Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
US SAID PREPARING ‘SOFT VARIANT’ FOR GETTING GEORGIA INTO NATO. Western and Russian news agencies report that the United States is preparing what some officials call “a soft variant” for including Georgia and Ukraine on the path to NATO membership. Presumably, the agencies say, this would be a declaration going further than the one made at the Bucharest summit last spring but not as far as the extension of a formal membership action plan (MAP) when NATO ministers meet later this year (www.nr2.ru/policy/206488.html).
MEDVEDEV SAYS RUSSIA WILL RECOGNIZE GEORGIA’S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY BUT WITHOUT BREAKAWAY REGIONS. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told European leaders in Nice that Moscow is ready to recognize the territorial integrity of Georgia as it exists now without Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Speaking about Russia’s recognition of the two breakaway republics, Medvedev said that this action was “final and irreversible” (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=172357).
RUSSIAN BASES WILL PROTECT ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA FROM OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE, CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF SAYS. General Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian general staff, said that the establishment and strengthening of Russian bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will prevent anyone from interfering in their internal affairs ever again (evrazia.org/news/5977).
SARKOZY SAYS MOSCOW HAS ‘MOSTLY FULFILLED’ OBLIGATIONS ON GEORGIA. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Russia has “mostly fulfilled” its ceasefire commitments, although he suggested that Russia still must withdraw its forces from Akhalgori and Perevi, which are not part of South Ossetia (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19961). In other comments, Sarkozy lashed out at US President George W. Bush’s suggestion that Washington had played a key role in ending the Georgian war, noting that it was the EU and not the Americans who took the lead role (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19955).
EU READY TO HAVE ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA AT GENEVA, ABKHAZ FM SAYS. Russian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian officials say the EU has agreed to have the two breakaway republics as equal participants at the upcoming Geneva talks, but EU officials so far in public have not confirmed that (www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/11/12/144111.html). Georgia has indicated that it will not take part in any talks where the two are treated in that way.
SAAKASHVILI INSISTS GEORGIA STILL ‘HIGH ON EU’S AGENDA.’ Despite the restarting of EU-Russian partnership talks, which were suspended after the Russian invasion of Georgia, President Mikhail Saakashvili said in Paris that Georgia remains “high on the EU’s agenda” and that he expects European support to continue in the future (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19938).
PUTIN DENIES USING CRUDE LANGUAGE ABOUT SAAKASHVILI. The media in Europe have given extensive coverage to reports that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin used extremely crude words during his Moscow conversations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy about what the Russian leader would do to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Putin’s spokesmen have denied that he said what the French participants insist that he did (www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=172303).
RUSSIA’S UPPER HOUSE RATIFIES ACCORDS WITH ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA. Following the action of the Duma, the Federation Council has ratified the treaties of friendship with Abkhazia and South Ossetia (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1233063.html). Immediately thereafter, Abkhazia named its permanent representative in Moscow ambassador to the Russian Federation (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1233177.html).
SOUTH OSSETIA WILL SURVIVE WINTER WITHOUT GAS FROM GEORGIA. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity said that his republic will survive the winter even though Georgia has blocked the flow of gas into the territory, an action that he said shows the lack of “humanity” in Tbilisi’s position (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1233196.html).
GALLOPING INFLATION THREATENS SOCIAL STABILITY IN GEORGIA. Inflation is increasing so rapidly in Georgia that it now threatens social and even political stability there, according to Caucasus Knot reporters (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1233207.html). Some prices have jumped at what would be annualized rates of more than 700 percent. Meanwhile, exchange rates for the national currency, the lari, continued to fall as well.
ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN GEORGIA TOTALLY CONTROLLED BY GOVERNMENT, OMBUDSMAN SAYS. In an annual report on the media in Georgia, Sozar Subari, the nation’s ombudsman, said that none of the electronic media outlets in that country is free and that “we are witnessing a very serious censorship every evening during the news programs” (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19964). The independent Moscow based, media watchdog organization, the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations confirmed his findings (www.iamik.ru/?op=full&what=content&ident=40921).
MORE DETAILS ABOUT MILITARY ACTIONS IN AUGUST AND THEIR IMPACT. Among the new details that surfaced this week: Russian helicopters shot down each other because of inadequate FOF systems (www.mk.ru/blogs/MK/2008/11/12/society/380622/), Moscow has decided to purchase Israeli drones to supplement its own inadequate supply (www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=27320), Georgia did use cluster bombs, purchased from Israel, during the fighting (www.rosbalt.ru/2008/11/13/541269.html), and eyewitness accounts confirm Russian and South Ossetian shelling of Georgian villages at the start of the war (www.rferl.org/Content/Eyewitness_Accounts_Confirm_Shelling_Of_Georgian_Villages/1349256.html).
TRANSDNIESTRIA PUBLISHES BOOK ABOUT SOUTH OSSETIA. In an action with more than symbolic meaning, a Transdniestria-based publishing house has released in Tskhinvali a book about the war in South Ossetia (http://www.osetinfo.ru/main/211).
MOSCOW MULLS BUYING LESS LAND FOR SOCHI GAMES. Reflecting anger in Sochi about the way in which Russian officials have ridden roughshod over local residents, members of the United Russia Party have proposed cutting back on the amount of land that the organizers of the 2014 games will need (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1232966.html).