Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Russia to keep troops in Georgia

Russia to keep troops in Georgia

Russia says it will keep 7,600 troops in Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after withdrawing from the rest of the country.

On Monday, Russia agreed to withdraw its troops from positions within Georgia, taken up during the recent conflict, by mid-October.

But President Dmitry Medvedev ordered that military bases be maintained in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia also says it has established formal diplomatic ties with them.

The move followed a decision - condemned by the US and EU but defined as "irrevocable" by Moscow - to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said troops were expected to remain in the two regions "for the foreseeable future".

"Russian troops will remain on the territory of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on request of their leaders in parliament," Mr Lavrov said from Moscow.

"They will be there a long time. This is absolutely necessary, so as not to allow a repeat of armed actions," he added.

Mr Lavrov said that both regions should also be able to participate in talks on Georgia scheduled for next month in Geneva with "fully fledged" places.

Russia is expected to sign formal agreements on troop deployment in South Ossetia and Abkhazia over the coming days.

International observers

Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that some 3,800 men would be positioned in each breakaway region.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had already indicated that Moscow intended to maintain a military presence in the regions, but Mr Serdyukov's statement provides the first specific breakdown of troop numbers.

On Monday, Mr Medvedev pledged to withdraw troops from the rest of Georgia on condition that the EU would deploy at least 200 observers, along with 220 other international monitors to ensure the security of the two breakaway regions.

Under the deal, Russia will pull out within 10 days of the deployment of EU monitors.

Russian troops are present in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as in so-called buffer zones around these regions and near the strategic port city of Poti.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7 August after the Georgian military tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force.

Russian forces launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Also on Tuesday, South Ossetia's Prosecutor General Taimuraz Khugayev said that investigations had confirmed that more than 500 people had been killed during Georgia's attack last month, according to Russian news agency, Interfax.

Russia initially suggested more than 1,500 people had died in the conflict. Independent observers say they have been unable to confirm such high figures.

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Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/09/09 12:12:27 GMT


Saturday, September 6, 2008

US delivers aid to Georgian port

US delivers aid to Georgian port
A US Navy warship carrying humanitarian aid has arrived in the Georgian port of Poti, where Russian troops are still deployed.

The USS Mount Whitney is the third US ship to deliver aid to Georgia since its conflict with Russia last month, but the first to dock at Poti.

Poti was bombed by Russian forces when they entered Georgia, and several ships in the port were sunk.

Russian said such a large warship was not suited delivering aid.

The USS Mount Whitney, flagship of the US Sixth Fleet, is the latest of three vessels sent by the US to deliver blankets, hygiene kits, baby food and other supplies to Georgia after its brief war with Russia.

"I can confirm it has arrived in Poti. Anchoring procedures are still ongoing but it has arrived," said a US naval official quoted by the AFP news agency.

Russian checkpoints

Following the conflict, Moscow withdrew most of its forces, but thousands of Russian troops remain on Georgian soil in what Moscow says is a peacekeeping role.

Russian forces are still deployed at checkpoints around the port of Poti.

Two previous deliveries of US aid to Georgia were taken to the Georgian port of Batumi, south of Russian-patrolled areas.

Russia on Friday questioned the sending of such a sophisticated US warship to Georgia.

Moscow said it might contravene international conventions and was hardly suited to delivering humanitarian aid.

In the past, Moscow has warned that humanitarian aid shipments could be used to camouflage Western naval build-up in the Black Sea.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/09/05 10:36:33 GMT


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Putin Accuses U.S. of Interference

State Dept., European Agency Deny Allegations Over Decision Not to Monitor Election

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 27, 2007; Page A10

MOSCOW, Nov. 26 -- President Vladimir Putin on Monday accused the U.S. State Department of engineering the recent decision by Europe's principal election watchdog group not to monitor Russia's parliamentary elections this coming Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) announced that it would not observe the Dec. 2 elections, citing "delays and restrictions" imposed by the Russian government.

In the latest of a string of harsh accusations directed at Western governments, Putin on Monday described the decision as an attempt to undermine the vote's legitimacy. He warned that Russia's already strained relations with the United States could be affected.

"According to evidence we have, this was done on the recommendation of the U.S. State Department, and we will take this into account in our intergovernmental relations with that country," said Putin, speaking in St. Petersburg. "Actions like this will not foil elections in Russia. Their goal is to make the elections illegitimate. But they will fail again to attain this goal."

The monitoring group, an arm of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), dismissed Putin's charge as "nonsense."

"The decision did not follow the recommendation or request of any government," said Urdur Gunnarsdottir, a spokeswoman for the Warsaw-based organization, in a telephone interview. "It was taken by the ODIHR director after consultations with elections experts. . . . This is not a decision that had any political aim."

"There was no State Department meddling in the process," said department spokesman Sean McCormack, adding that American diplomats who met with OSCE officials delivered a message that only the OSCE could make the decision.

Last week, Putin said that "jackals" trained by "Western specialists" could attempt to seize power by organizing street protests such as those that ushered in pro-Western governments in neighboring Georgia and Ukraine.

Hundreds of protesters were detained by police at demonstrations in Russia over the weekend, including Garry Kasparov, the chess grandmaster and Putin critic. He was sentenced to five days in jail for taking part in an illegal march in Moscow.

On Monday, President Bush expressed deep concern about the Russian actions. "I am particularly troubled by the use of force by law enforcement authorities to stop these peaceful activities and to prevent some journalists and human rights activists from covering them," Bush said in a statement.

"The freedoms of expression, assembly and press, as well as due process, are fundamental to any democratic society," he said. "I am hopeful that the government of Russia will honor its international obligations in these areas, investigate allegations of abuses and free those who remain in detention."

The German government called Monday for Kasparov's release. "This makes his participation in the decisive phase of the Russian parliamentary elections on December 2 impossible," said government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm, speaking at a news conference. "The German government believes it is necessary to immediately release him."

Opposition leaders here accuse authorities of not tolerating dissent as they clear a path for an overwhelming victory Sunday by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Putin is heading the party ticket. The Kremlin says it is merely enforcing Russian election laws and that in any case some opposition figures are in the pay of foreigners.

The assertion that the United States was behind the election monitors' decision came from Alexey Borodavkin, Russia's permanent representative to the OSCE in Vienna. At a meeting of the group's permanent council, Borodavkin said it was suspicious that Christian Strohal, director of the OSCE's monitoring group, was in Washington just before the group decided not to go to Russia.

Strohal, an Austrian diplomat, and OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, a French diplomat, were in Washington to attend an Organization of American States meeting on election observation. The two diplomats also had bilateral meetings with State Department officials.

"I can say that there was no attempt whatsoever to influence in any way the decision which ODIHR eventually took," said Kyle Scott, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to the OSCE, at an OSCE council meeting, responding to Borodavkin's allegation. Scott's remarks were posted on the mission's Web site.

A spokesman for the OSCE, Mikhail Evstafiev, said in a telephone interview Monday that de Brichambaut nodded in agreement after Scott spoke.

Officials at the monitoring organization first complained that Russia delayed issuing any invitation to observers, limiting their ability to prepare. Russia then cut the number of observers it would allow to 70, compared with 450 long- and short-term observers at the last parliamentary elections in 2003.

The group said it decided not to participate after Russia failed to issue visas even for a scaled-back observation mission.

Russian officials insist that all of Russia's obligations as an OSCE member were met and that the dispute over issuing visas to observers was caused by the monitoring group's failure to complete the proper paperwork.

A delegation from the OSCE's parliamentary assembly will observe Sunday's elections, as will a variety of other observers, including monitors from other former republics of the Soviet Union.

Cheney's VIsit to Georgia: an Articel in the Wall Street Journal

Cheney's Trip to Caucasus Could Presage a Tougher Russia Policy
September 2, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney will travel to Georgia and Ukraine this week in a trip that could help lay the groundwork for stiffer Western responses to last month's Russian incursion of Georgia.
[Dick Cheney]

The trip also illustrates important foreign-policy differences between Republican presidential candidate John McCain and his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, amid growing tensions between Washington and Moscow.

But whether Mr. Cheney will succeed in rallying the world to Georgia's cause -- or rallying U.S. voters to Sen. McCain's hawkish views on Russia -- remains uncertain.

Many U.S. allies in Western Europe remain wary of escalating tensions with a resurgent Russia, and thus could be reluctant to grant Georgia and Ukraine membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or kick Russia out of the Group of Eight leading nations, as Sen. McCain advocates. As a result, some friendly countries in the region are questioning the West's ability to protect Georgia and its neighbors.

And even though Sen. McCain appeared to get a bump in polls in the wake of the Russian-Georgian clashes, many U.S. voters already are weary of prolonged conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The public could conclude that more defense commitments aren't worth the potential price and side with Sen. Obama, whose responses to the Georgian crisis have emphasized diplomacy and consensus-building.

Mr. Cheney -- who was scheduled to depart Tuesday on a tour that also includes stops in Azerbaijan and Italy -- is expected to stress the depth of U.S. interests in Georgia and its neighbors, both for his overseas audience and his domestic one.

The Bush administration views the countries as bellwethers for the democracies growing up in Russia's shadow, and also as an indispensable corridor for shipping oil and gas from the Caspian basin -- a key to loosening Russia's grip on the region's energy supplies.

"I think the overriding priority...in Baku, Tbilisi and Kiev will be the same: a clear and simple message that the U.S. has a deep and abiding interest in the well-being and security of this part of the world," John Hannah, Mr. Cheney's national-security adviser, said at a briefing last week.

As part of that effort, the vice president could have a highly visible public meeting with U.S. military personnel who have been distributing humanitarian supplies in Georgia.

In private meetings, the vice president also will be sounding out Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and other officials about how the U.S. and its allies could help strengthen economic and military capabilities. (See related articles on page A20).

In the past, the U.S. has been careful not to go too far in military assistance in the region. For example, the U.S. avoided training and equipping Georgian armored units, even as about 100 U.S. military personnel in Tbilisi prepared Georgian troops for service in Iraq. "It was part of a policy aimed at not being too provocative" with the Russians, says a U.S. military official with knowledge of the region. "We intentionally never touched their tanks or artillery or attacked aviation."

Now that policy might be ripe for reconsideration, many experts say. An initial step could be to increase the number of U.S. military trainers in Georgia, some say.

More broadly, Mr. Cheney also appears to be exploring possibilities for security arrangements for the region in light of Russia's new assertiveness.

"Russia's actions in recent weeks have clearly cast grave doubts on its intentions, its purposes, and its reliability as an international partner," a senior administration official said. "They merit and demand a unified response from the free world -- one that...provides a long-term strategic framework going forward that will responsibly protect and advance our interests and values in the months and years ahead."

Still, some experts say the apparent reluctance of European NATO powers such as Germany to get more deeply involved in protecting Eastern Europe could lead to the establishment of a new security framework with many former Soviet satellite countries such as Poland and the Baltic states, as well as with the U.S. In addition to helping protect new democracies, beefed-up security understandings could help convince investors that the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey energy corridor will remain viable for shipping oil and gas.

Part of Russia's intent in its incursion, some experts say, was to send a message to the energy-rich countries of the Caspian region that it can shut off the Georgia shipping route any time it likes.

But Bush administration officials say Russia's disproportionate response in Georgia shows that it would be willing to abuse its power as an energy supplier to Western Europe too. That makes the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey corridor even more important.

"This is a major factor for why we should be concerned about Georgian independence," over and above concerns about the Russian incursion, said John Bolton, Mr. Bush's former United Nations ambassador. "The fact that [Mr. Cheney] is going to both Azerbaijan and Georgia tells you that's very much on his mind. If you can't start [energy shipment] in Azerbaijan and put it through Georgia, there aren't many places you can send it to" other than Russia or Iran.

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Georgia-Russia Conflict Changes The Energy Equation

Georgia-Russia Conflict Changes The Energy Equation
Bruce Pannier
Georgia's gas pipelines survived the conflict unscathed, but not all energy exports did.
Officials at the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline announced last week that the pipeline is fully functional and work has started to refill it. But in the weeks since the pipeline stopped working due to a fire along the Turkish section, much has changed along the pipeline's route due to the Georgian-Russian conflict.

There are fears that the conflict between Russia and Georgia may threaten existing and planned Caucasus energy routes seen by the West as vital supply corridors that avoid Russian territory.

Russia's military campaign this month in Georgia was a reminder that there is always a risk in running energy supply routes through this volatile part of the world -- a fact that is hitting home with potential investors in planned Caucasus natural-gas or oil pipelines.

When the conflict started on August 8, concerns immediately were raised about the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, which pumps nearly 1 million barrels of oil per day from Azerbaijan to Turkey's Mediterranean coast, where most of the supply is then shipped to Europe. Georgian officials reported several times during the conflict that Russian warplanes had tried but failed to bomb the pipeline.

However, Russian forces did destroy one key bridge on a Georgian railway line, disrupting oil exports to Georgia's Black Sea ports.

Pierre Noel, an energy expert at the European Council, points out the strategic difference for Russia between the two export routes. The Russians, Noel says, "always want people to believe they have a limited agenda, so they bombed the railway that brings Azeri oil to Georgia, and BP has been forced to stop its shipments of Azeri oil to Georgia by rail because the bridge has been bombed. But they wouldn't bomb a pipeline which is not directly linked to supplying Georgia." That, Noel says, would give the West justification to accuse Russia of aggression against the West or the region beyond Georgia itself.

"I think they wanted to create the strong perception that they were dealing with a limited set of problems, which are...Georgia-centered. Bombing BTC would have been too open an aggression, an act unrelated to the issue at hand," Noel says.

Jennifer DeLay of the "FSU Oil and Gas Monitor," a publication of the Edinburgh-based Newsbase Group, says Russia didn't need to damage the pipeline to show who's in charge in the Caucasus. "The pipeline itself was not bombed, of course, but the bombing did come awfully close," DeLay says. "My personal belief is that the Russians have put themselves into the position to be able to have some measure of control over the pipeline even if they have not hit it directly."

For now, the BTC pipeline looks secure for exports to Europe, albeit under the increased watch of Russia, as is the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline that runs along nearly the same route as the BTC. But the big question now concerns plans for future pipelines.

The United States and European Union have been supporting construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline to bring Azerbaijani and, more importantly, Turkmen and Kazakh natural gas to Europe -- eventually more than 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Nabucco is scheduled for completion in 2013, but no work has been done so far in laying the pipeline.

Nabucco also faces competition from the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project that runs nearly the same route as Nabucco and targets essentially the same consumer market. Given the outcome of the Georgian-Russian conflict, potential investors will have to consider which of the two pipelines is more likely to be built first.

The answer at the moment seems to be South Stream. Since hostilities eased in the Caucasus, Russia's Gazprom has managed to conclude a deal with key Caspian gas supplier Turkmenistan. The details of that deal are unclear, but it appears Ashgabat has agreed to sell even more gas to Gazprom. But in the end, just having those supplies may not be enough. Noel says that Russia's image in Europe has suffered from the military action in the Caucasus -- and that could spur a change in European energy policies.

"You can make the point that Russia has always met its contractual commitments, that it's been an extremely reliable supplier at least to Western Europe over the past four decades, which is true," Noel says. "But at the same time the political perception is something else and now the political perception is that Russia is not a reliable supplier, [or] at least it's a politically problematic supplier.... This will again increase the legitimacy of energy policies aimed at substituting away from gas, not necessarily only from Russian gas but from gas itself."

Still, it may not come to that. DeLay of the "FSU Oil and Gas Monitor" says Europe and Gazprom simply need each other too much. "Gazprom needs Europe as much as Europe needs Gazprom -- more, in fact. I believe that European gas sales account currently for about 60 percent of Gazprom's total revenues. Losing that would hurt the company very much," DeLay says.

So Russia may have won a Pyrrhic victory in Georgia. Its dominance in the Caucasus is almost beyond question now, but its image is badly tattered.

As a concession to customers in Europe, the Kremlin may have to allow alternative pipelines to be built to avoid losing revenue from sales in the West. After all, Europe may now see diversifying away from natural gas as preferable to a future as a captive customer of Russian gas supplies. /// RFE/RL, 2 Sep

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Perception of Georgian Government in Russia

The news on political arena are developing very rapidly. As Dick Cheney is planning a visit to Georgia, the President of Russia has commented on this as a possible attempt of US in suppporting Georgia in military terms. There were already indications in the press about possible rebuilding of war power in Georgia.

The President of Russia has mentioned in his remarks that the US relations with Georgia should be reconsidered "because it has put Georgia in a very difficult position, caused serious destablisation and launched an aggression that ended in many deaths."

EU leaders decided at the European Council meeting in Brussels on Monday to freeze talks on a new strategic EU-Russia accord. Putin, the Prime-Minister of Russia has already commented on this decision, saying "Thank God, common sense prevailed. We saw no extreme conclusions and proposals, and this is very good".

Saakashvili, meanwhile, pointed to the moratorium on EU-Russia partnership talks as proof of Western solidarity behind Georgia. "Russia failed to break the unity at the heart of Europe," he told France 24 television.

The Russian foreign ministry said that "the intention to freeze talks about a new partnership agreement is a cause for regret." Medvedev had earlier criticised what he called the EU's failure to understand Russian motives for going to war in Georgia.
And he made the following remark during an interview which was broadcasted on Russian TV:"For us, the present Georgian regime has collapsed. President Saakashvili no longer exists in our eyes. He is a political corpse". Medvedev said in the interview broadcast on Russian television.

Medvedev sa d Moscow was ready to hold talks with the international community "on all sorts of questions, including post-conflict resolution in the region" of the Caucasus.

"But we would like the international community to remember who began the aggression and who is responsible for people's deaths," he said.

EU does not impose sanctions, but suspends agreement on Strategic Pact

As was expected, the meeting of European leaders was a mix of calls for severe sanction against Russia, and calls for more moderate actions in view of the fact that Europe is really dependent on oil and gas supplies from this country.

As a result, no sanctions are envisaged, but EU has decided to condemn Russia for recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In addition, any discussions on the Strategic Pact between EU and Russia are postponed until full withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. You may find the text of the conclusions of the European Council Meeting here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/01_09_08_eurussia_statement.pdf

Monday, September 1, 2008

Anti-Russian Protests

Anti-Russian protesters flood the streets Tbilisi and other cities
In Georgia's capital Tbilisi, 100,000 protesters have crammed into the city’s main avenue as part of an anti-Russian demonstration.

Hand-holding protesters formed human chains in an echo of the so-called Baltic Chain of 1989, in which residents of then-Soviet Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia stretched the length of their homelands to protest Soviet occupation. Underscoring the Baltic example, some demonstrators waved Estonian and Lithuanian flags.

Organisers called on the European leaders meeting in Brussels to condemn Russia's actions.

Georgia hopes Europe will impose sanctions against individuals associated with the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Demonstrators draped themselves with Georgian flags and one group burned a Russian passport as a sign of protest.

Human chains proclaiming "Stop Russia" were also planned in Baku, Barcelona, Jerusalem, Kiev, Madrid, Sofia, Warsaw and Vienna, Georgian government spokeswoman Nino Imedashvili said.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Is Re-thinking Needed? Is Re-calculating worth it?

While US and almost all leading European governments are calling for harsh criticism and sanctions against Russia, Germany is the first to call for considerate approach, re-calculating possible economic implications of breaking normal trade and economic relations with Russia. Wise and objective, or tactful? You decide...and we all feel later...

Will the worsening of relations with Russia help the world?

Indeed, the tensions over Georgian-Russian war have escalated even further after the war ended this month. US is criticizing, EU is threatening with sanctions, Russia is responding fiercely...

But one should think whether it helps the world these days, as the fuel prices are already high and affecting each aspect of economic and social life of the societies in all parts of the world. If Europe is imposing economic sanction on Russian goods, will it include oil and gas in the coming winter season? Will this be good for European consumers who already feel financial burden and anticipate further problems of the financial markets? Are these questions well considered by politicians, or are they just playing already lost game just to save their image?

The world has changed, and it brings about the need to think twice before announcing new policies or actions towards any country of the world, as implications are becoming more and more unpredictable, if not analyzed through the prizm of new realities.

The world has changed to the point that price fluctuation in one part of the world is immediately felt in all countries and regions and small conflicts could lead to global confrontational disputes. Is this what the world needs now? Or something completely different and new? Your thoughts...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Latest UN Security Council Meeting on Georgia

Georgia exposes UN's weakness
Deadlocked over Georgia, ineffective on Darfur and impotent about Zimbabwe, the BBC's United Nations correspondent Laura Trevelyan asks, what is the point of the UN Security Council?

In the dog days of late August as Manhattan swelters, I have spent much of my time lurking by what is called the "UN Security Council stakeout".

It is the corridor where diplomats come to talk to journalists on their way in and out of security council meetings.

On the TV the stakeout radiates significance, but in reality it is rather faded.

Behind the diplomats hangs an enormous tapestry of Guernica, a reproduction of Picasso's famous anti-war painting, and a reminder of what the security council is supposed to try to prevent.

Georgia crisis

The stakeout has been unusually busy this August. Russia's eloquent Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been a regular, denouncing what he calls "propaganda from Georgia".

Tibilisi's young telegenic envoy Irakli Alasania is as media savvy as Georgia's president, but his efforts with words have been no match for Russian firepower on the ground.

The sparks have been flying between Ambassador Churkin and his US counterpart Zalmay Khalilzad, reflecting the profound disagreement between Moscow and Washington. European ambassadors have tried to act as a bridge between the two.

United Kingdom
United States

Diplomats have spent many long hours consulting, trying to agree a resolution which would endorse the ceasefire plan brokered by France.

The security guards have gone into overtime, the stakeout carpet has become even more worn and smoke has filled the air (you can light up in bits of the UN as it is international territory).

I have even tried to count the threads in the Guernica tapestry, but the council has been unable to agree even the mildest statement on the Georgian situation.

Much diplomatic effort was expended in an effort to agree language on the territorial integrity of Georgia. Russia said the world could forget about it but the US and European countries insisted it should be respected.

The diplomacy finally juddered to a halt earlier this week when Russia recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, rendering further arguments about territorial integrity futile.

With Russia being both a party to the conflict in Georgia and a veto-wielding power, the result this summer was paralysis at the council

But there is another reason why the council was deadlocked. Russia, like the US, Britain, France and China, is an all-powerful permanent member of the UN Security Council with the ability to block decisions.

That is the way the council was set up in the wake of WWII, with power going to the victors.

After the failings of the League of Nations, the idea was to give the UN Security Council teeth by enabling the five major powers to veto resolutions.

But with Russia being both a party to the conflict in Georgia and a veto wielding power, the result this summer was paralysis at the council.

Veto impasse

It is hardly the first time this has happened.

During what some are now calling the first Cold War, the Security Council was deadlocked because Russia and the US could both use their veto power.

But given the regularity with which the council reaches an impasse now, the obvious question is whether it is really working in the way it should.

The council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, a grand ambition, but if it cannot pronounce on Georgia, what use is it?

In July, China and Russia vetoed an attempt by the West to impose sanctions against members of Zimbabwe's government.

The peacekeeping force the Council despatched to Darfur is struggling, weakened because divisions between China and the West meant the Sudanese government was given a role in the force's composition, one it has exploited to the full.

Legitimacy doubts

You could say that the world is not united, so why expect the Council to be?

As China and Russia become more assertive, of course they will use the veto power as a tool of their foreign policy, just as Britain and France use their permanent member status to punch above their weight.

And it is not as if China and Russia are the only ones to use the veto.

The US uses the veto to protect its staunch ally Israel from what Washington sees as unbalanced criticism from the Arab world.

Security Council diplomats argue that the Georgia stand-off shows how important the forum is. If it was irrelevant, then no-one would bother trying to get agreement, say diplomats.

The failure is actually a reflection of the Council's power.

Meanwhile developing countries outside the Security Council question the legitimacy of a body set up to reflect the global power structure 60 years ago.

Divided world

India, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and Nigeria all have a strong case to be permanent members, and for 14 years, what are called in the jargon "open-ended discussions", have been going on over reforming the Security Council so it reflects the world as it is now.

Unsurprisingly those discussions have never concluded because many countries prefer the status quo to change, which would elevate their regional enemies.

Existing powers on the Security Council argue that enlargement is not without its perils. If too many countries have the veto, nothing would ever get done, they argue... self-servingly but also accurately.

Meanwhile I am still here at the stakeout, asking what the point of the UN Security Council is.

My conclusion is that it holds up a mirror to the world's divisions.

But if it does not start to reflect the schisms of the new world too, it will become as threadbare as the stakeout carpet.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Georgia Breaks its ties with Russia

According to the recent news Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia has asked Russian diplomats to leave Tbilisi, as Georgia is cutting its diplomatic ties with Russia.

EU energy reliance on Russia to grow after Georgia

EU energy reliance on Russia to grow after Georgia
Tom Bergin - Analysis
LONDON, 28 Aug—Russia's invasion of Georgia has reinforced Europe's desire to avoid over-reliance on Moscow for energy but EU countries' reluctance to pay for alternatives and uncoordinated policies mean their dependence is likely to grow.

The European Union relies on Russia for around a quarter of its gas and much of its oil while imports are expected to rise as North Sea production falls.

In recent years Moscow has cut off energy supplies to neighbours on a number of occasions, prompting the EU to push for projects that would bypass Russia.

In the past month, this policy has gained new urgency.

"The Georgia conflict appears to reaffirm the Commission's continued policy on strengthening the security of Europe's energy supply, including by means of diversification," EU Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said.

The EU is pushing the Nabucco pipeline, which seeks to bring Azeri and Central Asian gas to Europe through Turkey, and a trans-Caspian pipeline that would allow Central Asian counties like Turkmenistan to export gas without crossing Russia.

These pipelines have struggled to get off the ground. Now their future looks even more in doubt after Russia's action highlighted the vulnerability of the 850,000 barrels per day Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil link and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline both crossing Georgia.

"It was unlikely to happen anyway and what has happened in Georgia has made it a whole lot less likely," said Tanya Costello at Eurasia Group, the political risk advisory firm.

Costello said oil companies would now be reluctant to invest in pipelines that crossed Georgia or relied on oil and gas passing through that country. Also, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan may now fear pursuing non-Russian export routes.

"Russia's actions in Georgia make those Central Asian gas producers even less likely to risk jeopardising their relationship with Moscow for a pro-Western route," she said.

Part of the reason Nabucco and the trans-Caspian pipeline have struggled is because Europe's governments have been reluctant to back the projects with cash or diplomatic pressure in the way that Moscow has promoted such projects of its own.

A spokesman for the UK government said it would press the case for Nabucco, which is also strongly supported by the United States, but added, in an email, that it was "conscious of the underlying principle that the market is best placed to deliver required investment".

Analysts say it is unrealistic for governments to expect companies like Royal Dutch Shell and BP to bear the costs and risks of providing Europe's energy security.

"If you looked at commercial factors alone, the Soviets would never have built the pipeline infrastructure from Siberia to Eastern Europe in the first place and now Europe relies on that pipeline network," Andrew Neff, Energy Analyst at Global Insight said.

In addition to cash, the EU could back projects by taking a more active role in securing energy supplies from countries like Turkmenistan.

"Finding enough supplies is the big problem and it cannot be solved just by the efforts of the companies in the Nabucco consortium," Bulgaria's Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov told Reuters in an interview earlier this week.

"Russia is holding political talks to buy out the available gas from the Caspian region ... I believe the EU should also hold such political talks," he said.

Another problem in diversifying away from Russia is that big countries like Germany and Italy tend to back projects which secure their own energy supplies rather than working with other EU members on behalf of the whole bloc, analysts and some European politicians say.

Berlin backs the Nordstream gas pipeline which is led by Russian state-controlled gas export monopoly Gazprom and in which Germany's largest utility E.ON and chemicals maker BASF own minority stakes.

Nordstream aims to bring gas from Russia to Germany across the Baltic rather than through Eastern Europe.

Poland and Lithuania have criticised the pipeline, saying it makes them more susceptible to supply cuts from Russia as they alone would be affected.

Previous reductions in Russian oil and gas exports to Germany and Italy, after Moscow cut supplies to Ukraine and Belarus as a result of price disputes, were short-lived.

By contrast, an oil pipeline to Lithuania, which Russia shut down in July 2006, after Vilnius opted for a Polish rather than Russian buyer for its state refinery, has never reopened.

"The way Germany sees this is the best way to reduce insecurity of supply is not to cut Russia out but to cut dependence on potentially troublesome transit countries," Costello said.

Similarly Milan-based oil company Eni, in which the Italian government has a 20 percent stake and whose chief executive is selected by Rome, is a junior partner in Southstream, a Gazprom-backed rival to Nabucco.

Eni has also offered to help Gazprom build a gas pipeline to Europe from Libya, from which Gazprom said in July it had offered to buy all future volumes of oil and gas, much to the discomfort of Brussels.

Katinka Barysch, at the Centre for European Reform, a pro-Europe think-tank, said the inability of European countries to act together was Moscow's gain.

"If they're divided, Russia would be foolish not to take advantage of it," she said. /// Reuters

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There would be more questions...and more answers?

The war has ended, but the tension is high. What will be the reaction of the world to the situation here. While the positions of Russia and Georgia are known, how the rest of the world will react? USA? European Union? Japan? China?

Any suggestions? Forecasts?

FT: New Article - views from President of Georgia

Moscow’s plan is to redraw the map of Europe

Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Georgia

Any doubts about why Russia invaded Georgia have now been erased. By illegally recognising the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president, made clear that Moscow’s goal is to redraw the map of Europe using force.

This war was never about South Ossetia or Georgia. Moscow is using its invasion, prepared over years, to rebuild its empire, seize greater control of Europe’s energy supplies and punish those who believed democracy could flourish on its borders. Europe has reason to worry. Thankfully, most of the international community has condemned the invasion and confirmed their unwavering support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Our first duty is to highlight Russia’s Orwellian tactics. Moscow says it invaded Georgia to protect its citizens in South Ossetia. Over the past five years it cynically laid the groundwork for this pretence, by illegally distributing passports in South Ossetia and Ab­khazia, “manufacturing” Russian citizens to protect. The cynicism of Russia’s concern for ethnic minorities can be expressed in one word: Chechnya.

This cynicism has become hypocritical and criminal. Since Russia’s invasion, its forces have been “cleansing” Georgian villages in both regions – including outside the conflict zone – using arson, rape and execution. Human rights groups have documented these actions. Moscow has flipped the Kosovo precedent on its head: where the west acted to prevent ethnic cleansing, in Georgia ethnic cleansing is being used by Russia to consolidate its military annexation.

Other Russian lies have also been debunked. The most egregious was Moscow’s absurd claim on the eve of the invasion that Georgia was committing genocide in South Ossetia, with 2,000 civilian deaths. A week later, Moscow admitted that only 133 people had died. These were overwhelmingly military casualties and came after the Russian invasion. But the genocide claim served its goal. In a media era hungry for content, the big lie still works.

Russia’s campaign to redraw the map of Europe is based on the propagation of misinformation. On Wednesday on this page, Mr Medvedev asserted that Georgia attacked South Ossetia. In fact, our forces entered the conflict zone after Russia rolled its tanks on to our soil, passing through the Roki tunnel into South Ossetia, Georgia. Mr Medvedev also claimed Russia had no designs on our territory. Why then did it bomb and occupy Georgian cities such as Gori? Why does it continue to occupy our strategic port of Poti?

Moscow also counts on historical amnesia. It hopes the west will forget ethnic cleansing in Abkhazia drove out more than three-quarters of the local population – ethnic Georgians, Greeks, Jews and others – leaving the minority Abkhaz in control. Russia also wants us to forget that South Ossetia was run not by its residents (almost half were Georgian before this month’s ethnic cleansing) but by Russian officials. When the war started, South Ossetia’s de facto prime minister, defence minister and security minister were ethnic Russians with no ties to the region.

The next step in Russia’s invasion script, of disinformation and annexation, is regime change. If Moscow can oust Georgia’s democratically elected government, it can then intimidate other democratic European governments. Where will this end? What we know about Russia, and especially the current regime, is not encouraging.

Last week Vaclav Havel, the former Czech president, put us on alert: “Russia does not really know where it begins and where it ends.” He noted that the Moscow regime is “a lot more sophisticated” than the Soviets under Leonid Brezhnev. He should know – he was on the front line the last time Russia invaded a European country.

Mr Medvedev is now making menacing statements about Ukraine and Moldova and is replicating its Georgia strategy in the Crimea by distributing Russian passports. The message is clear. Russia will do as it pleases.

I believe the most potent western response to Russia is to stay united and firm by providing immediate material and political support. If Moscow is trying to overthrow our government using its lethal tools, let us resist with democratic tools that have sustained more than 60 years of Euro-Atlantic peace. Backing Georgia with Europe’s political and financial institutions is a powerful response. Regrettably, this story is no longer about my small country, but the west’s ability to stand its ground to defend a principled approach to international security and keep the map of Europe intact. /// The Financial Times, 26/27 Aug

Article in Financial TImes

Why I had to recognise Georgia’s breakaway regions
Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russian Federation
On Tuesday Russia recognised the independence of the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It was not a step taken lightly, or without full consideration of the consequences. But all possible outcomes had to be weighed against a sober understanding of the situation – the histories of the Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples, their freely expressed desire for independence, the tragic events of the past weeks and inter­national precedents for such a move.

Not all of the world’s nations have their own statehood. Many exist happily within boundaries shared with other nations. The Russian Federation is an example of largely harmonious coexistence by many dozens of nations and nationalities. But some nations find it impossible to live under the tutelage of another. Relations between nations living “under one roof” need to be handled with the utmost sensitivity.

After the collapse of communism, Russia reconciled itself to the “loss” of 14 former Soviet republics, which became states in their own right, even though some 25m Russians were left stranded in countries no longer their own. Some of those nations were un­able to treat their own minorities with the respect they deserved. Georgia immediately stripped its “autonomous regions” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia of their autonomy.

Can you imagine what it was like for the Abkhaz people to have their university in Sukhumi closed down by the Tbilisi government on the grounds that they allegedly had no proper language or history or culture and so did not need a university? The newly independent Georgia inflicted a vicious war on its minority nations, displacing thousands of people and sowing seeds of discontent that could only grow. These were tinderboxes, right on Russia’s doorstep, which Russian peacekeepers strove to keep from igniting.

But the west, ignoring the delicacy of the situation, unwittingly (or wittingly) fed the hopes of the South Ossetians and Abkhazians for freedom. They clasped to their bosom a Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, whose first move was to crush the autonomy of another region, Adjaria, and made no secret of his intention to squash the Ossetians and Abkhazians.

Meanwhile, ignoring Russia’s warnings, western countries rushed to recognise Kosovo’s illegal declaration of independence from Serbia. We argued consistently that it would be impossible, after that, to tell the Abkhazians and Ossetians (and dozens of other groups around the world) that what was good for the Kosovo Albanians was not good for them. In international relations, you cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others.

Seeing the warning signs, we persistently tried to persuade the Georgians to sign an agreement on the non-use of force with the Ossetians and Abkhazians. Mr Saakashvili refused. On the night of August 7-8 we found out why.

Only a madman could have taken such a gamble. Did he believe Russia would stand idly by as he launched an all-out assault on the sleeping city of Tskhinvali, murdering hundreds of peaceful civilians, most of them Russian citizens? Did he believe Russia would stand by as his “peacekeeping” troops fired on Russian comrades with whom they were supposed to be preventing trouble in South Ossetia?

Russia had no option but to crush the attack to save lives. This was not a war of our choice. We have no designs on Georgian territory. Our troops entered Georgia to destroy bases from which the attack was launched and then left. We restored the peace but could not calm the fears and aspirations of the South Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples – not when Mr Saakashvili continued (with the complicity and encouragement of the US and some other Nato members) to talk of rearming his forces and reclaiming “Georgian territory”. The presidents of the two republics appealed to Russia to recognise their independence.

A heavy decision weighed on my shoulders. Taking into account the freely expressed views of the Ossetian and Abkhazian peoples, and based on the principles of the United Nations charter and other documents of international law, I signed a decree on the Russian Federation’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I sincerely hope that the Georgian people, to whom we feel historic friendship and sympathy, will one day have leaders they deserve, who care about their country and who develop mutually respectful relations with all the peoples in the Caucasus. Russia is ready to support the achievement of such a goal. /// The Financial Times, 26/27 Aug

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Future of Georgian-Abkhaz-Ossetian relations

The history of relations between ethnic groups in Georgia is very complicated and is overwhelmed by conflicts, lack of security and continous threats of conflicts. The latest war has ended this month. What the future will bring to the people in this very insecure part of the world? Any ideas?
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