Letter: How Russia preaches peace while threatening its small neighbour states

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The Independent Online
Sir: In response to your reports (since 19 March) on the situation in Abkhazia and the resulting correspondence, and following on Professor Geoffrey Hosking's letter (15 June) which suggested that '(Russia's leading of) a peace-keeping organisation under the mandate of the UN may be the best way of harnessing her strengths while restraining her weaknesses', let me add another perspective on developments in Abkhazia and on Russia's suitability for such a role.

As has been reported, agreement on a ceasefire in Abkhazia was reached during negotiations between the president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, and the head of state of the Georgian Republic, Eduard Shevardnadze. They declared that they are the guarantors of the ceasefire - Mr Yeltsin on the Abkhazian side, Mr Shevardnadze on the Georgian.

The very fact that the head of the executive in Russia should shoulder responsibility for stopping military actions taken by separatist groups on the territory of a neighbouring, sovereign state eloquently shows the level of Russian involvement in the Abkhazian conflict.

I would like to bring to your attention what has been happening since the ceasefire agreement. During the brief respite, Georgians have started to restore ruined buildings, taken a decision to restart studies in schools and at the university, completed the sowing of crops, and identified ways of improving the provision of food: in short, they have started to implement measures directed towards the transition to peaceful conditions and stabilisation of the situation. What has been happening on the Abkhazian side?

Apart from the responsibility of V. Ardzinba and other Abkhaz leaders, I would like to highlight the following issue: Who determines the policies of Russia in Abkhazia and in the Caucasus as a whole? If it is President Yeltsin, then he seems to be Janus-faced, signing a ceasefire with one hand and ordering an increase of military power with the other. If it is not the head of the Russian executive, then it is much worse: who countermands the president?

When such a dual - if not multiple - power situation exists in Russian internal affairs, this in itself is very dangerous. But when such a situation arises in foreign relations, especially if the armed forces are involved, then it is extremely dangerous, and not only for peace and security in the Caucasus. It leads to the thought that Russia is becoming the successor of the former Soviet Union, the most aggressive country on the planet in recent years.

The fact that Russia does not now threaten Europe or America, but only its small and (militarily) weak neighbours, could be considered only as a temporary intermission due to the economic collapse of this huge country.

Yours faithfully,


Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia

18 June

The writer is a member of the Georgian Parliament.