Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
SAAKASHVILI CALLS ON WEST TO ARTICULATE NON-RECOGNITION POLICY… In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili called on the international community to support the ceasefire, promote conflict resolution, and adopt a non-recognition policy with respect to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In other comments, he said that Georgia will be launching “a second rose revolution” in response to Russia’s attack and that Georgia would soon be “stronger and more democratic than ever before (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19587).
…AS NO ADDITIONAL COUNTRIES RECOGNIZE ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. Despite the efforts and expectations of many in Moscow, no country recognized the two breakaway republics over the past week. Sergei Markov, a political commentator and Duma member, said there were three main reasons for this: First, many countries have problems with separatists and do not want to encourage them. Second, many of them believe that Russia will ultimately back down on its extension of recognition as a result of Western pressure. And third, many in the CIS fear that any approval by them might open the way for a Russian move against them as well (www.nr2.ru/moskow/197332.html). Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka explains his government’s slowness in following Russia’s lead: He pointed out that the West is stronger than Moscow (www.sobkorr.ru/news/48D9DBF6A2E46.html).
GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT TO INVESTIGATE HOW WAR BEGAN. By a unanimous vote, the Georgian parliament established a special commission to study the events at the beginning of the Russian-Georgian war, a measure that some members of the opposition there had been calling for but one that is unlikely to be as independent of President Mikhail Saakashvili as they would have liked (grani.ru/Politics/World/Europe/Georgia/m.141959.html).
SWEDISH RESEARCHERS SAY ISRAEL NOT US PUSHED GEORGIA INTO WAR. Researchers at the Stockholm Institute of Defense Studies, a group not connected with the Swedish government, say that the United States warned Tbilisi against sending forces into South Ossetia and did not support his actions when he did so. Instead, they say, in a report entitled “The Caucasus Litmus Test,” that Israel by its provision of advisors and equipment bore a significant share of responsibility for Mikhail Saakashvili’s decision to start the conflict. They added that the attack on Tskhinvali was undertaken according to a plan drawn up by an Israeli general (www.rusk.ru/newsdata.php?idar=178730).
CORRECTION TO THE ABOVE: A study discussing Israel’s involvement in Georgia that was prepared by the Stockholm Institute of Defense Studies (FOI) did not say what Russian media have reported and Western media have then picked up. That report – which is available in Swedish at www2.foi.se/rapp/foir2563.pdf – specifically did not say that the attack on Tskhinvali was undertaken according to a plan drawn up by an Israeli general or that Israel thus bore a significant share of the responsibility for the conflict, as I reported, on the basis of Russian articles, in my Window on Eurasia Shorts on Georgia on September 27. Nor did FOI make a number of other statements about Israeli involvement which have appeared in other Russian and Western outlets. I am grateful to FOI’s Robert Larsson for bringing this to my attention. This case appears to be yet another example of the Russian government’s increasing proclivity to engage in disinformation.
DRONE WAR POINTS TO SERIOUS PROBLEMS IN RUSSIAN MILITARY. Georgia’s downing of a Russian drone after the conclusion of the active phase of the military conflict highlights problems in the Russian military and points to trouble ahead. The Russian 58th army did not have any drones, military analyst Pavel Felgengauer says, and consequently, it was forced to send piloted planes over Georgia for reconnaissance, losing two in the process. Now, Russian forces there have drones, he continues, but they appear to be so old that the Georgians are able to shoot them down easily. Georgia in contrast has a number of advanced Israeli-supplied drones in its arsenal (www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2008/71/03.html).
PACE REJECTS MOSCOW’S CHARGE THAT GEORGIA COMMITTED GENOCIDE. A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the council of Europe said that Georgians had not engaged in any act of genocide against the South Ossetians at the beginning of August as the Russian government has insisted (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/m.141905.html).
GEORGIA CREATES CAUCASUS PEOPLES CONGRESS TO COUNTER RUSSIA. Tbilisi has created a Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus to unite the nations living there against Russian aggression. Its primary organizer, Tamaz Gugunishvili, the head of the Our Country party, said that the NGO will work for the restoration of the “historic ties” among the peoples of the Caucasus and the promotion of their distinctive cultures and spiritual values (www.interfax.ru/society/news.asp?id=34171&sw=%EA%EE%ED%E3%F0%E5%F1%F1&bd=21&bm=8&by=2008&ed=21&em=9&ey=2008&secid=0&mp=0&p=1
GEORGIA TO SET UP MUSEUM ON RUSSIAN AGGRESSION NEAR STALIN’S BIRTHPLACE. Tbilisi plans to create a Museum of Russian Aggression within the complex of the Stalin House Museum in Gori. In this effort, the Georgian cultural ministry said that it is hoping for cooperation from those in Poland and the Baltic countries who set up analogous museums many years ago (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=1031352&NodesID=7).
DUGIN WANTS TO DIVIDE UP GEORGIA ON ETHNIC, SUB-ETHNIC LINES…Aleksandr Dugin, the outspoken Eurasian commentator, says that “it is not excluded” that soon in place of the Republic of Georgia there will appear not only South Ossetia and Abkhazia but also “an independent Mingrelia, Ajaria, Javakhetia, Guriya [and] Svanetia” (evrazia.org/news/4922).
…AS SCHOLAR WONDERS WHETHER GEORGIA COULD BECOME A FEDERATION. Meanwhile, Georgian commentator Mamuka Areshidze said that it could not be excluded that Georgia might succeed in the formation of a confederative state in which Abkhazia and South Ossetia would take part (www.ethnoglobus.com/?page=full&id=376).
US DECISION ON MINSK GROUP OPENS DOOR FOR TURKEY, IRAN ON KARABAKH. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Bryze’s statement that Washington will not work with Moscow in the Minsk Group until Russia fulfills its obligations in Georgia has opened the way for Iran to play an expanded role in discussions on the future of Karabakh, Russian experts say. For Bryze’s original statement, see www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1229219.html; for a discussion of it, see Sergey Markedonov’s analysis at www.politcom.ru/article.php?id=6890. Moscow may be especially angry at Bryze because he also reportedly said that Russia was too weak to conduct a new cold war with the West (lenta.ru/news/2008/09/22/weak/).