A troop withdrawal that helps Russia, too

Share

Less than one month ago, Russia and its southern neighbour, Georgia, were hurling very public accusations at each other. Georgia was complaining of lack of progress in negotiations to end Russia's troop presence in Georgia. Russia was saying Georgia was making unreasonable demands and trying to spoil Moscow's long-planned Second World War commemoration to which the cream of international leaders had been invited.

Less than one month ago, Russia and its southern neighbour, Georgia, were hurling very public accusations at each other. Georgia was complaining of lack of progress in negotiations to end Russia's troop presence in Georgia. Russia was saying Georgia was making unreasonable demands and trying to spoil Moscow's long-planned Second World War commemoration to which the cream of international leaders had been invited.

Yesterday, a spare announcement from Moscow said the dispute had been settled. Russian troops will start withdrawing from Georgia before the end of this year and the two remaining Russian bases will be closed in 2008. Thus, barring misunderstandings or backsliding, will end a quarrel that had brought the two countries close to war and constituted a perennial source of friction.

The significance of the agreement goes far beyond this, however. The Russian troops stationed in Georgia were a relic of Soviet times, but they were also a continuing symbol of Russian influence. Their very presence seemed to diminish the independence hard-won by Georgia, not once - with the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991 - but twice, with the "rose" revolution two years ago. The leader of that revolution, Mikhail Saakashvili, who is now Georgia's elected president, had treated the withdrawal of Russian troops as a personal and patriotic crusade.

But Mr Saakashvili and his government wanted the Russian troops removed also for a very practical reason. They were seen as a potential source of succour to the separatist aspirations of three pro-Russian enclaves in Georgia. These regions - Abkhazia, Adjaria and South Ossetia - were regarded as a Russian fifth column, apt to make trouble for any Georgian leader who tried to extract his country from Moscow's sway. The closure of Russia's last bases in Georgia will cut these enclaves adrift. Their populations will have to settle for autonomy within Georgia's borders or risk a permanent, and probably doomed, state of rebellion. This should greatly assist Mr Saakashvili's efforts to unite his country.

Russia's gains are fewer, but not negligible. The return of its troops should be orderly rather than the summary eviction that was threatened. The agreement also paves the way for a formal border treaty. The spread of unrest from Chechnya into neighbouring regions and southern Russia has long been a nightmare for the Kremlin. Any measures that promote security on Russia's southern border not only reassure Moscow, but help to consolidate stability in the region as a whole. Yesterday's agreement suggests that Russia may at last be learning to live within its post-Soviet borders. It is a thoroughly positive development.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam