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  • Georgia and Russia: The Occupation Too Many Have Forgotten

    Almost four years after the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008, approximately 10,000 Russian troops still occupy the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This occupation represents 20 percent of Georgia’s internationally recognized territory and is in direct violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement brokered by then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Although many of Georgia’s friends have forgotten about the occupation, the Georgian people certainly have not. Polling shows the question of Georgia’s territorial integrity as the biggest concern after unemployment for the Georgian people.

    Today, I visited the Line of Occupation near the Georgian village of Odzisi. Put simply, the Line of Occupation is where free and democratic Georgia meets Russian-occupied and oppressed Georgia. It’s quite a surreal experience. A sandbag bunker flying the Georgian flag manned with Georgian police stands only a couple hundred yards from a similar Russian bunker. It is hard for me to believe that peaceful and cosmopolitanTbilisiis only 30 miles behind me.

    I see a Russian checkpoint flying a Russian flag in an area that is internationally recognized to be inside the Republic of Georgia. It’s the 21st century version of the 20th century Cold War front line. Beyond my line of sight, I am told, there are advanced S300 anti-aircraft systems, BM-30 Smerch rocket launchers, and SS-21 Scarab tactical ballistic missiles—all allegedly present in South Ossetia and within striking distance of Tbilisi. From the checkpoint, Russia’s newest military base can clearly be seen less than a mile away. Off in the distance, I see a new road is being constructed over the mountain linking Russia’s new military base with South Ossetia’s provincial capital of Tskhinvali. Sadly, none of this looks temporary—the Russians are there to stay.

    Occasionally, one can see a European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) vehicle patrolling the surrounding villages and countryside—but only on the Georgian side of the occupation line.Russia does not allow the EUMM monitors to enterSouth Ossetia or Abkhazia—another blatant violation of the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement. The Georgians are quite happy to have the EUMM patrolling in Georgia. “It’s about transparency. They show the world that Georgia is not in violation of the cease-fire agreement,” one Georgian official tells me.

    In addition to turning South Ossetia into essentially one big Russian military base, in 2008 Russia unilaterally recognized the sovereign independence of the two breakaway provinces. However, an international drive led by Russiafor recognition of South Ossetiaand Abkhazia has been a dismal failure. So far, in addition to Russia, only Nicaragua, Venezuela, and three tiny PacificIslandcountries of Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Nauru recognize the sovereignty of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Nauru formally recognized the breakaway provinces only after Russia provided it $50 million in international aid.

    Sadly, in the same way Russia is failing at getting international recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Georgians are having difficulties getting their European allies to formally recognize Russia’s military presence there as an occupation. If 10,000 Russian troops permanently based on 20 percent of Georgia’s territory is not an occupation, what is? Yet most European nations—including the U.K.—have remained mute. The U.K. and European partners should join France and the United States in a statement unequivocally recognizing the Russian occupation.

    This week, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be visiting Germany and France. Perhaps Germany could use this as an opportunity to recognize the Russian occupation and call on Russia to finally adhere to the Six Point Ceasefire Agreement that it has been violating since its inception. In France, the new President François Hollande should use Putin’s visit as an opportunity to reaffirm France’s recognition of the occupation and support of Georgia. Under Sarkozy, France was a strong supporter of Georgia. Let us hope that Hollande is willing to pick up where his predecessor left off. Otherwise, the consequences for Georgia will not be good.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Georgia and Russia: The Occupation Too Many Have Forgotten

    1. Laurie Davis says:

      Didn't Obama sanction the term used by Putin….. "sphere of influence" … referring to countries once part of the Soviet Union? Well……. here it is.

    2. Varughese says:

      Brilliantly written crap which show case your biased attitude. Even EU appointed commission readily acknowledged that the Georgia – Russia war was started by Georgia's blatant attack on citizen in South Ossetia. But for you it is Georgia's birth right to kill anyone who supports Russia in their backyard.

      Have you asked the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia whether they are happy with Russian presence. They probably would be very happy. As it guarantees that your poster boy, the crazy Saakashvilli will not be able to attack and kill South Ossetian at will

    3. Gela says:

      People in Abkhazia and South Ossetia might have genuine grievances but nothing can justify ethnic cleansing which Russia did commit in both of these regions. Today 80% of their populations is simply not there. So how about we displace 80% and then "self-determine" what is left under the watchful sight of tank cannons? Thats liberation Russian-style.

    4. Vladimir Voina says:

      Russia's occupation is absolutely shameful, it is repeating the way aggressive Germany took Europe in the 30s under the invented pretext that these European nations were 'discriminating' some population there and by provoking border 'clashes.' Who can deny Russia is the aggressor?
      Vladimir, Boston.

    5. moe says:

      Russia proves every day that they are a country who think they can do whatever they want , Other countries should do embargos against them and maybe they will start agreeing to the terms

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