Putin could start a new war if he makes peace with Ukraine

Although both countries have suffered similarly from Russian imperial aspirations over the past decade, relations between Ukraine and Georgia (Georgia) are at a fairly deep point. The country has not joined Western sanctions against Russia and, despite its proximity, has not sent weapons to its fate, which is also under partial direct occupation.

All this, of course, can be explained with understandable caution in their case: even if we accept that, after a clear defeat, Russia would not be able to launch another campaign against a state almost 250 times smaller than it. A Ukrainian newspaper called European Pravda (European Truth) reported on the subject last week interview Gela Vasadze, an expert at the Georgia Center for Strategic Analysis.

The five-day war

Russia’s conflict in Georgia culminated on August 8, 2008, when the two sides launched a ceasefire that had been in place since 1992. Only one of the many parallels is that even then, the occupation began during an Olympics in China. Georgia has officially initiated the fighting, but Russian forces have previously launched artillery attacks on villages around the separatist areas.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia operated as territories similar to the “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, under the supervision of Russian and pro-Russian forces, but this was not acceptable to the then relatively newly re-elected, more Western government. In addition to the training and equipment received from the United States, large quantities of, for example, combat helicopters and armored vehicles were purchased from Ukraine in order to recapture Georgia. The difference compared to the situation in Ukraine today is that András Rácz, a Russian expert at the time analysis based there, the Russian war machine worked surprisingly well, even though Georgia originally wanted to win a lightning war.

The country’s government has begun modernizing its army since 2003, with a defense budget of 1.1 percent of GDP at the time, tripled by 2005, and by 2006 it had reached 5.2 percent. 150 U.S. military advisers regularly trained their armies, and the breakaway territories were observed with drones received from them and Israel.

Georgia launched the blizzard attack, citing the damage caused by the bombings, for which, despite the surprise, the Russians had already announced “peacemaking” intervention that day. Their initial successes soon dissipated as the Russians increased support for the breakaway troops of a few thousand very dynamically. Georgia’s army was eventually forced to retreat, and that didn’t stop at the borders of Russian-controlled areas.

Given the groundbreaking success and the negligible military sacrifice, the Russians were also more open to a ceasefire, allowing the country’s then-leading Dmitry Medvedev and the just-arriving French President Nicolas Sarkozy to bring the unity of the fighting to an end on August 12, after the Kremlin recognized the independence of the two territories from Georgia on the 26th. Public opinion in the Western world was not permanently moved by the incident, and the two areas have been under Russian surveillance ever since, and this may have been one of the reasons that encouraged Putin to annex the Crimea six years later.

West and East are equally at fault

Despite their common destiny, the relationship between Georgia and Ukraine is not cloudless. Although Vasadze says the current government considers the Ukrainians to be their “ally and beloved friend,” the country’s western leadership is not very beneficial. Volodymyr Zelensky likened Ukrainian President Mikheil Saakashvili, a politician of Ukrainian-Georgian descent whose government was running to eradicate corruption and privatize, to provoke a five-day war in 2008.

Saakashvili himself is an interesting figure, after his defeat in the 2012 Georgian elections, for the first time a peaceful transfer of power took place within a constitutional framework. After his fall, he ruled his party from abroad, then granted him citizenship of Ukraine, led by Petro Poroshenko, who preceded Zelensky’s government, and was also made governor of Odessa Oblast. After a year and a half, Saakashvili resigned his position in November 2016, citing corruption in the Porosenko government.

After his resignation, he wanted to build an opposition, but he was forced to flee and Poroshenko took away his citizenship, which Zelensky returned to him after his 2019 victory. Saakashvili then smuggled himself back to Georgia in 2021 where he wanted to start a political organization again, but the government caught him and has been in captivity ever since.

Civilians protest in Georgia for release of former prime minister, December 8, 2021

Vasadze said that according to their current president, the Ukrainian government is against Georgia, and so the people have been given the narrative that the Ukrainians are to be regretted, Putin’s actions are reprehensible, but Zelensky is also responsible for the occupation. He found that if one wanted to send weapons to Ukraine, one would easily find oneself confronted with the question that:

You want Batumi [georgiai kikötőváros] be the new Mariupol?

Georgia is waiting

According to Vasadze, Georgia, like any post-Soviet country, will only have a chance to regain control of its territories if chaos reigns in Russia. Ukraine has now accelerated events. Previously, when asked about this, he couldn’t give an answer, but now he can say for sure that it will happen very soon.

According to him, only the Russian-controlled areas, which Georgia is currently unable to provide, can be reinforced. Even if it could occupy the breakaway regions, it would still need money to integrate them, and for that it would need Western capital support, which Vassadz would not take any poison to receive.

When asked what the chances of another Russian invasion were, he answered that it was virtually zero. As long as the Russian army is occupied with Ukraine, this risk does not exist, but the situation would have been completely different if Kyiv had fallen quickly as originally planned.

He sees the threat now most in what happens when Zelensky makes peace with Putin, and the Russian army has to crawl back to its own bases in shame. It is possible that then Putin would need a new target, so Georgia could easily get back into the crosshairs.

Sanctuary loopholes

For the second time since the war broke out, the Georgian government has been accused by Ukrainian counter-espionage of helping Putin evade sanctions. The Georgian Civil.gu said earlier this month reportedthat the country’s government is denying Russia assistance.

According to the report, Russia wants to export its products through them, but Georgian Finance Minister Lasha Khutsishvili called the accusation “completely incomprehensible” and criticized that no specific information was provided by the Ukrainians. He also stressed that in the face of Ukraine, international actors imposing sanctions had no complaints about Georgia’s behavior.

The leader of the largest opposition party, Khatia Dekanoidze, said there could be “reasonable doubts” that Russia could use Georgia to evade sanctions. Vasadze has no doubts, a leaked one recordings he is confident that the Georgian government is in touch with the Russian leadership.

In the March recordings, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the former leader of the Georgian Dream party, which replaced Saakashvili in 2012, and Russian oligarch, already sanctioned by the British, Vladimir Yevtusenkov, had a personal meeting to take over the Russian grain. According to Vasadze, a large number of Russian companies are suffering from the sanctions, which are understandably trying to evade them, including through Georgia.

Source: Napi.hu by www.napi.hu.

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