Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili announced yesterday that Georgia has requested explanations from Moscow on Defense Minister Igor Sergeev’s statement that Russian ground forces will continue to be stationed in Georgia in the future. Pending the desired clarification from Moscow, Menagarishvili retorted that “no country has the right unilaterally to decide stationing its forces on the territory of another country.”
On October 24, Russia’s official news agency quoted Sergeev as stating that the Russian military “does not plan to close its military bases in Georgia.” Sergeev proposed negotiations on a set of bilateral agreements, whereby the Georgians would get some of the Soviet-era military bases, still controlled but not used by Russian troops, and termed “superfluous” by Sergeev. The Russian military would retain the bases it needs and sign new agreements with Georgia on the right to use them. “The need for Russian bases in Georgia is not subject to question,” Sergeev added (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, October 24, 27).
Georgia has never ratified the framework agreement on Russian basing rights and related agreements, which was imposed in 1994-95 on a defeated and ruined country. Tbilisi for a while offered to ratify the agreements in return for Russian cooperation in mediating a settlement of the Abkhaz problem. Moscow, however, never went in for such a tradeoff. Since last year, Tbilisi has openly sought an internationally mediated settlement in Abkhazia, rather than a Russian one. This change rules out any prospect of Georgian ratification of Russian basing rights.
Tbilisi, moreover, seeks negotiations on the handover of Russian bases to Georgia. Sergeev was due to discuss the matter in Georgia last February, but canceled his visit after the assassination attempt against President Eduard Shevardnadze that month. Moscow has since taken a harder line on the issue of bases. Its stonewalling coincides with a proliferation of subversive activities within Georgia (see the Western Region section above on Russian troops in Moldova).
MOSCOW TO SEND MORE BORDER GUARDS TO TURKMENISTAN.