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

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Prevention is better than cure if we want to save the NHS

Tanni Grey Thompson
Question time: Russell Brand interviewing Ed Miliband on his YouTube show  

Russell Brand's Labour endorsement is a stunning piece of hypocrisy

Lee Williams
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before