The screen will not help: New songs about the old will not hide the strengthening of military cooperation between Georgia and NATO

Wed, 03/04/2019 - 10:24

Russia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, on the eve of the regular Geneva Discussions that started on April 2 in Switzerland, reaffirmed the relevance of this international format.

The corresponding statements with a small interval sounded by Russian, South Ossetian and Abkhaz diplomats, becoming a kind of response to the recent statement by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili about the need to create a new international format at a higher political level.

“The format should be changed to a higher level of diplomatic and political dialogue. We cannot resolve our conflict in the format that is merely occupied by technical issues,” Zurabishvili said in particular.

In her opinion, the Geneva format does not meet the requirements that Georgia needs today.

Tskhinval and Moscow, preferred not to react directly to the message of Zurabishvili, who serves as the technical president of Georgia, recalling that the Geneva discussions for more than 10 years are the only platform for contacts between the parties to avoid the escalation of tension.

The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Daur Kove during his visit to Moscow for talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov said more specifically.

“I believe that the Georgian authorities should take care of the issue related to the signing of an agreement on the non-use of force between Abkhazia and, respectively, Georgia and South Ossetia. All other conversations about changing the format, about its productivity and unproductiveness are all just idle conversations,” Kove said in an interview with RIA Novosti.

According to him, the non-constructive approach of the Georgian side is preventing the resolution of the main issue of the discussions.

The fact that South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia have dismissed Zurabishvili’s initiatives, who has been developing vigorous foreign policy since its election, is quite understandable.

For nearly three decades, each new Georgian leader considered it his duty to launch high-profile initiatives against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At the same time, these numerous initiatives did not have any fundamental differences from each other. In the same way, Zurabishvili’s statements have become another new song about the past.

However, for a diplomat with the experience of Zurabishvili, in this case it is not only a matter of wanting to be promoted.

On the one hand, she seeks to show its activity on this important issue for the Georgian public, on the other hand, her initiatives can be populist rhetoric aimed at diverting attention from other processes.

Strengthening Georgia’s military cooperation with the United States and its allies in the North Atlantic Alliance threatens a new spiral of tension in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Against the background of such a prospect, unattractive for Georgian business and the mass of ordinary people, the Georgian authorities are once again ready to apply the tested scheme to avoid accusations of deliberately undermining the stability in the region.

Populist calls for dialogue, coupled with the unconvincing "steps to a better future", could not be better suited as a disguise for a new round of militarization of Georgia with the help of NATO.

At the same time, in addition to expanding the scale of the land component of the military cooperation of the Georgian army with the Alliance, Tbilisi and Brussels intend to add a naval component, which is a serious threat to the interests of Russia in the Black Sea region.

This issue was one of the main issues at the recent meeting of the Prime Minister of Georgia Mamuka Bakhtadze with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“The Black Sea is one of the top priorities for NATO today, and we welcome it. Everyone well understands that Georgia plays a unique, I would say, irreplaceable role in the concept of the Black Sea security.

Therefore, together with NATO, we have planned joint steps so that security in the Black Sea region is sustainable,” said Bakhtadze.

Stoltenberg, like during previous meetings with Georgian leaders, did not hide the fact that building up cooperation between Brussels and Tbilisi was directed against Russia.

“Georgia and NATO share concerns about the Russian military strengthening in the Black Sea region. We will intensify our cooperation at the sea, including training for the Georgian coast guard forces, greater cooperation between the naval forces of Georgia and NATO,” the Alliance Secretary General said.

The words of Bakhtadze on the indispensability of Georgia for the policy of the West in the Black Sea region in this context should not be viewed as banal Eastern demagogy. After the accession of the Crimea to Russia, the Russian fleet really gained a tangible advantage, allowing it to control the Black Sea.

The serious deterioration in US relations with Turkey further aggravated the adverse changes. In the current situation, the only way for the States to somehow compensate for Russia's dominance in the Black Sea region is the strengthening of military cooperation with Georgia, the ports of which can receive large-tonnage warships.

One of the signals that the process was launched was the entry of the ships of the Second Permanent Naval Group of NATO to the Georgian port of Poti.

NATO ships will conduct joint exercises with two ships of the coast guard of Georgia - "Dioskuriya" and "Ochamchire", after which on 4 April they will leave the Georgian territorial waters of Georgia.

The nature of the exercises is also extremely transparent.

“The fact that Russia with the use of force has changed borders is unacceptable for us. Taking into account the active aggressiveness that Russia is implementing, we have increased our representation in the Black Sea region. Our goal is to strengthen relations with Georgia,” said the commander of NATO’s 2nd Permanent Naval Group.

Moreover, the North Atlantic Alliance has already offered Georgia to restore the navy, which was almost completely destroyed by Russian paratroopers and seamen in August 2008. The proposal was announced at the level of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, which means that the Georgian authorities will soon begin its implementation.
At the same time, Georgia should restore the Navy as a separate structure in the armed forces by August of this year, coinciding with the Agile Spirit joint exercises, during which emphasis will be placed on the naval component.

It is clear that Georgia itself will not pull the costs associated with the acquisition of new ships and their maintenance, not to mention the creation of appropriate infrastructure. But, apparently, something else is required from the Georgian authorities: they must only provide a convenient platform for the deployment of naval groups of Western countries near Russia.

However, in this case, the vigorous activity of Zurabishvili and the regular pedaling of new old initiatives will not do much for Georgia. In recent years, Russian experts and diplomats at various levels have clearly explained to the Georgian authorities that such unfriendly actions will cause a complex response from Moscow. The question is whether the message of Moscow will be understood in Tbilisi or whether they will prefer to rely on help from Washington, regardless of the consequences.

Alan Dzhioev, especially for the IA "Res"

Алан Джиоев, специально для ИА "Рес"
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