Is Georgia’s independence going to end, after just a couple of decades? This is the fear that has been sparked in the Georgian people in light of recent statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Does the Kremlin seek to resume control of its smaller neighbour?
Following the report of Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, the Russo-Georgian war of 2008 was blamed on Georgia, which was accused of first attacking South Ossetia, which caused a disproportionate response of Russia. However, in an interview given to a Russian television earlier this month, Putin admitted what the Georgian president had been stating for years: the conflict was planned and premeditated by the Russian General Staff.
”There was a plan, it is not a secret … It is in the context of this plan has acted Russia. It has been prepared by the General Staff in late 2006 and early 2007. It has been approved by me and agreed with me,” said the Russian president, who was already in power at the time as Prime Minister. Under this plan, heavy weapons and troops were mobilized and prepared for an upcoming invasion of Georgia.
This five-day war resulted in the self-proclaimed independence of the two breakaway regions of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, recognized only by Russia as sovereign states. Since the war in 2008, Russia claimed to only have acted in defence of its Ossetian brothers after a Georgian attack, when in reality Moscow formed local militias in the region in the two years leading up to the war, violating international law.
“As part of this plan, training militia of South Ossetia was made… our military experts initially thought that these militias could not help in a confrontation between regular armies, but in fact they have been very helpful,” admitted the Russian president. These statements are overwhelming and proved a real snub to the European and American version who had believed in Moscow.
Why has Putin decided to make this breach of international law public knowledge now? Unquestionably, he knows he is in a position of strength, and if any time was right to strike, this would be it. As was the case in 2008, the United States is once again in the midst of a Presidential election, and no candidate wants to be involved in any sort of conflict with Russia at this time. Meanwhile, Europe is focused on its own problems, with financial crises constantly knowing away at European resources. According to military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, there is no doubt about a Russian offensive. “The Russian General Staff probably has another plan to invade and occupy the rest of Georgia. As in 2008, the decision to activate will be decided by one and the same person: Vladimir Putin.”
In addition, Moscow could enjoy the disruption a parliamentary election could bring in Georgia, and with the elections taking place within a month, the country is in a most vulnerable state. Russia could seek to strengthen its military positions in the breakaway regions, while supporting its allies in Georgia- particularly its presidential candidate Bidzina Ivanishvili. The oligarch is leading an openly populist and conservative campaign, targeting primarily ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities.
However, many fear that supporting a puppet of the Kremlin is not enough for Vladimir Putin. In case of failure of the populist leader gaining power in the election, it is likely that Russia will choose to rein in Georgia the hard way. What will be the reaction of the West? It is feared that they dare not oppose the ambitions of the Russian Tsar, but we can only hope that Georgia will remain strong.