Friday, April 30, 2010

From Pipelines to the Sidelines: Ukraine’s Uphill Energy Battle

By Jiri Kominek

Fisticuffs, smoke bombs and flying eggs in the Verkhovna Rada on April 27 might make good headlines, however, Ukraine’s politicians fail to see that the real battle ahead in securing national sovereignty will only be won through very difficult sacrifices.

By surrendering national territory to Russia through last week’s 25-year lease extension of a naval base in Sevastopol in exchange for cheaper gas, Ukraine’s leaders have demonstrated once again their pre-occupation with their own well-being instead of placing the country first.

The Financial Times published an op-ed by Tomas Valasek, director for foreign policy and defense at the Center for European Reform in which he criticizes Ukrainian politicians over the years for failing to seize the moment and wean the country off of being one of the biggest gas consumers on the planet.

Thanks to an inability to adopt more energy-efficient housing or heavy industry programs, Ukraine burns 900m USD of gas per month in winter, three times that of neighboring Poland despite the fact that it produces much gas domestically.

In an interview published by Kommersant on April 28, Vaclav Bartuska, the Czech Republic’s Ambassador for energy security issues, said Ukraine produces 20b cubic meters of gas per year which, he argues, would be enough to satisfy household and municipal demand. The remaining 10b cubic meters could be sourced from Central Asian suppliers. This, however, would require changes in Ukraine’s economy, and more importantly in the mindset of Ukrainians themselves – something for which they are not as yet prepared.

Ukrainian politicians have also refused to wean themselves from lining their pockets through non-transparent gas deals involving companies such as the Kuchma-era Eural Trans Gas and RosUkrEnergo, scams with reportedly close links to Gazprom and the Kremlin.

As one E.U. diplomat told Ukrainian government representatives during a shuttle diplomacy initiative during the last gas crisis in January 2009, “you are stealing too much too quickly”.

Another E.U. diplomat quipped over how difficult he found it to take the Ukrainian side of the argument seriously during the January 2009 gas crisis, after listening to members of Tymoshenko’s government explain their country’s financial plight while observing that all were wearing luxury-brand wristwatches “with the cheapest model in the room worth 50,000 USD”.

Tomas Valasek aargues that the European Union offered to help Ukraine deal with its seemingly endless gas problems by bringing a number of financial institutions to the table including the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank, to help gas-sector reforms.

Yulia Tymoshenko, then-prime minister, rejected the offer since she would have to increase gas prices at a time when she was running for the country’s presidency.

The offer remains, yet the current government appears content to enter into short-term-gain-for-long-term concession deals with Russia.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Konstyantyn Hryshchenko is touting all the economic benefits that will accompany the Black Sea fleet lease extension-for-gas deal including further cooperation in the nuclear energy sector, closer integration of Antonov aircraft maker with Russia’s state-owned United Aircraft Corporation, and future maintenance contracts for Ukrainian shipyards in the Crimea.

Ukraine’s shipyards stand to benefit by pure default since the rusting vessels of the Black Sea fleet are in such dire need of overhauls they would not be able to circumnavigate their way round the Atlantic coast of Europe to Russian naval facilities in the Baltic without sinking.

“We are witnessing a turning back of the clock five years to the Kuchma era with Russia seeking closer economic integration with Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites into an economic bloc that Moscow hopes will somehow act as a counterweight to the E.U.”, said Prague-based analyst Ondrej Soukup.

It remains to be seen how much Viktor Yanukovych will be willing to bend further eastward as Moscow continues to pressure him to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Although two years ago Yanukovych promised, if elected, to recognize Russia's latest de facto territorial acquisitions, throughout the past six months, he’s instead gone rather quiet over the matter.

All of this could be irrelevant, however, after 2013 when Russia completes the first stage of the Nordstream gas pipeline which will relegate Ukraine to the sidelines as a transit state for gas shipments, considerably diminishing its bargaining position.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moscow Keeps Pushing for ‘Regime Change’ in Georgia

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

A peaceful transfer of power in Ukraine from Viktor Yushchenko to Viktor Yanukovych was widely hailed as the ultimate triumph of democracy in the post-Soviet country. But the speed at which the highly significant treaty on the extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s stay on Ukrainian soil was negotiated, signed and ratified casts doubt on the democratic nature of the new leadership in Kiev. It also shows the Kremlin’s unquenchable desire to push forward its sphere of influence agenda amid Washington’s preoccupation with Afghanistan and Iran and the window of opportunity President Obama’s Russia “reset” policy, Europe’s enlargement ‘fatigue’ and the world financial crisis so fortuitously present to Moscow.

The promptness with which Yanukovych acquiesced to Russia’s demands is a response that would likely be encouraged in other post-Soviet countries as well. For those who fail to cooperate, apparently, there is a “Kyrgyz scenario” pending as a sword of Damocles. Russia’s propaganda machine has already started to contemplate on “theoretical” feasibility and “practical” utility of the Ukraine and Kyrgyz scenarios across the region that the Kremlin calls “near abroad.” To show how those two “options” could interact in Moscow’s strategic designs, Regnum, a Russian news agency on the Internet, has dedicated a special article, entitled “Bishkek Night as the Turning Point for the Post-Soviet Space.”

Ex-prime minister Zurab Noghaideli, who now champions the pro-Kremlin cause in Georgia, was quick to discern the ‘reality’ with which a reemerging Russia leaves the post-Soviet space. He has already threatened that the “Bishkek scenario” will be repeated in Tbilisi if the upcoming local elections in Georgia “are rigged,” which is a euphemism for a loss by his political party. While the opinion polls show that Noghaideli and his allies are supported by no more than 9% of the Georgian public, they are conducting their election campaign under the slogan “It’s already falsified,” putting their signs at subway stations, government buildings, apartment houses and construction sites in the Georgian capital.

Noghaideli’s actions and verbal statements have long been barely legal. On April 28 he announced, “no one should think that we will go to our homes if the elections are falsified. We will overthrow this government in an uprising.” Commenting on Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili’s interview to Russia’s Kommersant newspaper in which he predicted that the pro-Russian forces “will be defeated” in the local elections, Noghaideli warned on April 7 against “ballot fraud” and menacingly said “This may cost [Merabishvili] his life.” On April 8, Noghaideli and a few dozen of his party activists were trying to break into one of the printing houses in Tbilisi. Although several of them were briefly detained for “misconduct,” no criminal charges were filed by Tbilisi police.

On April 23-24 a controversial Russian businessman of Georgian origin, Alexander Ebralidze, using his ties with the Kremlin, organized a lavishly funded “Congress of Peoples of Georgia” in Saint Petersburg. Noghaideli’s party associates Koba Davitashvili and Kakha Kukava used the occasion to fly to Russia to participate in the gathering and to deepen contacts with Russia’s political establishment. On April 28 they met with Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the Russian ultranationalist and leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, who chairs a large faction in Russia’s legislative organ, the State Duma. Lecturing the Georgian guests on the merits of “Russo-Georgian friendship,” Zhirinovsky refused to shake their hands and angrily told them, “Do you know why we stood by the Abkhaz and Ossetians? Because they say only good things about Russia…If Tbilisi said good things about Russia, the Russians, [and] the Russian army, there would be no problem [between us].”

Going back to the “Ukraine vs. Kyrgyzstan scenarios,” on April 28 Noghaideli showed his understanding of how those two developments could interact in Georgian reality. “If Ukraine decides to recognize [Abkhazia and ‘South Ossetia’],” he said, “then our goal should be to overthrow the [Georgian] government.” Pretty related to this pronouncement was the earlier statement he made on Georgian Public Broadcaster’s popular political show on March 7. To the journalist’s question on what he would do if Russia once again invaded Georgia, Noghaideli responded that the first thing he would do would be “to start liberating Georgia from [Georgian President] Saakashvili’s regime.”

Last spring the pro-Russian opposition forces’ push to oust President Saakashvili’s liberal government in three-month-long protests ended in a complete fiasco. Unlike past events though, the Kremlin now openly supports its proxies in Georgia; Ukraine is led by a pro-Moscow president; and there is a bloody “Kyrgyz scenario” to present an “alternative” to those who would not cooperate voluntarily. On top of this, at least from the Georgian standpoint, the West is even more aloof from the post-Soviet space than it was a year ago. That is why Georgia now depends almost solely on itself to cope with the problems of immense proportion.

Kazakhstan’s dual role in Kyrgyzstan’s politics

By Erica Marat

Kyrgyzstan’s borders with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have remained closed since the April 7 unrest, forcing local businesses to slow down their activity. Despite Kazakhstan’s initial support of Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government, Astana remains reluctant to reopen borders with Kyrgyzstan. The border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan is vital for economic exchange. Local businessmen claim millions of dollars in losses due to the sealed border. The provisional government’s temporary ban on certain business transactions to prevent illegal deals further hurt the country’s economy.

Astana’s strict border policy shows how Kyrgyzstan today deals with two versions of Kazakhstan: one, as Chair of OSCE and another, as a neighbor on whom it depends economically. It is possible that Kazakhstan’s decision to continue to block the border is made in its role as an influential neighbor. The Kazakh government claims that the situation still needs to normalize before the border is opened again. Despite numerous pleas by Kyrgyz politicians, Astana gave no specific indication about what it considers to be a normalized situation to have the border unsealed.

In the meantime, helping the provisional government to expel deposed president Kurmanbek Bakiyev to ensure stability in the country was done by the Kazakhstan-OSCE Chair. It was the OSCE Chair who sent military aircraft to Jalalabad to transport Bakiyev and his family from their hometown to Kazakh territory, and who later sent the fallen leader further to Belarus.

What role Kazakhstan will choose in the coming months, when Kyrgyzstan is to hold referendum and parliamentary elections, remains to be seen. As the OSCE Chair, Kazakhstan is to voice the final judgment as to whether the elections were a regional breakthrough or signified another failure for Kyrgyzstan’s attempt to change. Not having had its own experience in holding free and fair elections before, Kazakhstan might leave unnoticed some of the irregularities in the course of elections. As Central Asia’s biggest state, however, Kazakhstan is determined to be the one to set a political and economic example in the region.

Overall, none of the Central Asian leaders are interested in seeing positive change in Kyrgyzstan where presidents are ousted under the pressure of angry crowds. Although Bakiyev was despised by his regional counterparts, seeing removal of his regime turning into a success story in Bishkek is not in their best interest.

If Kyrgyzstan indeed succeeds holding free and fair elections, it will set an important precedent for the region and invigorate political opposition and the NGO community. However, a weak Kyrgyzstan, where the rulers are dependent on bigger neighbors, is a convenient subject of mockery for leaders like Islam Karimov and Emomali Rakhnom. Both are determined to prevent similar unrest at home.

Against this background, none of the members of the provisional government have to date offered viable economic policies. While the provisional government is concerned with gaining legitimacy, the economic decline will be the next important challenge before and after October elections.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PACE’s Reputation is at Stake

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

On April 20, 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) David Wilshire met with Boris Chochev, one of the leaders of the Russian occupational regime in Georgia’s Tskhinvali region. The meeting took place in Moscow at the “embassy of the Republic of South Ossetia.” While Wilshire is a British national, he is a member of PACE’s Monitoring Committee and together with his Hungarian counterpart Mátyás Eörsi is preparing the document entitled “The Humanitarian Consequences of the War between Georgia and Russia: Implementation to Resolutions 1633 (2008), 1648 (2009) and 1664 (2009)” for the organization’s spring session on April 26-30.

Wilshire’s meeting with Chochiev without Georgia’s formal consent invoked strong criticism in Tbilisi and Georgia’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a special statement condemning the European diplomat’s “deplorable” move. The ministry’s statement underlined that this is the first time “when an official representative of the international organization holds the meeting in the premises of the ‘embassy’ of the proxy regimes”, and accused Wilshire of violating “the main principles of international law.”

No reputable nation or international organization has ever recognized the independence of “South Ossetia” or Abkhazia – another Georgian province also under Russian occupation. PACE in its previous resolutions unambiguously demanded that the Russian Federation fully respect the August 2008 ceasefire agreement and withdraw its illegal recognition of Georgia’s two sovereign territories.

PACE Resolution 1633 (2008) specifically “condemns the recognition by Russia of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as a violation of international law and Council of Europe statutory principles….reaffirms [the Assembly’s] attachment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and calls on Russia to withdraw its recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and respect fully the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, as well as the inviolability of its frontiers.”

Besides, the same resolution as well as PACE’s other documents related to Russia’s invasion of Georgia “call on the Russian authorities to allow observers from both the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to have access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are under the de facto control of Russia…and to withdraw [the Russian] troops to positions ex ante the conflict.”

Thus the PACE resolution put forward very specific conditions to the Russian Federation. Withdrawal of the Russian troops to the prewar positions, full deployment of European Union and OSCE observers into the Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia and withdrawal by Russia of the recognition of independence of “South Ossetia” and Abkhazia have been named as “minimum conditions for a meaningful dialogue.” Moscow has neglected all of them.

David Wilshire’s disrespect for Georgia’s sovereignty comes at a time when the Kremlin is particularly intensifying its diplomatic maneuvering in the run-up to PACE’s spring session. What Moscow apparently wants to achieve is a milder tone in the new resolution toward its illegal actions in the occupied Georgian lands and a better diplomatic position to further its already unbearably heavy pressure on Tbilisi.

Before the infamous Wilshire-Chochiev meeting took place, Russia’s foreign ministry engaged in several diplomatic talks with European representatives to specifically discuss the “Georgia question” as well as the report Eörsi and Wilshire are preparing for PACE. Foreign Minister Lavrov himself met with Wilshire on April 20 and called on him “to take into consideration the new political and legal realities in the region,” which in Moscow’s diplomatic jargon means recognizing Russia’s sphere of influence to the detriment of Georgia’s sovereignty. On April 16, Lavrov’s deputy Grigory Karasin held a meeting with the French Ambassador in Moscow Jean de Gliniasty and among other topics “Russia’s position on Transcaucasia issues was also discussed.” The same day Karasin spoke by phone to Pierre Morel, the Special Representative of the European Union. The two again discussed “the conditions in Transcaucasia.”

Lavrov plans to participate in PACE’s spring session as “a special guest” on April 29 and, as reported by Russia’s foreign ministry, he will focus on “the necessity of new security structures,” the issues related to the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII and the dangers posed by “attempts to falsify the history.”

Meanwhile, Chairman of Georgian Parliament David Bakradze warned recently that “Europe’s prestige and honor” would be seriously damaged if PACE fails to once again unequivocally demand from Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under international law. The Georgian Parliament has in addition appealed to the international community to recognize Russia as an occupying power in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali.

As the Council of Europe’s event is approaching, Russia plans to conduct large-scale military exercises with the participation of Russian aviation in Abkhazia where no European observers are allowed and where Moscow’s actions go totally unchecked.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kyrgyzstan -- Not a Failing State

By Erica Marat

Two weeks after the regime change, Kyrgyzstan continues to be unstable. Five more people died in the unrest in Bishkek last Monday, unrest that was reportedly instigated by former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s supporters. Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government has ordered use of force against anyone seeking to provoke conflict.

To date the provisional government has been unable to establish adequate control over the police forces. The interim head of government Roza Otunbayeva has yet to find an efficient head for the Ministry of Interior who would be able to discipline the police and pursue democratic reform. Given that Kurmanbek Bakiyev has announced from Minsk that he refuses to give up, the chaos is likely to continue in Kyrgyzstan.

Against this background, pundits rush to see Kyrgyzstan as a failed or a failing state. They argue that the country is split into north and south, and the possibility of a civil conflict is imminent. While it is true that state institutions are weak in Kyrgyzstan and the provisional government has already made numerous mistakes, positive changes introduced by the government should not be underestimated.

The Otunbayeva government has appointed prominent NGO leader to head the Central Elections Commission. Her government has also formed a special Constitutional Council to stage public debates on the new Constitution. This marks a comeback of the NGO community into public life – some of Kyrgyzstan’s major achievements to date.

Importantly, it is in the interest of the new leadership to conduct free and fair elections as one of the conditions for legitimizing itself. Never before in the country had several formidable political parties competed among themselves to reach a common goal: international recognition. The government announced that the referendum on the new constitution is to take place on June 27 and parliamentary elections on October 10th.

These experiences are vital for the country. Even if the current leadership eventually fails to fulfill some of its promises, there will still be powerful reference points to experiments with democracy in the post-Soviet period. This is something neighboring Central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, still lack. Kyrgyzstan’s ongoing change is therefore a lesson for both its citizens and its neighbors.

Calling Kyrgyzstan a faltering state is to ignore the efforts of civil society leaders and the few in the provisional government who fearlessly challenged Bakiyev’s brutal regime. The next six months will likely be chaotic for Kyrgyzstan. Unrest will be caused both by the new government’s ineffective policies and brought by former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.

But instead of writing Kyrgyzstan off as a failing state, experts should focus on the failures of the international community to support democratic change in the country. While supporting Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the U.S. government ignored the sentiments of political opposition and NGO community. The European Union began prioritizing Central Asia in its foreign policy only few years ago. Kyrgyz civil society has the potential to contribute to democratic reform in the country. But it needs the assurance of the international community that its efforts will be supported.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Partnerships and Old Tricks

By Jiri Kominek

The April 21 agreement signed by Russia and Ukraine in which the former will be allowed to base its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol for another 25 years and in which the latter has secured a much-needed discount on gas shipments probably has both sides thinking they got the better end of the deal.

Viktor Yanukovych and his camp can breathe easier since the agreement with Russia guarantees Ukraine will get a 30 percent discount on imported gas. Without the discount Kyiv would not be able to restrain its budget deficit below 6 percent of GDP since it would have to continue subsidizing gas sold to households who would otherwise not be able to afford the current rate of 330 USD per 1000 cubic meters.

With the price down, and the need for subsidies gone, Ukraine will be able to secure another 12bn USD loan over the next two and a half years from the IMF to help refloat an economy that shrank over 15 percent in 2009 as a result of the global recession.

“Although the economy was hit hard last year, heavy industry in the Eastern part of Ukraine where Yanukovych’s support base is located is beginning to show signs of recovery and the current USD330 rate being charged would not sustain any growth since the rate is higher than what Russia currently charges Germany”, said Prague-based Russia analyst Ondrej Soukup.

For Russia, the agreement means the Black Sea Fleet can continue to call Crimea its home port for another 25 years until 2042. Historical claims to the port facility and feelings that the Kremlin can continue to maintain a physical presence in what amounts to a former colony aside, there is no way Russia could relocate the fleet to a new facility in Novorossiysk had Kyiv insisted on upholding the 2017 deadline when the current lease expires.

The costs and technical challenges of building the new facility are far too great, and besides, the most elite elements of Russia’s civil engineering and construction capacity are preoccupied preparing for the Sochi 2014 winter Olympic Games.

Brussels can also breathe easier since the new deal will reduce the likelihood of gas cut-offs during the peak of winter when a cash-starved Ukraine, unable to pay Gazprom’s exorbitant rates, resorted to diverting. supplies destined for the E.U. in order to keep the country’s economy and people from freezing over.

Yanukovych‘s foreign policy advisor Leonid Kozhara said at the end of March that bringing Ukraine close to the EU continues to be the number one priority of the current administration.

For analysts familiar with the people who have accompanied Yanukovych into the corridors of power, however, there is an unmistakeable feeling of deja vous harking back to the days of former Urkainian President Leonid Kuchma when those around him benefited the most from a very non-transparent gas trade and other business activities.

“We could be seeing a throwback to the Kuchma era where the current government seeks to cut deals with all neighbors in an effort to keep everyone happy while its members continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the nation’s welfare”, said Soukup.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Success of Georgia’s Police Reform Is a Function of Sovereignty

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

In his April 15, 2010 article in Foreign Policy, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili wrote about the significant progress his country has made in nation-building and consolidation of a liberal democracy. In the piece entitled “Failed No Longer,” Saakashvili touched upon almost all aspects of Georgia’s internal development, foreign policy priorities, security issues, international engagement and, of course, the hurdles erected by Russia’s current leadership to obstruct Georgia’s freedom of choice.

The article appeared at a time when a high-profile Nuclear Security Summit, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, was taking place in Washington, DC in which the Georgian president was a participant. That was the reason why analysts working on Georgia-related issues paid particular attention to the part of the article that mentioned Georgia’s efforts to “break up numerous uranium smuggling attempts.”

But there was at least one revelation in President Saakashvili’s publication that also deserves due consideration and analysis. “Very early in my presidency,” Saakashvili wrote “then Russian President Vladimir Putin called me to say that he would be ready to accept our new Georgian regime, as long as … he could name our ministers of interior and foreign affairs.” Apparently, this conversation took place sometime in early 2004, shortly after the Rose Revolution – a peaceful popular protest in which the corrupt regime of Eduard Shevardnadze was ousted and liberal reformers led by U.S.-educated Saakashvili came to power.

It is not the first time that President Saakashvili openly talked about his phone conversation with Putin. Speaking to the Georgian public and media he had mentioned the Russian leader’s ‘offer’ before but, arguably, he never spoke of this in the international press.

Georgia’s de-Sovietization has been manifested in several directions but a comprehensive police reform has been by far the most illustrative example. Although the reforms carried out in the education, justice, economic and the public service systems are no less significant, the transformation that the Georgian police have undergone under Minister of Internal Affairs Vano Merabishvili truly leaves nothing to remind of the Soviet past or Russia’s present. Instead of a Soviet-styled force having almost no public support and deeply marred in corruption some six years ago, now Georgia has a police trusted by 81% of the public, according to the opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute (IRI) nearly one month ago. For comparison, the same survey gives 57% to the Georgian president’s administration and 56% to the government.

Any westerner traveling across the countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union would say that police both in form and function are almost identical in all of them – except for the Baltic nations and Georgia – and have little semblance of what police really represent in the West. Russia and most of the post-Soviet states still even officially call their police force a militia (militsia) as in the old-Soviet times and their uniforms have only slightly changed if at all.

In Russia’s public discourse, interest toward Georgia’s police reform has been coupled with even bigger fascination with Georgian Minister Merabishvili’s persona and “sovereign rights.” He has been interviewed by Russian journalists more often than ever before and his laconic expressions have been broadly debated in the Russian press. One might even argue that a Merabishvili myth is being created in Russia, drawing on enigma and suspicion similar to those attached to Pyotr Stolypin, Russia’s reformist minister of the interior and then-prime minister under Tsar Nicolas II at the beginning of the 20th century.

On March 29, one of Russia’s widely-read newspapers, Kommersant, broadly covered Georgia’s police reform conveying to Russian readers the success story of Georgia’s Western-style, “top-notch” and “high-tech” law enforcement agency. The online edition of the newspaper even put out the musical advertisement that Georgian police use to recruit young officers.

Russians have reason to look to the Georgian police for inspiration and as a blueprint for comprehensive reform. According to Kommersant, only 22% of Russians trust their police, a force which is considered by the public as corrupt and inefficient. In his recent article published on April 4, Stephen Sestanovich, an influential Russia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations wrote on the merits of Georgia’s police transformation and advised Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to follow suit. “Only one political leader in any post-Soviet state has ever attempted this kind of institutional upheaval, and the comparison is an ironic one for Medvedev. For that leader is … Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, who soon after becoming president in 2004 fired more than 80% of the country’s police officers…But however awkward the parallel may be, there are lessons in it for Medvedev. Saakashvili’s reform succeeded precisely because it was so radical.”

Let’s imagine that Georgia had had a Putin-appointed minister of internal affairs. Not only would that have meant the lack of even basic internal sovereignty, but would also have ruled out the possibility of any reform. That is how sovereignty and modernization are intertwined in Georgian reality and that is why Putin so vigorously opposes both.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Medvedev Forecasts a Repeat of ‘Kyrgyz Scenario’

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

On April 16, Russian media quoted President Dmitry Medvedev as saying that events similar to what recently happened in Kyrgyzstan might take place “on the territory of the post-Soviet space or in some other territory” in the future. Commenting on the deadly uprising in the impoverished Central Asian state, the Russian leader said, “The same scenario may happen…when the authorities lose contact with the people.” He warned that in order to avoid a repetition of the “Kyrgyzstan scenario,” governments “should skillfully administer their own states.”

Medvedev used harsh words to describe the humiliating fiasco of Kyrgyzstan’s ex-president Kumanbek Bakiyev’s regime, calling it “corrupt” and “clan-based” and linked the future of the Russian-Kyrgyz partnership to the newly-established government’s ability to “free itself from the shortcomings of the past.” The Russian leader who had earlier stated that Kyrgyzstan was “on the verge of civil war,” said that Bakiyev’s decision to leave his country and Moscow’s permitting him “to be escorted by Russian military” into neighboring Kazakhstan was instrumental in “avoiding further bloodshed.” According to Medvedev, the solution to the Kyrgyz crisis was closely discussed between him, U.S. President Barack Obama and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC on April 12.

Medvedev’s point that he would not rule out a repeat of the Kyrgyz uprising in the post-Soviet space found broad media coverage and a series of commentaries in Georgia. Levan Vepkhvadze, vice-speaker of Georgian Parliament from the opposition Christian-Democratic Movement, said that Medvedev’s words were “indirect proof of Russia’s interference in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs” and a clear warning that “Bakiyev’s fate awaits every leader” across the post-Soviet space if they “do not obey Russia’s ‘kind advice.’” Vepkhvadze ruled out that possibility of the “Kyrgyzstan events” being repeated in Georgia. “We are immune to the Russian scenarios given our bitter experience with them in the chaotic years of the early 1990s when Russia was successful at creating anarchy in Tbilisi and across Georgia.”

Irakli Alasania, another oppositionist and a candidate for Tbilisi mayor in the upcoming local election said, “It is exclusively our people’s business to decide the future of the country…No one else can make a decision on how the events should develop in Georgia…It would be better if those people take care of their own problems in their own countries.” At least one Georgian oppositionist, Gubaz Sanikidze from the National Forum, claimed that “Medvedev meant Georgia when he spoke on the possibility of Kyrgyz scenarios.” But he was prompt to add that “there is no significant force in the Georgian opposition that could take the situation in that direction.”

Several Georgian political analysts interpreted Medvedev’s words as some sort of “choice” offered to Georgia, either to “cooperate,” and follow Ukraine’s road by choosing a pro-Russian leadership, or face the possibility that this would be done in a “gory Kyrgyz way.”

Georgians are not alone in their fears for a peaceful development of their nation. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenka, whose quarrelling with the Russian leadership has only intensified recently, was the only leader to openly call the Kyrgyzstan events an “anti-constitutional coup d’état.” “Bakiyev did not know what to do…He was the leader of a very poor nation…Russia first promised him money but then refused to give.” The Belarus leader was apparently hinting at the manipulations to which the ex-Kyrgyz president was subjected by the Russians.

It is only ironic that the Russian president named corruption and clans as maladies that determined Bakiyev’s fate. Russia’s record in those categories is arguably no better than Kyrgyzstan’s. While Belarus is doing much better in those terms and Georgia is the clear champion in the post-Soviet space as the least corrupt country with the freest economy, they nonetheless cannot expect to be praised by Medvedev or his prime-minister, Vladimir Putin. For the Kremlin, it is the sovereignty issue in the post-Soviet states that matters most and, besides, Russia has not yet come close to the point where it could teach other nations how to live in modernity without corruption and nepotism.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Russian Propaganda: First Inventing a Story and then Trying to Use It Retroactively

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

One month ago, on March 13, one of Georgia’s independent television channels, Imedi-TV, aired a phony news broadcast in primetime pretending to report on a new Russian invasion of Georgia sometime this coming June. A half-hour-long newscast featured several interconnected stories on how the Kremlin, in the TV producer’s own imagination of course, might exploit pro-Russian groupings in Georgia to the advantage of its own political and military ends.

The bogus reportage culminating in a faux full-scale Russian invasion and President Saakashvili’s assassination included an episode in which leaders of several Eastern European countries fly to Georgia to show their support to the friendly nation which had just been invaded by Russia.

Unlike those parts of the fake broadcast which were appraised by Georgian viewers as highly unrealistic – such as the defection of several Georgian army units to the enemy side – the form of support chosen by Georgia’s Eastern European partners seemed to many as quite natural. The presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia indeed arrived in Tbilisi during the real Russian invasion in August 2008 and their courage was highly praised by the Georgian public.

Needless to say, that Imedi-TV’s phony newscast caused ripples of controversy in Georgia as well as in Russia and Western capitals. Russian media’s reaction ranged from irate to ironic. Their own reports added a great many speculations to the Georgian channel’s already speculative and highly controversial phony newscast.

But one of Russia’s news agencies, Regnum, outdid all others with both the time it devoted to the Georgian channel’s broadcast and with the canards it issued with its interpretations. Regnum is close to the Kremlin and serves as one of Russia’s most important propaganda tools on the Internet. On March 15, two days after Imedi-TV aired its phony video, Regnum put out an article entitled “Georgian TV Company Imedi ‘Buried’ Polish President.” In it, the Russian news agency, “relying on the information” provided by the “head of the Georgian community in Poland, Davit Gamtsemlidze,” stated that in the Imedi report “Lech Kaczynski, allegedly flying to help Georgia, was killed in a plane blast.”

On 10 April 2010, Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland and a great friend of Georgia, indeed died when a Russian-built Tu-154 crashed while attempting to land at the Smolensk airport in Russia. Regnum did not wait long to publish an article the same morning, naming it “Georgian TV Channel Forecasts Disaster: Kaczynski’s Plane Caught on a Tree.” Regnum referred to its own article that had been published almost a month ago and once again alleged that “according to [the bogus newscast of] the Georgian TV channel, a plane carrying [President Kaczynski] to help Georgia exploded.” The same story - making a peculiar connection between the one-month-old Georgian video and the tragic death of the Polish president three days ago – was reprinted by scores of Russian media sources, including Vedomosti and other influential publications.

In reality, the fake report released by Georgia’s Imedi-TV never mentioned President Kaczynski’s death or a plane explosion. The portion of the newscast that referred to the Eastern European leaders read, “The planes with several Eastern European leaders on board already were in the air and flying to Tbilisi when the Russian aviation hit the Tbilisi international airport and the Vaziani military airfield [near Tbilisi].” This part of the report is about one minute long and starts at 6:30 min in the video below. It does not even mention the Polish president by name.

As often happens in the Kremlin’s international relations, a problem is created and then followed by bargaining to offer a solution. Something similar is happening in Russian propaganda. In the case of Regnum’s Imedi coverage, it first invented a story and then used it retroactively to ‘connect’ the present and past developments. Regnum’s aim was to smear Georgia and its government but for everyone else it appeared to be a cheap manipulation on the tragedy of immense magnitude.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Just Getting STARTed

By Jiri Kominek

Although news concerning the Prague START II summit has steadily followed the pace of events concerning the joint US-Russia signing of a nuclear arms reduction treaty, it wasn’t until several hours ago, following the departure of US President Barack Obama from the Czech capital to Washington D.C., that some of the juicy morsels of information from the depths have begun to surface.

Prior to the actual summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev first stopped in the Slovak capital of Bratislava on Tuesday, April 6 for an overnight stay in order to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII that quickly turned into a Russo-Slovak love fest.

Despite demonstrators protesting the visit by Medvedev—who police conveniently hid from view by parking a bus in front of them so as not to offend the Russian leader—Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic took the initiative to sign a series of bilateral political and economic agreements with his Russian counterpart.

Gasparovic noted that Medvedev’s visit served to confirm the high level of relations between the two countries.

Treaties signed included a joint view of history that curiously omitted the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

During an official visit to Prague in March 2006, Russia’s then-President Vladimir Putin said, “we (Russia) do not bear any legal responsibility, however, we do bear a moral responsibility (for the 1968 invasion)”.

Medvedev’s recent visit indicates that times have changed and the apparent loss of collective memory could leave Orwell turning over in his grave.

Western diplomatic sources also noted that among the agreements signed, a potential deal for Russian companies to modernize Russia-made helicopters in service with the Slovak armed forces would put a bit of a dent in any NATO modernization projects.

Slovak diplomatic sources on the other hand mentioned that apart from the official Medvedev entourage, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was paid a special visit by an unofficial delegation of roughly 500 Russian diplomats and businessmen who kept him busy for several hours well into the night.

The reason this didn’t make the press was that the names of the delegation members did not appear on any official protocols since they decided to drive into Bratislava from nearby Vienna. The nature of what was discussed is not yet clear, however, presumably it concerned more than the weather and wienersnitzel.

Back to observations made by Western diplomats, one noted that the Medvedev Bratislava visit almost gives the appearance that a new dividing line has been drawn between East and West along the Czech-Slovak border.

By early Wednesday evening on April 7 Medvedev landed in Prague and met with Czech President Vaclav Klaus for a lengthy informal discussion in Russian about life, the universe and everything including business and bilateral trade ties such as railway construction and nuclear energy.

Following this, Medvedev’s motorcade headed for the Four Seasons Hotel where the Russian President was scheduled to spend the night. Some Czech media reported that Medvedev actually spent the night at Russia’s massive Embassy compound in the Prague 6 district.

The broad smile on his face the next day during the signing of the START II Treaty makes it difficult to say what he did the previous night.

Following the signature of the treaty, the leaders paused for lunch, after which Medvedev departed for Moscow. Later in the evening, Obama hosted a dinner at the US Ambassador’s residence in the Prague 6 district where he reassured the heads of eleven countries from the Baltics down to the Balkans that the Obama Administration does not Intend to abandon them, despite numerous fears to the contrary. The meal served at the event was reportedly chicken.

Georgians Fear Russia’s Revanchism as Noghaideli Forecasts ‘Uprising’

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

The rhetoric of Zurab Noghaideli, one of the leaders of Georgia’s pro-Russian political grouping, is becoming increasingly inflammatory as the May 30 local elections near. The multi-millionaire and former prime-minister-turned-pro-Moscow-activist, Noghaideli first mentioned an “uprising” in February as a means to come to power if “public mood is not reflected” in the outcome of the local elections. But ever since the results of the public opinion poll conducted by the International Republican Institute came out on March 31, his conduct and rhetoric have become more aggressive and even pugnacious.

It is not the case that he personally or his party and associates scored well in the polls but quite the opposite; the figures unveiled by the reputable international research organization show that the public support is so slim that Noghaideli has almost no chance to have a meaningful representation in local municipalities, let alone replace the incumbent Tbilisi mayor, Gigi Ugulava.

Emboldened by multiple encounters with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putinand a “pact of friendship” he concluded with the Kremlin’s ruling United Russia party in February, Noghaideli apparently relies solely on outside support rather than on Georgian voters to bring about a “regime change” which he says is approaching. Instead of voicing his opinion on the improvement of townships, roads, public transportation, schools or the sewage system in cities and villages of Georgia – areas that the local election campaign should target – Noghaideli’s only promise is to oust President Saakashvili and his government. And the gory uprising in Kyrgyzstan seems to have further enhanced his “revolutionary spirit.”

On April 8 he said that the “Bishkek scenario” will be repeated in Tbilisi if the election results do not meet his expectations. The man, whose tenure as prime minister under President Saakashvili in 2005-2007 is remembered as purely “technocratic” and “apolitical” given that he rarely—if ever—talked about political issues or foreign policy for that matter, has gradually turned into a real soccer hooligan who seeks scuffles with the police and other unlawful actions. The day that Noghaideli threatened a “Kyrgyz scenario,” he and a few dozen of his supporters were trying to break into one of the printing houses in Tbilisi. They alleged that “their party materials were ready” but “they were not able to collect them” since “the typography was closed for inspection by the tax authorities”. A spokeswoman for the ministry of finance later explained that “the inspection was an ordinary practice” that had been scheduled some time ago “in accordance with the law.”

Shortly after the incident in which several of his associates were briefly detained and then released after paying a fine, Noghadeli organized a press conference. “The Georgian people will not tolerate ballot fraud; if this happens, there will be an uprising and a revolution.” When asked what forms of protest he will support, Noghaideli responded, “Every method will be used to destroy and uproot this government…Everyone will see everything soon.” Noghaideli’s party comrade Zviad Dzidziguri, who also participated in the “typography incident” added that “these kinds of incidents [scuffles with the police] will be more intensely used in the future.”

The opposition Christian Democratic Party in Georgian parliament strongly condemned Noghaideli’s “illegal actions aimed at purposefully straining the situation in the country, which is against Georgia’s national interests.” Irakli Alasania, allegedly a moderate oppositionist and himself a mayoral candidate, blamed the authorities instead. His ties with Noghaideli are a matter of never-ending speculation and controversy.

An interview by Vano Merabishvili, Georgia’s minister of internal affairs, given to the Russian Kommersant newspaper on April 7, provided Noghaideli with more reasons to escalate his bullish rhetoric. In the interview, Merabishvili predicted the pro-Russian force’s imminent defeat in the local elections. Warning Minister Merabishvili against ballot fraud, Noghaideli issued his own augury: “This may cost him his life,” the ex-premier said.

To Georgia, Kyrgyzstan is a faraway country with a different historical experience, aspirations and a contemporary political environment. Moreover, Georgia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s state institutions could not be any more different. But there is something that makes these countries, as distant and distinct as they may be, fall into the same category, at least in the thoughts and designs of Kremlin strategists; and it is Moscow’s claim that both are part of Russia’s sphere of influence.

On April 8, Manana Manjgaladze, President Saakashvili’s spokesperson said in a briefing: “Despite [Moscow’s] denials, according to the information available to us, it is absolutely obvious that Russia is bluntly interfering in Kyrgyzstan’s internal affairs and is trying to play geopolitical games at the expense of the Kyrgyz people.” The Kremlin’s overt meddling or not, Kyrgyzstan will come out of the crisis even weaker and more vulnerable than it was before and will become more susceptible to Russian manipulations.

If Georgia does not want to share the same fate, its state institutions must show maturity and its public, a deep commitment to sovereignty, democracy and freedom of choice before, during and after the local elections and in the years to come.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tulip Revolution Reloaded

By Erica Marat

To understand what really happened in Kyrgyzstan on April 7th one must know details of the regime change in March 2005. At that time, a group of opposition leaders collected crowds across the country to challenge then-President Askar Akayev’s corruption and authoritarianism. The leader fled the country on the same day that opposition protests reached Bishkek. But Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who came to replace Akayev, turned out to be a leader with a much greater appetite for the country’s economy and political control.

This time around, April 7th protests were only loosely coordinated by opposition leaders. Most prominent leaders were arrested on the night of April 6th only to be released the night of April 7th, when chaotic protests turned violent and over 30 people died. In effect, these were leaderless riots in Kyrgyzstan and no one political leader can claim credit for toppling the Bakiyev regime. Given that the number of deaths reached 70, opposition leaders who formed a provisional government must first guarantee stability in the country ahead of exposing their own political ambition.

Most troubling at this point, however, is that at least 4-5 members of the provisional government envision themselves in the presidential seat. The head of the provisional government, Roza Otunbayev, has bright ideas and is a skillful politician. But she needs the crucial support of Temir Sariyev, Omurbek Tekebayev and Almazbek Atambayev. All of them at some point ran—unsuccessfully—for president.

The role of Russia at this point remains unclear. The Kremlin did collaborate with opposition leaders prior to the unraveling of the unrest. Some unconfirmed reports suggest that opposition leaders received extensive support from the Kremlin. Furthermore, Russian media was especially aggressive in attacking Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s leadership and the corrupt deals of his son Marksim. But to claim that the Kremlin directly supported the protests would be to say that the United States sponsored changes in March 2005 – a convenient explanation, but far from representing reality.

At this point things remain unclear for Bakiyev. He is not welcome in Russia; neither Europe nor the United States will welcome him as admitting him would mean supporting a dictator who deployed armed forces against civilians. The leader’s relations with neighboring Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are poor too. The United Arab Emirates and Iran remain Bakiyev’s only options thus far. But, as one Kyrgyz military official tells Jamestown, “Bakiyev’s personal airplane can only fly a limited distance and will need to land and refuel before reaching any safe place”.

Monday, April 5, 2010

IRI’s Public Opinion Research in Georgia: Pro-Russian Politicians Show Dismal Ratings

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

At the end of March, the International Republican Institute (IRI) unveiled the results of the public opinion research it conducted throughout Georgia – excluding the territory occupied by Russia – between March 4 and March 13. The IRI regularly studies Georgian public opinion in cooperation with other research institutions and with funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This latest survey comes at a time when some 36 political parties in Georgia are engaged in the local election campaign. On May 30, the Georgians will go to the polls to elect local municipalities and in addition to that the Tbilisi residents will, for the first time, directly elect their mayor. According to the recently amended electoral code, 30% plus one vote is needed to elect a Tbilisi mayor in the first round and avoid a runoff election.

But the IRI study is interesting to see not only the party rates but also to learn how much public support is given to parties and individual politicians that the Kremlin now openly supports in Georgia. The polls show that these parties and politicians enjoy very little support, which would not be good news for the Georgia planners in Moscow.

But first, here are some peculiarities in the opposition flank: The Labor Party, the National Forum and Nino Burjanadze’s Democratic Movement-United Georgia party are not participating in the election. All three are believed to be pro-Russian or at least opposing Georgia’s liberal pro-Western course. On the other hand, the openly pro-Russian Zurab Noghaideli, Georgia’s ex-prime minister, and his political partners in the alliance called National Council do participate in the election and have their mayoral candidates.

According to the IRI results published by Georgia’s Public Broadcaster and other media sources in Georgia, the most popular candidate for Tbilisi mayor with 46% of support is the ruling party’s Gigi Ugulava, the incumbent mayor. Irakli Alasania, former envoy to the United Nations, who went into opposition to President Mikheil Saakashvili shortly after Russia’s military aggression against Georgia in 2008, is second with 11%. 9% supports no mayoral candidate and 16% of potential voters remain undecided. Zurab Noghaideli’s three political partners gather 1% each.

Regarding the approval rates of political parties, the United National Movement has 36%. The Christian Democratic Movement, a moderate pro-Western opposition force and major opposition faction in Georgian parliament is second with 10%, followed by the Labor Party and Alasania’s Alliance for Georgia with 8% and 6%, respectively. Burjanadze’s party has a mere 1% approval rate.

The poll question “who could best govern the country during the Russian aggression” was answered in the following manner: Mikheil Saakashvili – 34%, Giorgi Targamadze, leader of the Christian Democrats – 8%, and Irakli Alasania – 6%. Burjanadze and Noghaideli scored 4% and 3%, respectively. 40% of Georgians believe that Saakashvili would be the best leader during the economic crisis, while Targamadze scored 8%, Alasania 5%, Burjanadze 2% and Noghaideli 1%.

Nearly the same pattern is maintained in the respondents’ answers to questions as different as the political leaders’ ability to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity or tackle the widespread unemployment. The Georgian Church, the army and the police lead the list of institutions that Georgians trust most, with 90%, 84% and 81%, respectively. 36% name unemployment as the country’s number one problem while 27% think that it is territorial integrity and 10% name the state of the economy as Georgia’s most urgent problem.

83% of Georgians name Russia as their nation’s number one security threat and 59% of those polled see the United States as Georgia’s most important partner followed by Ukraine with 29% and the European Union with 24%. When it comes to Georgia’s NATO membership, 50% of Georgians show their wholehearted support and the additional 22% give their partial support, while only 9% categorically oppose NATO membership for Georgia. Although the Georgians’ support for NATO membership is slightly down when compared to the results the IRI published in October 2009, it remains logically compatible with the patterns Georgians display toward the West and Russia.

Given the institutions Georgians trust, threat perceptions they have and the most urgent problems (unemployment and territorial integrity) they think are priorities for their country, it is not surprising at all that the pro-Russian political figures enjoy very little public support since they are not associated with the positive trends and are not seen as capable of solving the negative ones.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Economic Embargo on Georgia: Why Would Russia Like to Lift It?

By Giorgi Kvelashvili

Tbilisi has been under Russian embargo since the fall of 2006 when Moscow imposed sanctions on Georgia’s major agricultural products such as wine and mineral water and almost simultaneously severed all transportation and postal links with its southern neighbor. The aim of the punitive measures was to make Georgia change its Western foreign policy orientation and return to the Russian fold. Both economic measures and the 2008 military intervention failed to elicit the result that the Kremlin expected in return.

Since Russia started to openly entangle itself with Georgia’s pro-Russian forces led by ex-premier Zurab Noghaideli and ex-speaker of parliament Nino Burjanadze, it appears now that the time has come for Moscow to offer some incentives to the Georgian public and lifting the economic embargo could be one of those incentives. But the government in Tbilisi remains unchanged regarding its pro-Western policies. Can the Kremlin’s tactic of first creating the problem and then offering to solve it work as an efficient Georgia strategy?

On March 19, the Russian foreign ministry issued a press release on the “Russian Response to Georgia’s Request Concerning Bilateral Trade Issues.” In it, the Russians once again reiterated that given Georgia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in August 2008, the rules of determination of origin of goods adopted in the Commonwealth “are no longer in force.” The statement also alleged that the Georgian foreign ministry in July 2009 had sent the Russian side via the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi “a note expressing concern about possible problems” with the implementation of the bilateral agreement and inviting the Russians “to settle them.”

In the concluding portion, the Russian foreign ministry asserted that “in the interests of mutual trade and responding to the Georgian side’s wishes,” Russia was ready to find “a way out of this situation” by offering bilateral negotiations“ but until then would give “Georgian goods previous preferential tariff treatment subject to observance of certain rules of origin.”

The Georgian foreign ministry denied it had ever formally requested to resume trade with Russia and viewed Moscow’s claims as “not corresponding to the reality.” A Georgian foreign ministry official instead argued that the Russians were trying “to mislead the international community” and what happened in reality was that last year Tbilisi “had appealed to all CIS countries, including Russia, requesting information on documentation needed for Georgian products to enter those markets.”

It appears, contrary to the Russian expectations, that the Georgians see the possible lifting of the embargo not as good will or as an incentive but as a realization on Moscow’s part that its policy has failed. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on March 12 that Georgia managed “to diversify its exports” against all odds and “no longer depended on the Russian market.” That the embargo has become “meaningless” and “counterproductive” could indeed be one reason why Moscow might want to lift it.

A second possible reason could be Russia’s customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which will become effective on July 1. Both Belarus and Kazakhstan are Georgia’s trading partners and by the time the customs union becomes official either they have to have severed trade with Georgia or Russia has to have tolerated Georgian products which will end up on the Russian market anyway. Given the political and economic risks associated with the embracing of Moscow’s anti-Georgian policies, the second outcome seems more probable. Hence, Russian media have already flashed with headlines predicting Georgian wine’s and mineral water’s return to Russia by July.

A third reason could be the pressure Russia feels as a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Moscow might be willing to show these organizations that by lifting the trade ban it tries to tangibly improve relations with Georgia, notwithstanding Tbilisi’s firm position that any normalization or improvement is only possible after Russia meets all of its international obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement and withdraws its troops from the occupied Georgian territories. Tbilisi has also made it clear that Moscow’s respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a mandatory prerequisite for Tbilisi’s consent for Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization.