|Obama affirms Georgia’s NATO aspirations; Russia’s new doctrine on foreign policy raises questions|
|August 01, 2008|
August 1, 2008
UN Security General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern over the increased tensions in Georgia’s conflict zones and has called upon the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to preserve stability in the region.
Unfortunately, after a period of relative stability in the winter the last four months have witnessed a resurgence of tensions stemming from disagreements over what constitutes observance or violation of the ceasefire regime. I am deeply concerned by the indiscriminate violence taking place; it is an unprecedented development with unpredictable consequences for a fragile peace process.”
Senator Barack Obama also recently addressed the growing tensions in Georgia, declaring that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are located within Georgia’s territorial integrity and that all parties involved, especially Russia, should reduce tensions immediately and engage in peaceful negotiations. On July 23 Obama affirmed, “As I stated in April this year, I am committed to upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. This commitment has long been a fundamental building block of U.S. policy, and it will not change under the Obama administration. I also affirm Georgia’s right to pursue NATO membership. This aspiration in no way threatens the legitimate defense interests of Georgia’s neighbors.”
In terms of a settlement, Obama believes the international community must become more active in trying to defuse the situation. Obama clearly outlines that Russia is a party to the conflict and because of this Russia cannot act as a mediator. Thus, the recent visit by the German Foreign Minister “is an important step towards establishing a larger role for the European Union” according to Obama. “The Euro-Atlantic community must speak with one voice in helping to promote peace in this volatile region. As part of the de-escalation process, a multinational peacekeeping force must eventually replace the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in Abkhazia.”
Obama urged the Georgian government to resist the temptation to be drawn into a military conflict. He also offered strong criticism against Russia, stating that Moscow needed to end the aggressive actions it had taken in the last three months.
Meanwhile, the United States has been trying to arrange direct talks between Abkhazians and Georgians. Matthew Bryza visited Sokhumi on July 25 and tried to convince both sides to hold a meeting in Berlin next week with the UN Secretary General’s Group of Friends. The proposed plan from Germany is not well-loved in Abkhazia, so the US is going to do everything to bring Georgians and Abkhazians face-to-face with no restrictions and no preconditions. “All of us in the international community need to make clear to Russia that Moscow has really gone too far” said Bryza. “Russia has taken steps that are deeply provocative, leading some in Georgia to calculate that the only way forward is through escalation and this is a path that cannot succeed.”
The German side is also planning to arrange a meeting in Berlin in the near future to discuss Georgia-Abkhazian relations. The response from Russia to this proposed meeting has been cold. Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, stated that he was not eager to hold a meeting in Berlin and declared to the UN Security Council on July 29, “We always appreciate having good meetings, but we believe that this one has to be well-prepared and the parties must also be willing to meet.”
Meanwhile, Abkhaz Deputy Foreign Minister, Maxim Gunjia, said that Abkhazia is enthusiastic about its involvement in the Winter Olympics Game in 2014 and is in the process of preparing for the event. “We will have a huge international project next to our borders and we’ll have to correspond with international standards… If we want to benefit from the Winter Olympics we have to start working right now.”
In NATO, Russia’s Special Envoy Dmitri Rogozin plans to present the new Russian Foreign Policy doctrine. In this new concept Russia expresses distain for NATO integration and its current plans for enlargement. Russia has recently been trying to dismiss the future role of NATO and OSCE and the new Foreign Policy plan aims to undermine these institutions. Russia is planning to propose an alternative security arrangement where China and India can act as members and Russia wants to establish an International Forum where international organizations can participate.
Russia’s Ambassador recently declared that Europe is divided and the international community is not responding to current challenges or threats. Therefore, it is necessary to reconsider the relationship between Russia and West. One impetus for creating a new system is that the Kremlin feels NATO member countries violate international law and do not consider the viewpoints of its NATO partners. This is a major point of contention for Mr. Rogozin. He claims that if the framework of the NATO-Russia council is based on partnership, than NATO should give greater importance to Russia’s input. Ultimately, Russia believes it should have influence in NATO’s decisions.
Rogozin said that Russia is not expecting a positive reaction from Western countries, but is ready to create constructive approaches. NATO spokesman, James Appathurai, responded that NATO will consider these issues when Russia introduces its ideas and justifications.
Meanwhile, on July 30, the US House of the Representatives supported a resolution for the enlargement of NATO in the belief that continued integration of all aspiring countries will act to strengthen the security of every country in the Euro-Atlantic region. This resolution stated that any decision with respect to membership will be made through the consensus of NATO members, which excludes non-member countries from having a vote or veto in the decision process. Behind this policy is the expressed sentiment that NATO and the status of its partners should depend only on the preferences of these two actors involvement. The input of a third party is not acceptable, either for NATO, or for the aspiring partners.
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