The EU holds the line on Georgia and South Ossetia

Georgian president Saakashvili is looking more vulnerable than ever. He told Reuters today that he has “no plans” to regain Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that he is just grateful that he hasn’t been ousted yet—a fact that he calls “almost a miraculous story of survival” considering Russia’s determination to get rid of him.

“I am still sitting in this office despite solemn pledges by Putin to hang me by different parts of my body, to crush Georgia’s statehood,” he said.

His foreswearing of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is a major concession from a man who, as of last September, was “more confident than ever that (Georgia’s) territorial integrity will be restored.” It is also a sign that now, more than ever, he craves some outside support.

He has good reason for it. That support might determine whether or not Russia declares another war against him. At this moment, the European Union’s Monitoring Mission (EUMM) is patrolling the Georgia-Russia border. That mission’s charter was going to expire this September. But on July 27, the EU decided to extend EUMM through September 2010.

David Bakradze, speaker of the Georgian parliament, rejoiced at the EU’s decision.

“This is, for us, a certain guarantee that Russia will not have cause and context for thinking about any new military aggression or large-scale military actions,” Bakradze said.

Russia gives more and more reasons for worry of late. Its military’s aircraft have been known to venture into Georgian air space.  Backing them up is the contingent of 300 Russian armored vehicles that arrived in South Ossetia this weekend.

Those vehicles arrive following the four mysterious explosions in South Ossetia last week that Russia’s Defense Ministry asserted were from Georgian military firing mortar shells across the border. The claim is suspect, however, since the EUMM patrols claim no evidence that Georgians fired anything across the border. Obviously, the EUMM and Russian Defense Ministry can’t both be right. Who is telling the truth?

It is hard to know, since Russia will not allow the EUMM patrols to enter Abkhazia or South Ossetia. If no entrance, then no evidence.

And if no evidence, then any theory about the explosions is about as good as any other. Were they mortar shells at all? If so, who fired them? What could have been fired by Georgians could as easily been fired by an anti-Georgian Ossetian militant group. Or, quite possibly, from Russia itself.

Russia would have plenty of motivation to orchestrate an explosion and then pin it on Georgia. It would serve as the pretext to declare Georgia an aggressor state and topple it for the sake of Russia’s security.

Coupled with South Ossetia’s recent claim to the Truso Gorge, which Saakashvili—weakened though he is—will be sure to contest, Russia’s leadership is strategically setting the perfect stage for a second clash, not unlike the one last summer. This, though, will be one that Saakashvili’s government, and maybe even the Georgian nation itself, does not survive.

The only item of business remaining is to see that the meddlesome EU mission goes home. Fortunately, it does not appear that that will be happening any time soon.


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