.

[4] Stewart, Elizabeth. “Timeline: South Ossetia.” The Guardian, 8 August 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/aug/08/georgia.russia5. Accessed 2 February 2017.

[5] Petersen, Alexandros. “The 1992-93 Georgia-Abkhazia war: A Forgotten Conflict”. Caucasian Review of International Affairs, Autumn 2008, http://cria-online.org/5_3.html. Accessed 14 April 2017.

[6] Crow, Alexis. “Georgia-Russia Conflict Timeline (includes South Ossetia and Abkhazia).” RUSI, 11 August 2008, https://rusi.org/commentary/georgia-russia-conflict-timeline-includes-south-ossetia-and-abkhazia. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[7] “State Ministry for Reintegration Renamed.” Civil Georgia. 2 January 2014, http://civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=26842. Accessed 2 February 2017.

[8] “Georgia Abkhazia: Leader ‘Flees’ Protesters in Sukhumi.” BBC News, 28 May 2014, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27600919. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[9] “NATO ‘Doesn’t Recognize So Called Treaty’ Between Moscow and Sokhumi”. Civil Georgia, 25 November 2014, http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27852. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[10] Herszenhorn, David M. “Pact Tightens Russian Ties With Abkhazia.” The New York Times, 24 November 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/world/europe/pact-tightens-russian-ties-with-abkhazia.html?_r=2. Accessed 2 February 2017.

[11] “Sokhumi Publishes List of Sanctions Against Turkey.” Civil Georgia, 19 January 2016, http://civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=28921. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[12] Janjevic, Darko. “Abkhazia Leader Calls for Calm After Riots.” Deutsche Welle, 6 July 2016, http://www.dw.com/en/abkhazia-leader-calls-for-calm-after-riots/a-19381948. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[13] “Georgia-South Ossetia: conflict chronology.” The Telegraph, August 2008, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2522729/Georgia-South-Ossetia-conflict-chronology.html. Accessed 17 February 2017.

[14] “UNOMIG: United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – Background.” UN, UNOMIG, 2009, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unomig/background.html. Accessed 12 March 2017.

[15] “UNOMIG: United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – Background.” UN, UNOMIG, 2009, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unomig/background.html. Accessed 12 March 2017.

[16] “August 2008 Russian-Georgian war: Timeline.” IWPR, 8 August 2013, https://iwpr.net/global-voices/august-2008-russian-georgian-war-timeline. Accessed 17 February 2017.

[17] “Chronology of Events Unfolding in Conflict Region of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in March-July 2008”. Parliament of Georgia, 2008, http://www.parliament.ge/en/ajax/downloadFile/20777/Chronology_08. Accessed 15 April 2017.

[18] Report: “Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia”. CEIIG, September 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20110706223037/http://www.ceiig.ch/pdf/IIFFMCG_Volume_II.pdf. Accessed 30 April 2017.

[19] Socor, Vladimir. “Russia moves towards open annexation of Abkhazia, South Ossetia”. The Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, April 2008, Vol. 5, Issue 74, https://jamestown.org/program/russia-moves-toward-open-annexation-of-abkhazia-south-ossetia/. Accessed 15 April 2017.

[20] “Georgia condemns Russian actions”. BBC News, 18 May 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7406782.stm. Accessed 15 April 2017.

[21] Harding, Luke. “Abkhazia closes border with Georgia after blast.” The Guardian, 1 July 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jul/01/terrorism.georgia. Accessed 4 March 2017.

[22] “One dies, four injured in S. Ossetia shootout.” Civil Georgia, 16 June 2008, http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=18548. Accessed 4 March 2017.

[23] Kachayev, Ilya. “Abkhaz separatists strike disputed Georgia gorge”. Reuters, 9 August 2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-georgia-abkhazia-kodori-idUSL932653720080809. Accessed 15 April 2017.

[24] “2008 Georgia Russia Conflict Fast Facts”. CNN, (updated) 26 March 2017, http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/13/world/europe/2008-georgia-russia-conflict/. Accessed 15 April 17.

[25] “Status of Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia”. UN General Assembly, 7 May 2014, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/68/868. Accessed 15 April 2017.

[26] Gigova, Radina. “ICC opens investigation into Georgia-Russia war”. CNN, 28 January 2016, http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/27/world/icc-investigation-georgia-russia-war/. Accessed 15 April 2017.

1992 SOCHI AGREEMENT[1] [2]

Due to prior hostilities in South Ossetia, the agreement was signed between Republic of Georgia, the Russian Federation, and the Autonomous Province of South Ossetia. The agreement aimed to:

  • define the conflict zone and security corridor;
  • establish a trilateral Joint Peacekeeping Force (JPKF) with Georgian, Russian, and South Ossetian units.

The parties were to express adherence to the agreement:

  • with a need to maintain peace and solidarity;
  • from 28 June 1992, within three days, terminate all military activities and withdraw arms;
  • declare a cease-fire;
  • immediately disband South-Ossetian self-defence forces;
  • create the Joint Control Commission (JCC) to monitor, supervise and observe the agreement execution, alongside the participation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

In October 1994, JCC expanded mission and was responsible for:

  • promoting dialogue and political settlement,
  • implementing settlement measures,
  • coordinating activities of the JPKF,
  • providing economic conflict zone restoration,
  • monitoring human rights and protecting national minorities in the conflict zone.

Result: Since 1992 the JPKF deployed and set up checkpoints in the conflict zone and security corridor (on the South Ossetian side). However:

  • JPKF had rarely extended its activities outside the corridor and conflict zone to other districts and villages;
  • the parties did not promote multi-ethnic coexistence, but rather dominance of the majority groups;
  • the population was reduced, inter-ethic mixing was lost, and only a handful of ethnically mixed villages survived in South Ossetia.

In 1996, as an extension, the parties signed the Memorandum to Enhance Security and Confidence Building Measures, agreeing to reduce JPKF frontier posts and guards. Additionally, the peacekeeping and conflict settlement evolved because of economic rehabilitation and refugee return commitments. The negotiation process was slow with lengthy periods of inactivity and rare meetings, however. Attempts to start negotiations on the political settlements did not begin until February 1999.

1993 SACHI AGREEMENT – AGREEMENT ON CEASEFIRE IN ABKHAZIA AND ON MECHANISM TO ENSURE ITS OBSERVANCE[3]

Agreement was signed in July 1993 between Georgia and Abkhazia under the UN and with Russia as mediator, which envisioned:

  • a cease-fire,
  • a moratorium on the use of force,
  • the creation of the trilateral Georgian-Abkhazian-Russian control group to monitor and enforce the cease-fire.
  • the withdrawal of all Georgian and Abkhazian military units from the combat zone after 10-15 days,
  • negotiations for the renewal of a final conflict settlement.

In consultation with the UN Secretary General and Security Council, the agreement also stationed international observers and peace-keeping forces – UNOMIG.

Result: Despite negotiations and agreements, ongoing ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Abkhazian authorities was generating large flows of Georgian refugees. Eventually, the parties agreed to deploy peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia, where Georgia wanted Western countries to dominate the peacekeeping force. Instead, Russian troops came to be a part of the UN international peacekeeping force. Since the deployment of Russian peacekeepers was for a very short post-ceasefire period, Georgian and Abkhazian forces did not engage in hostile military actions. However, little progress was made towards a political settlement that would enable the peacekeepers to withdraw,[4] especially regarding the unresolved issue of Georgian refugee resettlements.

1994 AGREEMENT ON A CEASEFIRE AND SEPERATION OF FORCES

Minor clashes after the 1993 agreement led to another agreement signed on 14 May 1994:

  • Georgia and Abkhazia agreed on a ceasefire signed in and witnessed by Russia, the UN, and the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe representatives.
  • The agreement was officially recognized in the UN Security Council Resolution, Nr. #934.

Under this initiative, Georgia and Abkhazia agreed to:

  • refrain from military actions on land, sea, and air;
  • map out a demilitarized zone;
  • deploy troops from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping forces;
  • expand UNOMIG’s mandate to verify 1993 ceasefire compliance[5].

Result: The second deployment of troops never occurred, with eliminated international legitimacy in July 1994 when UN endorsed Russia’s intervention as a UN peacekeeping operation[6]. The deal was supported, but on 14 September 1994, Abkhaz leaders called for all ethnic Georgians to exit Abkhazian territory[7]. The US State Department condemned this action, while the UN High Commissioner for Refugees accused Abkhazian militias of torturing, murdering, and pursuing an ethnic cleansing of Georgian refugees[8]. Similarly to 1993 Sachi agreement, little progress was made for peacekeepers to withdraw. The situation on the ground remained unsettled, but calm. UNOMIG continued the mandate until 2009[9].

 2006 – CONFLICT-RESOLUTION PROCESS[10]

The EU became more involved in the region’s conflict mediation and Georgia also favoured the idea of internationalisation. A first involvement was in summer 2006. The EU issued a memorandum for the conflict-resolution format internationalisation, which granted a credible third-party involvement in the negotiation process. Hence, European Commission was approved the status of a direct, but unofficial observer and negotiator. Until 2008 the EU was mainly facilitating conflict resolution through economic rehabilitation, development of conflict areas and confidence-building programmes, supporting the conflict transformation initiatives.

Result: The situation showed very little room for confidence building with no sustained economic relations. As much as the EU’s involvement was crucial, the deployment of EU peacekeeping troops never happened. Some of its member states were hesitant to engage as it could disturb EU’s internal activities and complicate relations with Russia[11]. Despite its attempts to facilitate conflict resolution and stability, war still broke out in 2008.

2008 JULY – FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER PROPOSAL[12][13]

Following violence in Abkhazia, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier introduced a “Georgia/Abkhazia: Elements for a Peaceful Settlement of the Conflict” plan to the UN:

  • The first phase included declarations renouncing violence and the return of around 250,000 refugees to Abkhazia.
  • The second phase saw the beginning of reconstruction work, with Berlin organizing a donors’ conference to boost necessary funds.
  • The third phase involved finding a political solution to the conflict, essentially whether Abkhazia should or should not be recognized as independent.

Result: Abkhazian separatists insisted that Georgia withdrew its troops from the Kodori Gorge, a river valley in Abkhazia, before further talks could be held and disagreed with the level of autonomy offered. Meanwhile, Georgia refused because the document dismissed Georgia’s territorial integrity and accepted the continuation of Russian peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia[14].

2008 AUGUST/SEPTEMBER – AGREEMENT BETWEEN TBILISI AND MOSCOW[15]

Because of series of lower-level clashes between Georgian and Russian-backed rebels, deadly tensions in August 2008 led to a full-blown military conflict between Georgia and Russia[16]. The eruption of deadly hostilities caused the international community to act and respond. With France’s leadership, the EU was directly involved in the mediation process instead of promoting a peaceful discourse. The cease-fire proposal drafted in early August was negotiated twice. It observed three issues:

  • a cessation of hostilities;
  • a recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity;
  • a rapid reestablishment of the status quo ante.

Georgia and later Russia accepted the proposal. But Russia excluded the requirement to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity. The latter caused hostility and reluctance on signing the peace agreement, delaying troops’ withdrawal. Eventually, the EU mediation brought the parties to a cease-fire and established a monitoring mission in Georgia. Additionally, the EU launched an international fact-finding mission to investigate the origins and the course of the conflict.

Result: The cease-fire mediation remained vague and the process was relatively slow and inconsistent, as parties were not directly brought to the talks but rather consulted separately. On one hand, a lasting peace was not reached, but on the other hand, the overall situation was stabilized.

2009 – GENEVA TALKS[17]

Following the 2008 mediation, Geneva talks in cooperation with UN, OSCE, and the EU facilitated peace talks between Russia and Georgia:

  • promoted prevention and response to incidents through mechanisms establishment that would permit weekly meetings between international security monitors and local security officials in the areas of tension;
  • created a 24-hour hotline and agreed on parties’ regular joint visits to defuse tensions.

Result[18]: The Geneva talks were conducted in the form of ongoing accusations – each party blamed another for unsuccessful peace settlements. Content challenges were also apparent, resulting in disrupted negotiations with representatives walking out. Since the peace process did not oblige any of the party to act on what was agreed, the success was tied to the ‘good will’ of the conflict parties. Nevertheless, the Geneva forum provided internationalized mediation efforts and generated institutional and political incentives to elaborate on concrete positions.

References

[1] “Report for Congress, Georgia-Russia 1992 Sochi Agreement.” The Law Library of Congress, 2008, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/reports/pdf/2008-01419.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[2] “Georgia: Avoiding war in South Ossetia.” International Crisis Group, 26 November 2004, http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/UNTC/UNPAN019224.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[3] “Chapter 5: Georgia-Abkhazia.” RAND Corporation, 2017, http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF129/CF-129-chapter5.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[4] “Chapter 5: Georgia-Abkhazia.” RAND Corporation, 2017, http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF129/CF-129-chapter5.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[5] “UNOMIG: United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – Background.” UNOMG, 2009, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unomig/background.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[6] “Chapter 5: Georgia-Abkhazia.” RAND Corporation, 2017, http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF129/CF-129-chapter5.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[7] “UNOMIG: United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia – Background.” UN, UNOMIG, 2009, http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/past/unomig/background.html. Accessed 12 March 2017.

[8] Ibed.

[9] “Chapter 5: Georgia-Abkhazia.” RAND Corporation, 2017, http://www.rand.org/pubs/conf_proceedings/CF129/CF-129-chapter5.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[10] Grono, Frichova Magdalena. “Georgia’s conflicts: what role for the EU as a mediator?” International Alert, March 2010,  http://georgica.tsu.edu.ge/files/05-Security/Frichova-2010.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[11] Fischer, Sabine. “The EU and Conflict Resolution.” The EU Institute for Security Studies, 15 October 2007, http://www.iss.europa.eu/uploads/media/rep07-The_EU_and_conflict_resolution_in_Georgia.pdf. Accessed 5 March 2017.

[12] “Calming the Caucasus: Germany Proposes Peace Plan for Abkhazia.” Spiegel Online, 7 July 2008, http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/calming-the-caucasus-germany-proposes-peace-plan-for-abkhazia-a-564246.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[13] “Abkhazia Rejects Peace Plan.” Al Jazeera English, 18 July 2008, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/europe/2008/07/2008718103851933285.html. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[14] “Some Details of German Abkhaz Plan Reported.” Civil Georgia, 23 July 2008, http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=18830. Accessed 4 March 2017.   

[15] Forsberg, Tuomas. “The EU as a peace-maker in the Russo-Georgian war.” University of Tampere, 2010, https://www.jhubc.it/ecpr-porto/virtualpaperroom/136.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[16] “Timeline: Georgia.” BBC News, 31 January 2012, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1102575.stm. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[17] Forsberg, Tuomas. “The EU as a peace-maker in the Russo-Georgian war.” University of Tampere, 2010, https://www.jhubc.it/ecpr-porto/virtualpaperroom/136.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[18] Mikhelidze, Nona. “The Geneva Talks over Georgia’s Territorial Conflicts: Achievements and Challenges.” The Istituto Affari Internazionali, 2010, http://www.iai.it/sites/default/files/iai1025.pdf. Accessed 4 March 2017.

Currently, in the eyes of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are autonomous territories within Georgia occupied by Russia. For Russia, they are independent de facto states. Limited international recognition isolated Abkhazia and South Ossetia from other countries, which had led to a heavy economic and diplomatic dependence on Russia[1]. In 2014, Russia moved to tighten its grip over Abkhazia. The parties signed a treaty that expanded Russia’s authority and dominance in the military and economic policy making in Abkhazia. Moreover, Russia exponentially eased conditions for Abkhazians and South Ossetians to obtain Russian passports[2]. In 2015, Russia and South Ossetia signed an agreement on ‘alliance and integration’, which included a provision calling for ‘certain units of the armed forces of South Ossetia to enter the structure’ of the Russian military[3]. Nevertheless, South Ossetia and Abkhazia consider themselves as independent de facto states by conducting independent actions in the sphere of political, economic, and foreign policies such as establishing bilateral economic ties with Russia, creating political institutions, electing presidential posts, declaring independent laws and regulations.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the number of internally displaced individuals, or ethnic Georgian refugees from Abkhazia, remains relatively high[4]. After the resignation of Mikheil Saakashvili, Russia attempted to form relationships with Georgia through bilateral talks, but a diplomatic presence was not reached[5]. Instead, Georgia remained determined to seek European integration and NATO membership, which NATO argued could be achieved through peaceful reform and progress only[6].

References

[1] “Abkhazia: Deepening Dependence.” International Crisis Group, 26 February 2010, https://www.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/caucasus/georgia/abkhazia-deepening-dependence. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[2] Herszenhorn, David M.“Pact Tightens Russian Ties with Abkhazia.” The New York Times, 24 November 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/25/world/europe/pact-tightens-russian-ties-with-abkhazia.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FAbkhazia&_r=0. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[3] Kucera, Joshua.  “South Ossetia Keeps its Military, For Now.” Eurasianet, 19 January 2017, http://www.eurasianet.org/node/82031. Accessed 20 January 2017.

[4] “Georgia.” Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 2016, http://www.internal-displacement.org/database/country/?iso3=GEO.  Accessed 2 March 2017.

[5] “Top Russian Diplomat Says Better Relations with Georgia Possible.” RT International, 31 December 2014, https://www.rt.com/politics/218923-russia-georgia-better-relations/. Accessed 12 November 2016.

[6] “Relations with Georgia.” NATO, 7 June 2016, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_38988.htm. Accessed 12 November 2016.

European Union (EU), United States of America (US), Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russian interests, and China.

THE WEST

The US administration and the leaders of many EU member states initially determined that Russia was an aggressor and that Georgia was a victim[1].

EUROPEAN UNION

The EU had shown very little interest in the conflict until the late 2000’s. In 2003, the EU established Special Representative for the South Caucasus[2] and developed an ‘engagement without recognition’ strategy towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But involvement was limited to declaratory statements until the 2008 Georgia-Russia war, where EU assumed the mediator role[3]. In the process, the EU had become Georgia’s largest donor, providing humanitarian assistance for Abkhazia, allocating grants for peacebuilding purposes, empowering non-governmental institutions, and promoting sovereignty[4]. The EU had become vastly involved in the region because of its established strategic location between the Black and Caspian Seas as a bridge between East and West, between Europe and Asia. The region could also offer natural resources such as energy, economic stability in terms of a transit access link to eastern markets, and security, which, if not safeguarded in the South Caucasus, could have a spill over effect on the EU’s safety[5]. However, as Nino Kereselidze – an expert in international and foreign policy – argues, the EU’s involvement lacked strategy and a clear-cut approach towards Abkhazian and South Ossetian territories[6].

Despite criticism, during the war, with relatively successful mediation, EU governments made strong statements discouraging Russia to expand the war beyond South Ossetia. Hence, EU especially strengthened ties with Georgia to counter Russian influence[7]. Additionally, Georgia’s aspirations to join European Union encouraged the EU to fully support Georgia[8], which resulted in larger amounts of EU guidance and humanitarian aid. Hence, integration talks pushed Georgia to obey international law and pursue a humanitarian and peaceful approach. In July 2016, because of Georgia’s economic, political and foreign commitment efforts, the parties finally signed the Association Agreement negotiated in 2012. This showed even deeper integration and determination towards the European community,[9] and vice versa. The EU also attempted to negotiate several peace deals between warring factions in Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Through diplomacy and proposed peace plans, the EU attempted to settle the conflict and pacify all sides[10].

USA

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, the United States has provided vast political, military, financial and humanitarian assistance to Georgia[11]. However, with vested interests, the US managed the conflict poorly. Initially the US blamed Russia for the conflict escalation and condemned Russia’s actions. The US declared its full support for Georgia, refused to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and ignored Georgia’s nationalistic movements, which resulted in repressive and aggressive actions such as attacks on civilians and the outright dismissal of legitimately sought independence[12]. The US also claimed to be concerned with Georgia’s territorial integrity[13]. However, the post-Cold War ideology was evident, delineating a clear divide of ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ with Russia being seen as a dictatorial and nationalistic rival state[14]. Moreover, in 2008, both then-President George W. Bush and then-vice President Dick Cheney called for the end of ‘Russian aggression’ and the ‘disproportionately violent’ response by Moscow’[15]. Such talks made Georgia believe in unconditional West’s support without considering the emphasis placed on a ‘peaceful approach’[16].

Despite the conceptual push for peaceful dialogues and discussion efforts to defend free Georgia[17], the US had been increasing military support, training, and financial foreign aid[18]. In 2009 Washington and Tbilisi signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership, which enhanced support for sovereignty, democracy and stability in multi-layered spheres[19]. In 2012, the sides furthered their cooperation by initiating “Enhanced Defence Cooperation”. The cooperation aimed to modernize Georgia’s defence system, increase NATO interoperability and self-defence capabilities[20]. Another crucial factor for the US’s active support was the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. It ran through Georgia, circumventing Russia and Iran. Due to the US’s desire to decrease its dependence on Middle East oil, Georgia was seen as an option to fill the void left by oil-rich countries[21]. Hence, despite the challenges, US’s involvement was stable with reflected Georgia’s deeply rooted interests in the West.

GEORGIA’S NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

The war forced Caucasus countries to strategically review their regional cooperation to maintain economic and trade development locally, regionally and internationally.

ARMENIA[22] [23]

In 2008, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian stated that while Armenia would not recognize Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence, it supported the peoples’ right to self-determination. In a speech given to Armenian ambassadors, he explained that the primary reason Armenia did not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia was ‘for the same reason that it did not recognize Kosovo’s independence’. Additionally, because of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Armenia could not recognize another entity in the same situation if it had not recognized the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

The Nagorno-Karabakh territory conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia was similar in origin. In 1991, Nagorno-Karabakh residents declared independence from Azerbaijan, but a war followed. Providing funds and arms, Armenia backed the 95% Armenian-ethnic population. Eventually, the conflict reached a frozen deadlock, with tensions and violent outbreaks occasionally flaring up.

On one hand, Armenia’s president criticized Georgia’s forceful actions and promoted patience and time. On the other hand, it was also in Armenia’s interests to be on Georgia’s side. Economically, over 70% of Armenia’s foreign trade passed through Georgian territory or through Abkhazia. Thus, tensions between the countries would be disastrous for Armenia’s trade routes. Armenia seemingly wanted to maintain a good relationship with Georgia while finding the middle ground on relations with Russia, NATO, and other Western countries.

AZERBAIJAN[24] [25]  

Since 2008, Azerbaijan had claimed that it recognized Georgia’s territorial integrity. In 2011, the Azerbaijani government refused to recognize the presidential elections in Abkhazia by stating that Azerbaijan showed ‘its strong support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia’. This was because of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the strict economic blockade imposed on Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia by Azerbaijan. After Soviet Union’s control weakened, the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh erupted. First, the region wanted to join Armenia, but then it declared independence in 1991. However, internationally and locally, the region was a recognized part of Azerbaijan[26].

Azerbaijan also had geographic and economic ties with Georgia for transporting oil to the world market. Additionally, the country fully supported the Geneva Discussions and believed in the importance of constructive continuation of current settlement process towards conflict resolution. Nevertheless, even in the post-2008 war, Azerbaijan consistently demonstrated commitment to building solid neighborly relations with Russia, while also maintaining an overall trajectory of integration into the West[27].

TURKEY[28] [29]

Turkey-Georgia relations had long history since Georgia’s post-Soviet independence. Countries signed military agreements stressing their mutual support commitment. During the outbreak of violence between Georgian and separatist forces in 2008, Turkey’s diplomatic relations were strained as it carefully considered its affairs with Russia, Georgia, and the West. Turkey sided with Georgia and the West, partly because of NATO membership and party due to concerns of Russia’s interference. However, Turkey did so warily, as it depended on Russia’s energy. Whereas Georgian access to natural gas and oil from Azerbaijan was also crucial.

Having a clear interest, Turkey played a major role in the process of dispute resolution. After the Georgia-Russia war in 2008, the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform was established. The Platform aimed to resolve issues between rival parties using international channels. Additionally, Turkey pledged $1.8 million in military aid to Georgia, arguably against Russia’s wishes. Immediately following the start of 2008 crisis, Turkey issued a statement calling for an end to violence. Turkey then released another request for both sides to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity. Turkey was found between the West and Russia and attempted to act strategically to ensure relation maintenance, as a country reliant on Russian exports and as a NATO member looking to join the EU.

RUSSIA’S INTERESTS[30] [31] [32] [33]

Former Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev in August 2013 interview stated that Russia’s interests were not to change Georgia’s political regime, but to ‘protect lives and well-being of Russian citizens’[34]. Russia viewed Georgia as a war criminal who broke the UN Charter by violating Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s sovereignties. Additionally, Vladimir Putin laid out the official reasoning on the conflict, citing Kosovo’s independence as an example. However, by isolating South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Western influence and assistance, Russia ensured their resource dependency on Russia. Russia also provided large amounts of aid to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, seeing itself as a mediator while financial and national ties (as much of South Ossetia’s population held Russian citizenship) drew it into the fray. Other possible long-term goals included communicating to the West that Russia stood against the threat of NATO enlargement, demonstrated unwillingness to allow other CIS countries to challenge its sphere of influence, and forced EU countries to decide between NATO expansion and natural gas sales.

OTHER COUNTRIES 

IRAN[35][36]

Iran established diplomatic relations with independent South Caucus countries to maintain economic and political ties, including Georgia. During the 2008 Russia-Georgia war, Iran did not recognize South Ossetia as an independent state and condemned Russian military expansion. This strengthened the relations between Georgia and Iran, with beneficial partnerships on economy and security. Additionally, Georgia was a ‘Gateway to Europe’ by providing a shortest route to Black Sea and European markets and could offer alternative corridor routes. Countries heavily relied on one another in terms of exports and imports and cooperated on many other sectors such as energy, education, etc.

CHINA[37][38]

The country exercises soft power by being an important investor. Caucasian countries are small and vulnerable, but standing in line with China gives them a greater reassurance of stability and support. China is also emerging as a top trade-partner and a global power that could act as a regional stabilizer with no hidden geopolitical intentions. The region also represents a crucial connection of European market and China’s New Silk Road initiative for economic expansion. Hence, regional stability is a prerequisite for China to further economic agreements.

References

[1] Golliday, Lynn, and Jessica May. “Who’s to blame? Western Responses to the 2008 Georgia – Russia – South Ossetia Conflict.” 2009, https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:d69f9859-4c0c-4e94-9d1e-9fb3a778378d. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[2] Grono, Frichova Magdalena. “Georgia’s conflicts: what role for the EU as a mediator?” International Alert, March 2010,  http://georgica.tsu.edu.ge/files/05-Security/Frichova-2010.pdf. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[3] Kereselidze, Nino. “The Engagement Policies of the European Union, Georgia and Russia towards Abkhazia.” Caucasus Survey, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2015, pp. 309-22.

[4] Kereselidze, Nino. “The Engagement Policies of the European Union, Georgia and Russia towards Abkhazia.” Caucasus Survey, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2015, pp. 309-22.

[5] Gogberashvili, Salome. “Why does South Caucasus matter for the EU and Russia”. Institute of European Studies at Tbilisi State University, June 2010, http://ies.tsu.edu.ge/data/file_db/gogberashili/why%20does.pdf. Accessed 14 April 2017.

[6] Kereselidze, Nino. “The Engagement Policies of the European Union, Georgia and Russia towards Abkhazia.” Caucasus Survey, Vol. 3, No. 3, 2015, pp. 309-22.

[7] “EU, Georgia Making ‘Good Progress’ in Association Agreement, Visa Liberalization Talks.” Civil Georgia, 4 June 2012, http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=25175. Accessed 21 September 2016.

[8] Valasek, Tomas. “What does the war in Georgia mean for EU foreign policy?” Centre for European Reform, August 2008, https://www.cer.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/attachments/pdf/2011/briefing_georgia_15aug08_tv-1136.pdf. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[9] “European Commission – Press Release, EU-Georgia Association Agreement fully enters into force.” European Commission, 1 July 2016, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-2369_en.htm. Accessed 26 January 2016.

[10] “EU, Georgia Making ‘Good Progress’ in Association Agreement, Visa Liberalization Talks.” Civil Georgia, 4 June 2012, http://www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=25175. Accessed 21 September 2016.

[11] “Relations between Georgia and the United States of America.” Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, 2017, http://usa.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=130. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[12] Golliday, Lynn, and Jessica May. “Who’s to blame? Western Responses to the 2008 Georgia – Russia – South Ossetia Conflict.” 2009, https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:d69f9859-4c0c-4e94-9d1e-9fb3a778378d. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[13] Nichol, Jim. “Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests.” Congressional Research Service, 2008, Order Code RL34618, Washington, DC, pp. 2-38.

[14] Golliday, Lynn, and Jessica May. “Who’s to blame? Western Responses to the 2008 Georgia – Russia – South Ossetia Conflict.” 2009, https://cdr.lib.unc.edu/indexablecontent/uuid:d69f9859-4c0c-4e94-9d1e-9fb3a778378d. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[15] Nichol, Jim. “Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests.” Congressional Research Service, 2008, Order Code RL34618, Washington, DC, pp. 2-38.

[16] Saunders, Paul J. “The United States Shares the Blame for the Russia-Georgia Crisis.” US News, 12 August 2008, http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/08/12/the-united-states-shares-the-blame-for-the-russia-georgia-crisis. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[17] Nichol, Jim. “Russia-Georgia Conflict in South Ossetia: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests.” Congressional Research Service, 2008, Order Code RL34618, Washington, DC, pp. 2-38.

[18] Saunders, Paul J. “The United States Shares the Blame for the Russia-Georgia Crisis.” US News, 12 August 2008, http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2008/08/12/the-united-states-shares-the-blame-for-the-russia-georgia-crisis. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[19] “Relations between Georgia and the United States of America.” Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, 2017, http://usa.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=130. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[20] “Relations between Georgia and the United States of America.” Embassy of Georgia to the United States of America, 2017, http://usa.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=130. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[21] Gearan, Anne. “Georgia’s Oil Pipeline Is Key to U.S. Support.” San Francisco Gate, 9 August 2008, http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Georgia-s-oil-pipeline-is-key-to-U-S-support-3201499.php. Accessed 16 September 2016.

[22] Danielyan, Emil. “Armenia Rules Out Abkhazia, South Ossetia Recognition.” Ազատ Եվրոպա/Ազատություն» ռադիոկայան, 4 September 2008, http://www.azatutyun.am/a/1597164.html. Accessed 16 October 2016.

[23] “Nagorno-Karabakh Profile.” BBC News, 6 April 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-18270325. Accessed 16 October 2016.

[24] “Azerbaijan Does Not Recognize So Called Elections of Abkhazia.” InterPressNews, 2 September 2011, http://www.interpressnews.ge/en/conflicts/31285-azerbaijan-does-not-recognize-so-called-elections-of-abkhazia.html?ar=A. Accessed 2 March 2017.

[25] Aras, Bülent, and Akpinar, Pinar. “The relations between Turkey and Caucasus.” Centre for Strategic Research, Autumn 2011, http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ArasAkpinar.pdf. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[26] “Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict.” Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/nagorno-karabakh-conflict. Accessed 4 March 2017.

[27] Valiyev, Anar. “Finlandization or strategy of keeping the balance? Azerbaijan’s foreign policy since the Russian-Georgian war.” PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo, 2010, https://www2.gwu.edu/~ieresgwu/assets/docs/pepm_112.pdf. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[28] Kumar, Dasharath. “Role of Turkey in Russia-Georgia Conflict.” International Research Journal of Commerce Arts and Sciences, Vol. 5, No. 10, 2014, pp. 40-46.

[29] Aras, Bülent, and Akpinar, Pinar. “The relations between Turkey and Caucasus.” Centre for Strategic Research, Autumn 2011, http://sam.gov.tr/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/ArasAkpinar.pdf. Accessed 26 January 2017.

[30] Wolff, Stefan. “Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” Encyclopaedia Princetonians, 2016, https://pesd.princeton.edu/?q=node/274. Accessed 27 January 2017.

[31] German, Tracey. “Abkhazia and South Ossetia: Collision of Georgian and Russian Interests.” IFRI, June 2006,  https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/germananglais.pdf. Accessed 29 January 2017.

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[33] Ellison, Brian J. “Russian Grand Strategy in the South Ossetia War.” World Affairs Institute, 2011, https://www2.gwu.edu/~ieresgwu/assets/docs/demokratizatsiya%20archive/GWASHU_DEMO_19_4/0367216M621448T3/0367216M621448T3.pdf. Accessed 2 March 2017.

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PREDICTIONS

Since the 2008 violence, the positions of Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Russia, the US, and the EU have remained relatively unchanged. Georgia views South Ossetia and Abkhazia as territories under occupation while Russia recognized the regions’ independence. In early September 2016, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution formally condemning Russian forces patrolling in the disputed regions and supported the territorial integrity of Georgia. Georgia will most likely continue to seek closer ties with the West, NATO and EU memberships. Abkhazia and South Ossetia will likely continue to seek self-determination. If Georgia were to join NATO, the inclusion would be disapproved by Russia. To counter NATO’s enlargement, Russia may push Georgia’s boundaries and increase diplomatic tensions. Russia already troubled Georgia by steadily moving the border further into Georgia’s land. If this continues, Georgia may respond with either a military build-up or military action. Georgia will also monitor unfolding Ukraine events and view Russia’s continued occupation as a threat to its territories. However, Russia most likely will not attempt to enlarge the borders with Abkhazia or South Ossetia because of the recent Ukraine crisis and instability within the international community.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Russia’s ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia pushes Georgia to seek support from the West. To achieve a potential consensus, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Russia and Georgia should arrange meetings mediated by one of the world powers that has no interest in the conflict. The important aspect from Georgia’s side must come towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Currently, Georgia is relying on Western powers, whose involvement dissatisfies Russia. Instead, Georgia should concentrate on building direct economic, political, and cultural relationships with Abkhazia and South Ossetia solely. By witnessing Georgia’s willingness to cooperate and talk, such a course of action may highly affect their views and actions. As of now, the situation is a frozen deadlock with no clear resolution.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia consider themselves independent states, electing presidents, building institutions, and establishing relations with Russia. Georgia still considers the two as integral parts of Georgia, and views Russia’s approach invasive. Russia continues to openly support the territories, deploy military bases in the regions, and sign economic cooperation agreements. Currently, the situation is characterized to be a frozen conflict with no robust resolution at sight and occasionally flaring up tensions.
Caspersen, Nina. “Separatism and democracy in the Caucasus”, Survival, Vol. 50, No. 4, 8 September 2008, pp. 113-136. Discussed self-determination and effect of democratization in the Caucasus. Also, critically assessed the legitimacy of independence in the international relations.

Cornell E. Svante, et al. “Russia’s war in Georgia: Causes and Implications for Georgia and the World”, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program, August 2008. https://silkroadstudies.org/resources/pdf/SilkRoadPapers/2008_08_PP_CornellPopjanevskiNillson_Russia-Georgia.pdf. Policy paper provided a concise analysis of contemporary issues and events in the region.

Fawn, Rick, and Nalbandov Robert. “The difficulties of knowing the start of war in the information age: Russia, Georgia and the War over South Ossetia.” European Security, Vol. 21, No. 1, 12 March 2012, pp. 57-89. Observed the information technology language addressing what was known and unknown. Criticised information delivery and creation of inaccurate perceptions, how causes were uncertain at times.

Filippov, Mikhail. “Diversionary role of Georgia-Russia conflict: international constraints and domestic appeal.” Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 61, No. 10, December 2009, pp. 1825-1847. Tackled Russia’s geopolitical objectives, and implications for post-Soviet Union countries.

Germa, Tracey. “Russia and South Ossetia: conferring statehood or creeping annexation.” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1, 2016, pp. 155-167. Explored the intensification of relations between South Ossetia and Moscow, focusing on the extent to which South Ossetia existed as a functioning state entity. Also, discussed Russia’s strengthening role.

Jentzsch, Greg. “What are the main causes of conflict in South Ossetia and how can they best addressed to promote lasting peace?” The BSIS Journal of International Studies, Vol. 6, 2009. Analysed the conflict characteristics and ways to solve it.

Merabishvili, Gela, and Kiss Annamaria. “The Perception of National Security in Georgia”, Lithuanian Annual strategic review, Vol. 14, No. 1, 2016, pp. 159-177. Observed the change in Georgia’s security perception with a good understanding on prior to post-2008 shifting views. It also revealed people’s wish to be in close cooperation with Russia, analysed aspects that destructed Georgia.

Sinkkonen, Teemu. “A security dilemma on the boundary line: an EU perspective to Georgia-Russian confrontation after the 2008 war.” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies, Vo. 11, No. 3, September 2011, pp. 265-278. Evaluated the situation in 2008, the main development causes and EU’s role, boundaries to development as a new security dilemma with questioned EU’s future assistance.

Toomey, Michael. “The August 2008 Battle of South Ossetia: does Russia have a legal argument for intervention?” Temple International and Competitive Law Journal, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2009, pp. 443-479. Provided analysis of 2008 breakout, credibility of Russian intervention arguments in accordance with international law.                                                                             

Asmus D. Ronald. A Little War that Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West, 2010. Argued that the conflict was prepared and planned for some time by Moscow, part of a broader strategy to send a message to the United States: that Russia would flex muscle in the twenty-first century. Showed a relations breakdown between Russia and the West, the decay and decline of the Western Alliance itself, and the fate of Eastern Europe during economic crisis. 

Cornell E. Svante, et al. The Guns of August 2008, 2009; Observed different implications of the Russian-Georgian war. The book was designed to present the facts about August 2008 events along with comprehensive coverage of the background to those events. It brought together a wealth of expertise on the South Caucasus and Russian foreign policy, with contributions by Russian, Georgian, European, and American experts on the region.

Coppietersm, Bruno. Europeanization and Conflict Resolution: Case Studies from the European Periphery, Chapter 5, 2004. Through a comparison of four case studies, including Georgia-Abkhaz conflict, the book examined the relevance of European integration for conflict settlement and resolution in divided states. The authors explored the historical background of each of these conflicts and examined the degree of Europeanization, the mediation attempts by international security organizations. 

Szporluk, Roman. National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia, Chapter 12, edited. M.E. Sharpe, 1994. Examined nation-building strategies that newly independent states pursued, questioning a tremendous moment for regional peace and stability across the Eurasian continent.

Barabanov M.S., et al. The Tanks of August, edited by Pukhov R.N.. Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies: Moscow, 2010. A collection of essays provided a detailed timeline and descriptions of the key combat operations during the 2008 August war, military situation and casualties in the post-war period.

Saparov, Arsene. Autonomy and Conflict in the Caucasus. Routledge, 2014. Examined the post-Soviet environment, explained why Bolsheviks granted autonomous status to ethnic minorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia highlighting the roots of modern conflicts since 1990’s. Sources and archival materials from the regions were largely based on original Russian language.

Souleimanov, Emil. Understanding Ethnopolitical Conflict: Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia Wars Reconsidered. Palgrave, 2013. Critically evaluated the growing body of theoretical literature on ethnic conflict and civil war, using empirical data from three major South Caucasian conflicts, evaluated relative strengths and weaknesses of available methodological approaches.

Chervonnaya, Svetlana. Conflict in the Caucasus: Abkhazia, Georgia and the Russian Shadow (Authentic Voices). Gothic Image Publications, 1994. Introduced to the insightful conflict background with the detailed issues scope in the late 1980s. The book was claimed to be biased, but was useful for understanding the post-Soviet conflicts in Georgia, and the situation in Abkhazia.

Matasaberidze, David. The Conflict Over Abkhazia (1989-2010): The Interaction of Georgian-Abkhazian Nationalisms and the Role of Institutions in the Post-Soviet Developments, 2011. The study reflected on the institutionalism role in the conflict over Abkhazia from the late 1980s until Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the 2008 August War. It claimed that failure projects on conflict resolution were caused by divergent interpretations of the future institutional relations between ethnic groups.

Hewitt, George. Discordant Neighbours: A Reassessment of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian Conflicts. BRILL, 2013. The Caucasus was one of the most ethnically diverse areas on earth, and the conflicts examined present their own complexities. This book set the issues in their historical and political contexts and discussed potential future problems.

Trier, Tom, et al. Under Siege: Inter-Ethnic Relations in Abkhazia. Hurst, 2010. The first book to clarify, document and analyse Abkhazia’s ethno-political dynamics, which had played a major role in the country’s state building efforts and shaped the conditions under which many ethnic communities lived. Abkhazians, Armenians, Georgians, and Russians all called Abkhazia home, and this volume explored the effect of the government’s de facto status on these groups’ idea of nationhood and how continuing tensions between Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia failed to improve the socio-political situation of the region.

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