Vladimir Putin’s ranter-in-chief Dmitry Medvedev made not-so-thinly veiled threats on Wednesday against two regions in Georgia, a NATO and EU aspirant, threatening an annexation and the presumable return to a 15-year-old war.
Writing in a major Russian news magazine, the former Russian President and Putin loyalist Dmitry Medvedev — perhaps best known since the resumption of the Ukraine war for his frequent threats to drop nuclear weapons on all who conspire against his boss — ruminated on the fate of Georgia. A neighbour of Turkey and Russia on the far side of the Black Sea, Russia invaded Georgia in the summer of 2008, prompting a brief war in which Russia intervened on behalf of separatists in two regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The pro-West government of then-President Mikheil Saakashvili enthusiastically called for Western Europe and America to come to the country’s aid but received no material help. Then-President of the United States George W. Bush spent much of the war enjoying athletic events in Beijing during the Summer Olympics there that year.
“It was just interesting to me that here we are, trying to promote peace and harmony, and we’re witnessing a conflict take place,” Bush complained of the interruption to his vacation at the time.
Russia has since recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign states, unlike most of the rest of the international community. The two both maintain a Russian military presence. Saakashvili, after a dizzying international career that included a governorship in Ukraine and a period of legal statelessness, is currently a political prisoner in his native Georgia. Saakashvili has repeatedly accused Putin of attempting to kill him and shocked the world in July with a court appearance in which he seemed to be ill and emaciated.
Russia, Medvedev said this week, could formalise this relationship and annex these regions and make them formally part of the Russian Federation – a process Moscow undertook late last year with four occupied Ukrainian regions: Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia. Repeating Russia’s claims that the Georgian government was attempting to conduct a genocide against the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Medvedev said the West needed to learn a lesson and not to try and bring Georgia into NATO, and that absorbing the breakaway regions would be a humbling experience for the West.
“The situation is being actively escalated again, apparently in order to create another hotbed of tension near our borders in addition to the Ukrainian flank,” Medvedev wrote. “Again there are talks about the possible admission of Georgia to NATO… if our concerns have real outlines, we will not hesitate.”
“In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the idea of joining Russia is still popular. And it may well be implemented if there are good reasons for that,” he warned.
Georgia, whose capital capital Tbilisi is closer, as the crow flies, to the Afghan capital Kabul than it is to Germany’s Berlin, has been trying to move towards NATO membership in fits and starts for years, dependent largely on who happens to be in government at the time. As recently as June, the possibility of Georgia being granted EU candidate status this year was being discussed. Per reports, Georgia’s population is generally in favour of looking west towards Europe, rather than north towards Russia.
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