Russia Caucasus Ukraine

Lessons from the Georgian conflict for the EU: a predictable slippage?

(B2) "Predictable" skid?
Yes it is the feeling of Marie-Anne Isler Beguin, the MEP specialist in the Caucasus and president of the European Parliament delegation on the Caucasus (read her interview while she was still in Tbilisi). "Known" skid, at least in Russia.

At the beginning of August, the situation got out of hand on the ground
We are on August 4, several Russian dailies are already mentioning clashes of a "scale unprecedented for four years" (1) Read: “The South Ossetian authorities have announced the beginning of the evacuation of civilians, primarily children, in quiet areas of South Ossetia and in the Russian province of North Ossetia. An order to mobilize reservists has been issued for the second time in a month in the unrecognized republic, which is also awaiting help from volunteers "from across the North Caucasus". "The night from Friday to Saturday was terrible," a resident of the South Ossetian capital told the daily Novye izvestia. Only secret contacts between Russian and Georgian diplomats prevent large-scale military operations in South Ossetia. "Contacts took place last night between Russian and Georgian diplomats, thanks to which last night was calm," a knowledgeable source told Sunday morning. Nezavissimaya gazeta . The initiative for the contacts belongs to the Georgians who asked to persuade Tskhinvali to show maximum restraint." Need another comment...?

Where was European diplomacy at this time?
One may ask ? What is the point of having strategic planning principles, of crisis forecasting if it is not to be used. In fact, it seems that the European Union was warned - by its situation center (intelligence), the Sitcen. At the end of July, the "strategy" ambassadors of the European Union's Political and Security Committee (PSC) had even considered strengthening the resources of the EU Special Representative on the spot, like those of the European Commission delegation, as well as Sitcen (the EU intelligence centre) on the region. But "envisaged" only... And again, was it very limited as an action. Nothing very substantial. The resolution of the crisis in Georgia and South Ossetia seemed not to concern Europeans, who were preoccupied elsewhere.

Lhe principle of crisis resolution in South Ossetia has escaped Europe.
The format of the peacekeeping troops (Russia-Georgia), however, was a real provocation to war. It was also a nice oversight of international rules which require that, precisely, we appeal, for the maintenance of peace, to countries that are less involved, if not totally neutral. (Note: in Abkhazia the situation was slightly different since a mission of some 130 UN military observers, the Monug, was present). The format of the negotiations (Russia, Georgia and the two Ossetias, north and south) also looked like a dead end as it resulted, roughly, in a three against one match. It is useless to hope to negotiate anything in fact in a format where neutral intermediaries are absent.

The Russians were very satisfied with this situation. IF we refer to Russian newspapers. Moscow and Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) did offer Georgia in early August to enter into negotiations, but only within the framework of the Joint Control Commission (CMC). In fact, as our Russian colleagues point out. "The current format suits Moscow, because it is an instrument of pressure on Tbilisi which aspires to join NATO, which irritates the Kremlin. As for the regime of Edward Kokoity, to which even Moscow can advance reproaches concerning the use of the money allocated for the development of the unrecognized republic, in the event of progress in the negotiations, it risks being left without means of subsistence."

Georgia has repeatedly insisted on including external partners, such as the European Union or the OSCE, in these negotiations and these peacekeeping forces, Russia has always refused. And the European Union has turned a deaf ear to this request. The 27 were thus careful not to take up this idea, reluctant to put their noses in the "Caucasus quagmire" (the United Kingdom being then on the same line as Germany...). Only a few political groups in the European Parliament have relayed this request (see May particular).


(1) Vremia Novostei, Nezavisimaya gazeta and Novye izvestia quoted by the agency

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).