Georgia demands withdrawal of Russian peacemakers in return to WTO membership

The parliament of Georgia gathers for a special session today to consider the draft decree about the presence of Russian peacemaking forces on the conflict territory with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The document will most likely be approved. To all appearances, Georgia decided to use various methods to regulate the conflict to its own benefit. The former Soviet republic of Georgia decided to push its way through and settle scores with Russia after the meeting between Russian and Georgian presidents ended with nothing a month ago.

Pravda.Ru has already reported that Georgia decided to withdraw its signature from the protocol of Russia's membership in the World Trade Organization. It was quite an unpleasant piece of news for the Russian administration. Russia will not be able to become a WTO member in the event there is a conflicting situation with Georgia. The Georgian leadership claims that Russia tries to annex its territories – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia responds that Georgia lacks the viable state organization.

The draft decree, which was submitted to the Parliament of Georgia yesterday, said that the presence of Russian peacemaking forces on Georgia’s territory was illegal. The Russian peacemakers will thus have to be withdrawn from the republic’s territory. The decree mentions no dates for these measures, which gives the Georgian government a chance to use the decree for showing pressure on Russia. Georgia approved similar documents last year twice. The present situation is a bit different, though. Last year's initiative to get rid of Russian peacemakers originated from the parliament. The current decree appears to be an initiative of the Georgian government. The Prime Minister of the country, Zurab Nogaideli, stated yesterday that Russian peacemakers had failed to fulfill obligations according to their mandate.

Georgia’s Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili said: “If certain tasks are set for my department at this point, they will be fulfilled.” The minister for the regulation of conflict situations Georgi Khaindrava pointed out that Russian peacemakers were patronizing separatists. That is why, the official added, Georgia demanded they should be replaced with international peacemaking forces.

Georgian President Saakashvili has recently visited the USA, where he managed to obtain a “tacit consent” for the toughening of relations with Russia. Saakashvili, however, is rather restricted in his opportunities of showing pressure against Russia. Saakashvili is incapable of withdrawing the Russian peacemakers single-handedly. The president needs to have an agreement from the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for it, which is impossible. It is worthy of note that the Georgian opposition is not going to take part in the hearings to approve the draft decree. They believe that the document is absolutely useless because it will not lead to any consequences.

Russia does not have any reason to worry. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Saturday that Russia would consult Abkhazia in the event the Georgian parliament eventually decides to withdraw Russian peacemakers from the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict territory. “The answer is very simple. Russia will ask the opinion of the other side of the conflict,” Ivanov said. A decision to withdraw the Russian peacemakers from the conflict zone is a prerogative of CIS leaders but not Georgia alone.

Georgia’s tough actions are based only on the external support factor. The crisis between Russia and Georgia has become quite protracted: one has to come to a compromise to be able to find a way out of the situation. Neither Russia nor Georgia is ready to make any concessions. It is not ruled out that Georgia managed to obtain USA’s approval for its current attitude to Russia. Georgia may even try to exchange Russia’s membership in the WTO for the withdrawal of Russian peacemakers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Moscow will definitely prefer to stay outside WTO for one or two more years: the geopolitical interests in the Caucasus are much more important.


Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov