Has Russia “played its aces” in Georgia?

On Friday, Georgia and the United Staets signed a strategic partnership agreement in what foreign minister Grigol Vashadze called a “stepping stone which will bring Georgia to Euro-Atlantic structures, to membership within NATO, and to return to the family of Western and civilized nations.” The agreement can be considered the Bush administration’s final friendly gesture ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
570720_090109_vashadze2.jpg
570720_090109_vashadze2.jpg

On Friday, Georgia and the United Staets signed a strategic partnership agreement in what foreign minister Grigol Vashadze called a "stepping stone which will bring Georgia to Euro-Atlantic structures, to membership within NATO, and to return to the family of Western and civilized nations." The agreement can be considered the Bush administration's final friendly gesture to one of its staunchest allies.

I got a chance to speak with Vashadze at the Georgian embassy shortly after the agreement was signed. He had a number of interesting things to say about the U.S.-Georgia relationship, but seemed a bit perturbed when I referred to the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as "conflicts":

We are not speaking about conflicts. We could speak about conflicts before the August war. Now this is not a conflict; it's an occupation. From one point of view, it's absolutely dreadful because you wake up and 20 percent of your territory is occupied by an unwelcome neighbor. From another point of view, Russia played all their aces. Everything is called its proper name right now: Russia is not a peacekeeper; it is an occupier. We're not talking about ethnic conflict; we're talking about the cleaning of those territories of their core population to build up Russian military bases.

On Friday, Georgia and the United Staets signed a strategic partnership agreement in what foreign minister Grigol Vashadze called a “stepping stone which will bring Georgia to Euro-Atlantic structures, to membership within NATO, and to return to the family of Western and civilized nations.” The agreement can be considered the Bush administration’s final friendly gesture to one of its staunchest allies.

I got a chance to speak with Vashadze at the Georgian embassy shortly after the agreement was signed. He had a number of interesting things to say about the U.S.-Georgia relationship, but seemed a bit perturbed when I referred to the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “conflicts”:

We are not speaking about conflicts. We could speak about conflicts before the August war. Now this is not a conflict; it’s an occupation. From one point of view, it’s absolutely dreadful because you wake up and 20 percent of your territory is occupied by an unwelcome neighbor. From another point of view, Russia played all their aces. Everything is called its proper name right now: Russia is not a peacekeeper; it is an occupier. We’re not talking about ethnic conflict; we’re talking about the cleaning of those territories of their core population to build up Russian military bases.

So we have a very simple question: Can Russia use those occupied territories as an instrument of influence? As this charter shows, and as the world’s attitude changed, we see that, no, Russia cannot do that anymore.

Read the whole interview here.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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