THE CURRENT SITUATION IN KAVKAZ: A COMMENT
"Necessitas non habet legem." Publilius Syrus, circa 50 BC.
"It is necessary at this point to dispel the current illusion that the policy of those states which are, broadly speaking satisfied with the status quo and whose watchword is 'security', is somehow less concerned with power than the policy of the dissatisfied states, and that the popular phrase "power politics" applies to the acts of the latter but not to those of the former. This illusion, which has an almost irresistible attraction for the publicists of the satisfied Powers, is responsible for much confused thinking about international politics. The pursuit of 'security' by satisfied Powers has often been the motive of flagrant examples of power politics. In order to secure themselves against the revenge of a defeated enemy, victorious Powers have in the past resorted to such measures as the taking of hostages, the mutilation or enslavement of males of military age or, in modern times, the dismemberment and occupation of territory or forced disarmament. It is profoundly misleading to represent the struggle between satisfied and dissatisfied Powers as a struggle between morality on one side and power on the other. It is a clash in which, whatever the moral issue, power politics are equally predominant on both sides".
The 20 Years Crisis, 1919-1939: An introduction to the Study of International Relations. Edward Hallett Carr, 1939.
"Ten months after the “August war” between Georgia and Russia, violent incidents and the lack of an effective security regime in and around the conflict zones of South Ossetia and Abkhazia create a dangerous atmosphere in which extensive fighting could again erupt. Russia has not complied with key aspects of the ceasefire agreements that President Medvedev reached in August/September 2008 with French President Sarkozy in his then EU presidency role. Its 15 June Security Council veto of an extension of the sixteen-year-old UN observer mission mandate in Georgia and Abkhazia and its apparent intention to require the removal of the mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) by the end of the month are blows to regional security that will further fuel tensions. Most of the on-the-ground conflict resolution machinery is thus being dismantled. Moscow should review its counterproductive position and work for a reasonable compromise allowing the UN and OSCE monitors to continue their important work".
Georgia: The Risks of Winter, Europe Briefing N°51, 26 November 2008
"Georgia-Russia:Still insecure and Dangerous,"
The International Crisis Group, Europe Briefing paper # 53, 22 June 2009, in www.crisisgroup.org
Without becoming involved in the respective merits of the clash between Russia and Georgia which occurred last August (if you are curious, please go to the archive section of this online journal and take a quick look), I do believe that the above newly issued paper by the International Crisis Group, deserves a comment. Specifically, I would like to look at the underlying mentality of the authors of this report. Because underneath one can easily spy and see the type of mentality that the late Professor E. H. Carr so roundly and correctly criticized in his magnum opus. Specifically, the idea present in the Crisis Group's view that: a) there is a serious danger of another military conflict in Kavkaz between Georgia and Russia; b) that Russia has something to lose from such a conflict; c) that there is something which the International Community can do to stop this allegedly looming fight.
As per 'a' above, this is a complete non-starter, recognized by even the most partisan Russophobes in the Georgian government. Especially, as the likelihood of NATO membership has in effect gone out of the window. Similarly, following from the above as it relates to 'b', while there does not appear to be a real and present danger of another round of fighting, similarly there does not appear to be anything which would cause Russia to actively avoid such a situation if in fact Tbilisi chose to engage in such a suicidal course of action. Indeed as noted by the Georgian analyst Paata Zakareishvili, Russia is already the de facto hegemonic power in the region, which none of the regional states can dare challenge:
"Russia has, step by step, nudged international institutions such as the OSCE and the UN out from Georgia and cemented its hold on the region....If one day Tbilisi and Sukhumi decide to start talking to one another on whatever issue, both sides will have to ask for Russian consent, and Russia becomes the sole powerbroker in the region."
Giorgi Lomsadze, "Georgia: United Nations to Leave Abkhazia," 16 June 2009, in www.eurasianet.org
As for 'c', what can one say, but that the International community has chosen to recognize the reality of power relations in the Kavkaz region? If the ICG laments the fact that: "Russia has consolidated its position in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the face of relatively little international criticism", this is due to the fact that none of the Great Powers has any interest at this point of time in challenging Russia in this area. With this observation applying in particular to the Americans, who have other, more important points to discuss and negotiate with Moskva, than that of Georgia's lost provinces. Indeed, as predicted here the upshot of the Russo-Georgian war, is that Tbilisi has lost much of its former importance as a diplomatic and military chess piece for both the Americans and their allies. Indeed, some sources are even talking up (the to my mind extremely unlikely) idea that Baku could join NATO instead (see: Shahin Abbasov, "Azerbaijan: Baku can leapfrog over Ukraine, Georgia for NATO membership--source," 4 June 2009, in www.eurasianet.org). It seems that in the case of the Russo-Georgian war, for once, even the Americans have learned their lessons in International affairs relatively quickly. May one hope that the good people at the ICG, will do so soon as well?