TBILISI-MOSCOW RIFT DEEPENS OVER MILITARY ISSUES.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 175
The Georgian parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee chairman, Kakha Chitaya, stated on national television that the parliament intends shortly to discuss revisions to the unratified 1994 agreements on the stationing of Russian troops in Georgia and joint protection of the Georgian-Turkish border. Georgia no longer needs the assistance of any other country to guard its border with Turkey, Chitaya said. The implicit warning to Moscow follows Tbilisi’s refusal last weekend to sign a Russian-drafted agreement on joint protection of the CIS countries’ "external borders" (see Monitor, September 16) Georgia’s border troops commander, Maj. Gen. Valery Chkheidze, told the press afterward that the proposal can only be accepted after restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity and of jurisdiction over its borders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Chkheidze added that Moscow "continues dealing with us unjustly, failing to understand that we live in 1996, not 1917."
On a related military issue the Russian ambassador to Georgia, Vladimir Zemsky, came out in a public statement for postponing consideration of Georgia’s claim to its share of the ex-Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Zemsky said the issue should only be considered "after the final resolution" of the Russian-Ukrainian controversy over the fleet, implying an indefinite postponement. Tbilisi has recently multiplied calls for consideration of its claim to a share of the fleet in order to control its coast, including the Abkhaz section. (BGI, Interfax, Iprinda, 13 through 17 September).
Tbilisi’s signals appear to reflect a reassessment of President Eduard Shevardnadze’s strategy of holding out concessions to Russia on military issues — potentially including basing rights –in exchange for Russian assistance in creating a Georgian army and cooperation in settling the Abkhazia and South Ossetia conflicts in ways consistent with Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In his September 16 address to the country, Shevardnadze accused Moscow of supporting "aggressive separatism" (see also Monitor, September 17)
The military cooperation agreements seem to have reduced, instead of increasing, Tbilisi’s leverage in the overall bilateral relationship with Moscow. This explains Tbilisi’s recent, cautious efforts to establish military assistance relationships with Turkey, Germany, Uzbekistan, and other countries outside the Russian orbit.
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