Vienna, November 10 – An increasing number of Europeans appear to believe that the ceasefire accord worked out by French President Nicolas Sarkozy with the leaders of Russia and Georgia restored the status quo ante before the August war, but they could not be more wrong, according to a leading Moscow analyst on the region.
In a speech to a conference in Ankara, Andrei Areshev said that such a conclusion is “mistaken at its core” because it fails to “take into consideration” the geopolitical shifts following the conflict and “especially after Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states” (www.fondsk.ru/article.php?id=1732
And he warned that “if the proposals of the Russian Federation for the demilitarization of Georgia, the placement of limitations on its military, and the creation of an effective monitoring system are blocked (or not heard), then this will be for Moscow a clear and unambiguous signal that sooner or later there will be a renewal of military operations”
Moreover, “give the experience of 2004 and 2008, Russia will hardly wait when [someone or other attacks South Ossetia and Abkhazia a third time,” he continued. It reserves the right to move first and not only against countries in the region but also against others who may back those countries against Russia.
“The strategy of Russia for guaranteeing security on its southern borders presupposes the identification of the basic sources of threats,” the Moscow analyst said. These threatens can come from “both individual states and blocks of states and from other” entities “which are the instrument for the realization of the interests of external forces.”
Those words were clearly directed not only at the European Union but more generally. According to Areshev, “in the absence of an effective dialogue on regional security with the European Union and especially the US, the creation of a system of collective security capable of responding to crises ... is becoming an ever more important task.”
None of the existing organizations – not the UN or the OSCE – is effective, and consequently, all the relevant powers need to come together to discuss what might be done, something Moscow has proposed but that neither the Europeans nor the Americans have responded to.
Turkey’s proposal for a regional security platform represents a useful contribution to such a discussion, Areshev said. But because it too fails to recognize how much has changed in the Caucasus after the five day war, there are three aspects in the plan “which require further discussion.”
First, the Turkish proposal excludes Iran. That makes it “incomplete,” Areshev says. “The rapprochement of Russia and Iran is a stabilizing factor,” something at least some member countries of the European Union appreciate and also something that limits what he said were American efforts designed to promote “the destabilization of the region.”
Second, the Turkish proposal does not oppose the inclusion of Georgia in NATO or the rearmament of Georgia after the war, either of which, Areshev insists, “will make more difficult the realization of any peace-keeping initiatives in the Caucasus. Instead, both such actions will make conflict more likely.
Russia would respond to “a strengthening of NATO in the Caucasus” in many ways, including possibly seeking “the transformation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) into “a fully-formed military-political union” and its expansion to include “new countries, in particular Iran.”
And third, Areshev argues, no collective security arrangements in the Caucasus will be possible unless “the interests of Abkhazia and South Ossetia” and other “unrecognized or partially recognized states” are taken into account, something that the Turkish Platform as currently formulated does not do.
Areshev suggests that the next steps in the new southern Caucasus should the neutralization of all the countries in the south Caucasus, agreements on the non-use of force among them, the promotion of economic integration, and guarantees for the uninterrupted flow of oil and gas through and around the region.
Other Russian commentators have made one or more of these points before in recent weeks, but both Areshev’s authority as an analyst with close ties to the Russian security services and the tenor and tone of his remarks underscore just how much has changed in the south Caucasus since August 8th