Georgia

  • Syria Just Backed Russia’s Illegal Occupation of Georgian Regions

    Last week, Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria illegally recognized Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (so-called South Ossetia), two historic regions of Georgia, as independent states. This was done undoubtedly at the behest of Assad’s main patron—Russia. With this act, the Assad regime declared its support for Russia’s military aggression against Georgia, the illegal occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, and the ethnic cleansing that is taking place in these territories.

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  • Georgia’s Path Westward

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    “Georgia should associate its own case with the transatlantic strategy of advancing the frontiers of freedom in the post-Cold War world,” write former US ambassadors to Georgia, William Courtney and Kenneth Yalowitz, and Atlantic Council distinguished fellow Daniel Fried in Georgia’s Path Westward, a new report from the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and the National Democratic Institute. In the 1990s, Georgia—beset by separatist conflicts, corruption, extreme poverty, and threats from Russia—was at risk of becoming a failed state. It has overcome many of these challenges and now stands as a striking example of a reforming and Western-oriented country transcending the limitations of decades of Soviet rule.

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  • Why the Bucharest Summit Still Matters Ten Years On

    A decade ago, I received a four word message from a close German acquaintance who had accompanied Chancellor Angela Merkel to the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, that was tasked to decide whether to provide Georgia and Ukraine with a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). It read: "Yes, but not now!" Having just seen a couple of episodes of World at War on the History Channel, I laconically and almost whimsically responded: "Fateful decision."

    Ukraine and Georgia didn’t get their MAP status in Bucharest, and were left with an open-ended—and some might say useless—promise of eventual membership.

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  • Russia Isn’t Just Interfering in Elections Around the World. It’s Doing Something Far Worse

    Russian President Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing in his hunt for dissidents abroad. In his determination, he has found some powerful allies within Western democracies—a practice that should alarm those who prize justice and the rule of law.

    In recent weeks, I’ve been collecting stories of Russian dissidents who say they fell victim to exchanges of confidential information between European officials and Russian authorities. The leak of one Cyprus prosecutor’s emails in November has exposed a growing trend: in its hunt to track critics, the Kremlin is recruiting allies within Western states’ law enforcement agencies.

    The communication leak on the part of Cyprus’ deputy attorney general exposes a much wider exchange of confidential EU information, some of it classified, with Russian authorities.

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  • Is This the End of Mikheil Saakashvili in Ukraine?

    Today opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili was deported to Poland. For months he has been leading protests outside of Ukraine's parliament, urging President Petro Poroshenko to resign. The Saakashvili drama has been ongoing; last year he was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and then reentered the country illegally. In December, he was arrested and then broke free.

    We asked Atlantic Council experts and UkraineAlert friends the following questions: Have we seen the end of Saakashvili’s days as a Ukrainian politician? What does the process of deporting an opposition politician after stripping him of citizenship say about the health of Ukraine’s democracy? Is Saakashvili a special case, or does his deportation send a signal to opposition leaders and civil society groups that they are next? 

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  • Karatnycky in POLITICO: The Rise and Fall of Mikheil Saakashvili


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  • Does the EU Even Care about Eastern Europe Anymore?

    If you missed the European Union’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on November 24, you are not alone. It was a forgettable event, but it tells us quite a bit about the EU’s state of affairs in Eastern Europe.

    The proud start of the EU Eastern Partnership was the Prague summit in May 2009, instigated by Foreign Ministers Carl Bildt of Sweden and Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland. These heroes of East-West integration are out of office, and we feel their absence keenly.

    In 2009, the essence of the joint declaration between the six members of the Eastern Partnership, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, was “that the Eastern Partnership will be based on commitments to the principles of international law and to fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to, market economy, sustainable development, and good governance.” Today, little remains but threadbare slogans.

    The Eastern Partnership advanced until the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit in November 2013, as Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine negotiated association agreements, including deep and comprehensive free trade agreements. In Vilnius, Ukraine was supposed to sign its association agreement, but Russia’s President Vladimir Putin persuaded Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych not to do so. He had already done so with Armenia’s President Serzh Sargzian in September 2013. Only Georgia and Moldova held fast and signed their EU agreements.

    The next Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in May 2015 marked the decline. The fault did not lie with Latvia but with the EU’s lack of strategy.

    It is easy to ridicule this latest Eastern Partnership summit, and sadly there are good reasons for doing so.

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  • Unfreezing Eurasia’s Frozen Conflicts May Not Be as Hard as You Think

    It was nearly impossible to find an empty seat on the twice-weekly WizzAir flight from Berlin to Kutaisi this summer. The budget airline carries mostly German hikers to Georgia’s second largest city. From there, the hikers transfer in Zugdidi to reach their final destination, the remote and breathtaking Svaneti region, high in the Greater Caucasus. In Svaneti, most of these hikers undertake an established four-day hike from Mestia to Ushguli, one of the highest inhabited towns in Europe and home to striking UNESCO heritage sites. On the way, they stop overnight in three villages, which has boosted local economies.

    Inspired by the success of the Mestia-Ushguli route, a group of nature-loving idealists wants to elevate the Caucasus in hiking circles and bring world-class trails to other parts of Georgia, as well as to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and eventually, the conflict zones of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.

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  • Why Russia’s War against Ukraine May Never End

    Russian President Vladimir Putin recently requested a UN peacekeeping mission for eastern Ukraine. While at home this looks like a peace overture, Putin is not motivated by the desire for amity.

    The proposal is similar to Russian actions in Georgia prior to 2008, when it supported a UN observer mission in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone and an OSCE mission in South Ossetia in addition to its own “peacekeeping” force. Rather than achieving lasting peace, these moves were a prelude to Russia cementing its presence in Georgia’s conflict regions.

    In the Donbas, Russia is using military force to create a permanent unresolved conflict. The war is putting intense pressure on the government in Kyiv, sapping momentum from its efforts toward reform and Euro-Atlantic integration. But if and when Ukraine, Russia, and the Russian-backed separatists reach a durable ceasefire agreement, temporary respite is all it will be.

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  • There He Goes Again. Putin Meddles in the South Caucasus

    Russia President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump likely agreed to restrict intervention in the affairs of third countries at the G-20 summit. This agreement, however, contradicts Russian foreign policy. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, Russia seeks to curtail the ability of these governments to pursue independent foreign policies. A series of recent probes in the region demonstrate that Trump’s agreement with Putin is worthless and that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these states is meaningless from Moscow’s standpoint. Russia feels free to intervene in their affairs at any time, threaten their compatriots in Russia, and regularly brandish military and other forms of power to intimidate them. Unless Washington, Brussels, and NATO step up their game, this region will either explode or be compelled to shelter under Russian power. The West cannot simply look away because European security is linked to the security of the South Caucasus.
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