Russia vs Georgia: The Fallout
Tbilisi/Brussels, 22 August 2008: The Russia-Georgia conflict has transformed the contemporary geopolitical world. The international challenge is not only to restore peace and stability in Georgia through the immediate implementation of the ceasefire accord, but to seriously address the more fundamental questions the conflict raises for security in Europe.
Russia vs Georgia: The Fallout,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the mistakes on all sides that led to war and offers comprehensive recommendations for the belligerent parties and international institutions. Both Georgia’s rash miscalculation in attacking its breakaway region of South Ossetia, and Russia’s disproportionate response in invading large portions of Georgia, make the conflicts over the separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia far harder to resolve.
The urgent need is to implement fully the 15-16 August ceasefire, and most significantly, to ensure that Russian troops return immediately to pre-7 August positions. “Western states must press Moscow to accept the common understanding of the loosely-worded ceasefire, and not try to use loopholes to retain a de facto occupation of parts of Georgia”, said Crisis Group Caucasus Project Director, Lawrence Sheets.
International monitors should be deployed to observe Russian withdrawal and then help keep the ceasefire in South Ossetia and Abkhazia until the UN authorises an international peacekeeping mission, which Russia should be allowed to join but not dominate. Humanitarian aid must be freely distributed and displaced persons assisted in returning to their homes.
More broadly, Russia’s actions have undermined regional security; threatened vital energy corridors; made claims on ethnic Russians and other minorities that could be used to destabilise other former Soviet republics, including Ukraine; and shown disregard for international law.
The crisis raises questions about the compatibility of Russia’s intentions with the rights of other states on its borders. It has also raised concerns about the capacity of NATO, the UN and EU to address basic security challenges stemming from the aggressive self-confidence of a Moscow that feels the West has, since the Soviet Union collapsed, taken advantage of its weakness, ignored its interests, and maintained NATO in an unnecessarily confrontational way.
“Current rhetoric in Moscow and Western capitals is eerily reminiscent of the Cold War and will do nothing to resolve the crisis on the ground in Georgia or repair the damage done to European security”, says Crisis Group President Gareth Evans. “The West needs to address Russia’s behaviour not by isolating Moscow, but by engaging it in a way that is both hard-headed and conditional.”
The West should deliver a firm message to Russia that if it does not respect the ceasefire deal and cooperate in implementing the international peacekeeping mission, it will be met with a serious response, including suspension of its Moscow’s World Trade Organisation application and its participation in the G-8, and a challenge to its holding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
But if Russia does now significantly moderate its behaviour, the message should be that the West is prepared to explore common security interests and ways to bridge differences, on a wide range of regional and global security and economic issues.
To find out more, visit our "War in Georgia" page, which has links to Crisis Group’s reports and opinion pieces on the situation, details of our advocacy efforts to date, links to other resources, and information on what you can do to support Crisis Group’s efforts.
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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.