Friday, January 16, 2009

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Challenge Russia?

The Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the United States, signed during the last days of the Bush Administration, has aroused various reactions, from enthusiastic to cautious optimism in the Georgian political establishment. In the situation, when Russia and Georgia actually found themselves in the "Cold War" conflict, there is no political force in Georgia, which doubts the political significance of the document.
Only Georgia's Labor Party, keeping a bit aloof from the others, has stated that the Charter is the first step to the U.S. military presence in Georgia, the issue which is allegedly being negotiated behind-the-scenes. But the Georgian authorities zealously deny that kind of supposition.
Indeed, such kind of document could not include the direct indication for the deployment of the U.S. military bases in Georgia.
However, the part of the Charter, which covers the issues of military cooperation between Georgia and U.S.A., contains the items, which make the document different from that one, recently signed between Washington and Kyiv. The United States-Georgia Charterpays much more attention to the military aspect of cooperation. The Charter makes it clear, that the U.S.-Georgia cooperation in military and security spheres will grow stronger, increasing Georgia's chances for integration into NATO. The point in the Charter which urges Russia to follow the Ceasefire Agreement, dated August 12, 2008, and non-use of force is actually a warning to the Kremlin.
Another point of the Charter covers the development of the existing programs on bilateral cooperation in military and security spheres in order to "eliminate threats to peace and stability". Under certain conditions, if the sides consider such threats to become real, that point can come into being by reinforcing U.S. military presence in Georgia to a varying extent.
Despite the fact, that the Charter doesn't provide the United States with the commitment to offer military support to Georgia in case of escalation of an armed conflict against it, it will no doubt be a kind of a red rag for the Kremlin. As according to the Charter, which was successfully negotiated with the new U.S. Administration, Americans will tend to enhance their influence over the Caucasian region. It is proved by the item devoted to "the development of the new Southern Corridor" (in circumvention of Russia)in order to diversify the exports of energy supplies destined for Georgia and EU member states. The project would seriously break down Russia's economic and geopolitical interests in the region.
The article of the Charter, calling on the measures for the reconciliation between Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians can also alert Russia. The locals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Georgia's separatist regions, recognized by Moscow, express growing discontent with Russia's intrusion into their lands, including the deployment of the Russian military bases and behavior of the Russian militaries.
It is difficult to forecast how diligently the Administration of President Barack Obama will follow the above-mentioned articles of the Charter. But there is a high probability (taking into consideration the increased tension in the Russia-U.S. relations) that Russia would consider the Charter as a challenge to its interests in South Caucasus. In this light, the Charter appears to lead to the further complications in the volatile Russia-Georgia relations. It will probably bolster the Kremlin to destructive actions against Georgia, once more turning the country into the arena of confrontation between the big international players.
Under such conditions the Georgian officials should act very carefully in order not to draw themselves and the country into a new armed conflict with Russia. However, the bitter experience of the August war is a vivid example of impossibility to avoid hostilities when it is already "pre-programmed."

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