RUSSIA-GEORGIA: CONFRONTATION CONTINUES

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Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi remain cold. This conclusion is promoted by the results of Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in St. Petersburg on June 13. The meeting lasted for almost two hours. Both presidents had to acknowledge that their views on settling bilateral relations differ. The presidents announced their intention to cooperate in solving “frozen conflicts”.

Vladimir Putin said, “We already do this within the framework of international laws. We are prepared to think how to improve these procedures. We want to cooperate in settling frozen conflicts.”

At the same time, the Russian leader thinks that settling territorial disputes must be based on the people’s interests. He referred to the outcome of the territorial conflict in Chechnya as an example.

He noted, “All this was crowned by the referendum on the Constitution, which reads that Chechnya remains part of Russia.”

In other words, Vladimir Putin hinted that Moscow will defend the principle of the people’s will in settling territorial conflicts.

It should be noted that Vladimir Putin and the Russian Foreign Ministry made statements concerning this topic on the eve of the negotiations. At the meeting with Saakashvili, Putin spoke about Russia’s possible moves aimed at acknowledging the independence of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Trans-Dniester territory. Mikhail Kamynin, an official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, recently stated, “We respect the principle of territorial integrity. However, South Ossetia’s position is based on another very important principle – the people’s right to determine their destiny.” Vladimir Putin stated at a press conference later that Russia never tried to seize territories beyond its border. However, he referred to Montenegro and Kosovo, and asked the international community to create common approaches to settling territorial problems. In other words, he hinted that Russia has the right to acknowledge the independence of these territories.

The leaders of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and the Trans-Dniester territory met in Sukhumi and signed a declaration on the joint principles of relations while Putin held a meeting with Saakashvili. The leaders of the republics noted that they do not think that Georgia and Moldova will agree with their principle. They noted that they rely on Russia and its peacekeepers. They made a joint statement about the inadmissibility of changing the format of the peacekeeping operation in the conflict zones.

In other words, important events linked with protection of Moscow’s geopolitical positions in the post-Soviet republics have taken place over these days. Putin’s meeting with Saakashvili showed Moscow’s intention to build a strict dialogue with Georgia and maintain relations with the autonomies. The latter seek to establish closer relations with Moscow. Russia understands that Saakashvili has not given up plans to use force against these territories.

It’s no coincidence that Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov expressed concern about the fact that Georgia buys a lot of weapons in Eastern Europe. International organizations also confirm militarization of Georgia. BBC, which referred to the report by SIPRI, reported that Georgia took first place regarding the growth of military spending in the world. Tbilisi’s military expenditure has increased 150% to $146 million in a year.

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