Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 45

With growing persistence but apparently with different objectives in mind, Georgian officials are asserting their country’s legal right to a share of the ex-USSR’s Black Sea Fleet. Foreign minister Irakly Menagarishvili, who enjoys president Eduard Shevardnadze’s confidence, and fleet commander Aleksandr Djavakhishvili argue that Georgia needs its own navy to uphold its security and economic interests in the undefended coastal region, also envisaging control of the Abkhaz coast. But Djavakhishvili, and particularly Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze — who has close links with the Russian military — call for creating a joint CIS naval security system in the Black Sea, with a Russian-Ukrainian-Georgian fleet under integrated CIS command, and for turning Georgia’s naval base Poti over to that command.

In Moscow, some officials have dismissed Tbilisi’s claims as intended to obtain financial compensation in lieu of ships. Foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov scoffed that "claiming is one thing but getting it is another" — a reaction which Menagarishvili criticized as "overly emotional." The Russian Defense Ministry’s newspaper has obliquely endorsed Tbilisi’s claim as potentially conducive to the formation of a joint CIS fleet in the Black Sea. Kiev does not want Georgia’s claim to derail the Black Sea Fleet’s partition among Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian first deputy defense minister and acting chief of staff, Col. General Ivan Bizhan has publicly objected to Georgia’s claim. (18)